Congratulations to Pudge Rodriguez, the proud owner of the all-time games caught record, which he set when Wednesday’s game in Texas became official in the middle of the fifth inning.
A few of the Astros veterans bought Pudge a bottle of Cristal champagne on behalf of the entire team, and a subdued but appropriate celebration took place following the game. Even though the Astros lost — and it was one of those bad losses — the players had enough class to realize a momentous occasion should not be pushed aside because of one bad night.
All of the players autographed the bottle of Cristal, and in turn, each player received his own bottle of Korbel champagne. Pudge signed every bottle, “Ivan Rodriguez, No. 12, 2,227th game.” Very nice touch, and a big night for one very classy 19-year veteran.
The moment that the record was set kind of came and went without much hooplah. Let’s face it, when you’re setting a record that first requires 4 1/2 innings to be played, and you’re on the road, and you’re not Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995, it’s difficult to get hyped up about the exact moment it happens, because it comes and goes with the blink of an eye.
Still, the Rangers and their fans were classy from beginning to end. Pudge received a standing ovation as he made his first plate appearance, and the Rangers ran a video tribute during the third inning to commemorate both his career and his record-setting day. They showed pictures of the catchers he has passed, including Hall of Famer Gary Carter (fourth place), Bob Boone (third) and Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk (second).
I snuck down to the photo well by the Astros’ dugout to capture the very moment that Pudge became the record holder. Here are a few:
To be honest, the pregame hooplah was much more fun to document than the record-setting moment. I asked Pudge ahead of time if he minded me following him around as he prepared for the game; fortunately, he had no issues with it, so here we go…
Pudge signed a couple dozen autographs for teammates and coaches who wanted to obtain their own piece of history. Here he is signing a lineup card for bench coach Ed Romero.
You can see the “2,227 games” at the bottom, commemorating the occasion.
This is the lineup card from the night before, when Pudge tied Carlton Fisk.
Pudge has a quiet moment at his locker, prior to the clubhouse opening to the media at 3:35 p.m. The quiet moments soon would end.
Another quiet moment (with the exception of me standing there pointing a camera at him every time he turned around. Fortunately he was a good sport about it).
This would normally be just another ordinary picture of the media crush surrounding a player, if not for the big dude in the back taping the interview — that’s none other than closer Jose Valverde, complete with tape recorder and scowl a lot of reporters wear when interviewing players.
Pudge hadn’t realized Valverde was part of the “media” until he finished the interviews.
He was still laughing about it as he finished an interview with FS Houston’s Greg Lucas.
Pudge came out to sign autographs for fans and discovered a line of a few hundred people waiting for him.
Here’s Hunter Pence having some fun with the man of the hour.
And the non-Pudge version of Wednesday’s fun:
Lots of autograph signing…Jim Deshaies
Kaz Matsui takes in the scene before BP.
Keppinger and Pence chat at the cage.
Wednesday’s starter, Russ Ortiz.
Pence was saying something funny to me but I can’t remember what it was.
Kids, signs and baseball…a terrific combination, every time.
Puma looks very puma-like as he stretches before taking BP.