- 3B, 2B, SS, 1B, DH
- December 28, 1947
- 5' 10"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-01-1967 with CAL
- Allstar Selections:
- 1976 GG
Blessed with sharp reflexes, range, and a rocket of a throwing arm, Aurelio Rodriguez survived 17 seasons in the big leagues because of his stellar defense at third base. He rarely put up good offensive numbers (he hit below .240 in eight seasons and had mediocre power), but he gained a reputation as a clutch hitter who put the ball in play. Popular everywhere he played, Rodriguez spent nine seasons in a Detroit uniform, and won his only Gold Glove for the Tigers, in 1976.
A native of Cananea, Mexico, Rodríguez broke into the major leagues with the Angels in 1967, and was traded to Washington early in the 1970 season. Rodríguez went to Detroit with shortstop Ed Brinkman and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan before the 1971 season in an eight-player trade that brought Denny McLain to the Senators along with Don Wert, Elliott Maddox, and Norm McRae.
Rodríguez was a model of consistency at third base for the Tigers during the 1970s. Though a below-average hitter, Rodríguez had sure hands and was blessed with a strong, accurate arm. In 1975, he earned Gold Glove Award honors, becoming the first American League third baseman since 1959 to beat out Brooks Robinson. Rodríguez also led the league third basemen in fielding percentage in 1976 and 1978. Playing for the Yankees in the 1981 World Series, he hit .417 (5-for-12). His big-league career with seven teams ended in 1983.
Rodríguez was a .237 hitter with 124 home runs and 648 RBI in 2017 games. His most productive season came in 1970, when he posted career-highs in home runs (19), RBI (83), runs (70) and stolen bases (15).
Rodríguez played in the Mexican League as late as 1987 and coached in the minors for Cleveland. He returned to the Mexican League as a manager in 1995.
Best Season: 1970
Rodriguez didn't let the trade that sent him from the Angels to the Senators dampen his spirit. He hit a career-high 19 homers (all with Washington) and netted 83 RBI, also a career-best. He was not yet a complete third baseman, but his arm was as strong as ever and he had great range.
The Tragic Death of Aurelio Rodriguez
After nine solid seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Aurelio Rodriguez was one of the most beloved players in that city. Though he wasn;t a superstar, he was a great defensive third baseman, and his big smile and positive attitude were legendary. Unfortunately, his fans were forced to deal with his death in a very tragic manner.
On September 23, 2000, Ridriguez was in Detroit for a business meeting. He still made his home in his native Mexico, but returned to Detroit on occasion. As he walked the sidewalk with friends in downtown Detroit, a car swirved off the street and ran him over, killing him. The driver of the car had suffered a stroke. Rodriguez was dead at the age of 52. His funeral in Mexico was attended by thousands of people, including the president of that country. He was one of the mostb popular players to come out of Mexico.
His tomb is located in the stadium Emilio Ibarra Almada, in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, and his cross stands at the top of the stadium.
To the surprise of almost everyone, Rodriguez was leading the American League in batting after the first month of the 1978 season, with a .409 mark. Rodriguez credited much of his success to Gates Brown, the Tigers new hitting coach. But in May, he experienced a drastic dropoff, with his average that month plummeting to .208. Manager Ralph Houk announced that he would platoon Rodriguez and young third baseman Phil Mankowski. Aurelio finished the year at .265, which was roughly 30 points above his career mark.
Sparky Anderson was Rodriguez's manager in 1979, the player's last year in Detroit. "He probably had as good a pair of hands on him as anybody, and a great arm -- the only two arms I've ever seen like that, Travis Fryman and him. This guy was a great third baseman", Anderson said. WJRT-TV broadcaster Paul Carey, who at that time was alternating with Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell, used to refer to Rodriguez' arm as a Howitzer.
In an appearance on the YES Network by several great third basemen, George Brett once commented on Rodríguez's arm, saying to all (but particularly to the Philadelphia Phillies great Mike Schmidt) "You remember that guy? He would toy with you and pound the ball in his glove and you were still out by 10 feet!"
Every time the Tigers would play the Yankees, the late Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto would eventually get a chance to see a Rodriguez throw a "rising" fastball across the infield. "There's that arm," Scooter would say. "If I had an arm like that...!"
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- Aurelio Rodriguez