By Robert Dominguez
Ivan Rodriguez only played one season with the Astros in a well-traveled career, but he managed to reach an out-of-this-world milestone for a catcher while wearing a Houston uniform.
On this day in béisbol, May 17, 2009, the Hall of Fame backstop rocketed his 300th career home run in a game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The fourth-inning blast off Chicago pitcher Rich Harden helped Houston to a 6-5 win, but it also put “Pudge” into a rare stratosphere.
Only six other players whose career was spent primarily as a catcher have more than 300 home runs, led by Mike Piazza with 427 — 396 of them in games he was behind the plate.
When he retired after the 2011 season, Rodriguez had amassed 311 lifetime HRs, 304 of them as a catcher, putting him in fifth place behind Hall of Famers Piazza, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra in that category. (Gary Carter and Lance Parrish each had 324 career home runs, but are behind Rodriguez in total round-trippers while playing catcher.)
Rodriguez, who also played for the Rangers (twice) Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, and Nationals over a 21-year career, set another record shortly after he hit No. 300. On June 17, 2009 against the Rangers, he passed Fisk for most career games played as a backstop.
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”
Photo: Brian McElhinny — Under Creative Commons License