Boricuas have had a rough ride over the last few years, but island residents chafing under economic collapse and colonial imposition have gotten some much needed relief this past week in the form of two symbolic victories. First, the commutation of independence icon Oscar López Rivera’s 55-year prison sentence by President Obama vindicated the tireless work of activists both on the island and in the diaspora, then, just yesterday, the MLB announced that beloved catcher and Vega Baja native Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest catchers to ever play the game, Rodríguez will join titans of Puerto Rican baseball like Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, and Roberto Alomar in the hallowed Cooperstown, New York institution. But, given that he made the final cut in his first year of eligibility, Pudge has joined an even more exclusive club than his Boricua forbears. In fact, only two catchers have ever been elected on their first ballot in the history of the Hall of Fame, and in total just over fifty players have earned the distinction.
Those familiar with Rodríguez’s outstanding career won’t be surprised to know that he now stands among the most revered figures in the history of the game. Over 21 seasons, Pudge proved himself as a brilliant defensive player with lightening-fast reflexes, a laser arm, and an uncanny ability to anticipate the play. His preternatural talent was acknowledged time and time again with 13 Golden Gloves and 14 All Star turns, and he finished out his long career with 311 home runs and a .296 career batting average.
Over the years, Rodríguez moved through a number of different organizations both in the American and National Leagues, but he will go into the hall of fame as a Texas Ranger – honoring the team that first cultivated his talents and to whom he gave the first 12 seasons of his career. Rodriguez’s plaque will be inaugurated in Cooperstown alongside Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines in a ceremony this July 30th.