Rodríguez in 1969
December 28, 1947|
Cananea, Sonora, Mexico
|Died: September 23, 2000
|September 1, 1967 for the California Angels|
|Last professional appearance|
|October 1, 1983 for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||648|
|Career highlights and awards|
Aurelio Rodríguez Ituarte, Jr. (December 28, 1947 – September 23, 2000), was a third baseman in Major League Baseball who played for the California Angels (1967–70), Washington Senators (1970), Detroit Tigers (1971–79), San Diego Padres (1980), New York Yankees (1980–81), Chicago White Sox (1982, 1983) and Baltimore Orioles (1983). He also played with the Obregon Yaquis and Cañeros de Los Mochis of the Mexican Pacific League. He batted and threw right-handed.
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, he was sure-handed and blessed with a strong, accurate arm. In 1976, he earned Gold Glove Award honors, becoming the first American League third baseman since 1959 to beat out Brooks Robinson. He also led all A.L. 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 2,017 games. His most productive season was 1970, when he posted career highs in home runs (19), RBI (83), runs (70) and stolen bases (15).
On September 23, 2000, Rodriguez was visiting Detroit from his home in Mexico. While he was walking with an unidentified woman on Detroit's southwest side at 2 p.m., a car jumped the curb and ran over him. The driver of the car was driving with a suspended license and had been ordered not to drive due to a prior brain aneurysm; she was charged with felony manslaughter but received only probation. Rodriguez, who had to be pulled from under the car, was 52 at the time of his death. Thousands attended his funeral in Mexico, including the president of that country.
His tomb is located in the stadium Emilio Ibarra Almada, in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, and his cross stands atop that stadium.
There have been three players in major league history named Aurelio (two of whom played for the Detroit Tigers), and all three were killed in car accidents between the ages of 44 and 53. See also Aurelio López and Aurelio Monteagudo.
- 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. WJR broadcaster Paul Carey, who during Aurelio's tenure with the Tigers was the radio partner of 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...!"
- "Rare Topps Baseball Cards: Aurelio Rodriguez, 1969," Sports Illustrated website. Accessed Sept. 13, 2011.
- Rodriguez entry, Historic Baseball. Accessed Sept. 13, 2011.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference