My two favorite players growing up were Willie Horton and (my all-time favorite) Aurelio Rodriguez…..the original A-Rod! Me, being of Mexican descent, you can say he was my idol. The plays he made at 3rd base were UNBELIEVABLE and he had an arm like a rocket.
I remember going to a game at Tiger Stadium with my parents and he was signing autographs and by the time my mother and I got to where he was by the dugout, he left to go warm up. My mother spoke to him in Spanish he replied back that he had to get ready for the game, so no autograph for me. We had excellent seats for the game between the dugout and homeplate. When he came up to bat, my mother shouted for him to hit a homerun in Spanish and sure enough, he did it. I still remember the game like it was yesterday.
It wasn’t until 1988 that I would get another chance to meet him and get his autograph…FINALLY!! In fact, I was able to get every card and picture I had of him autographed. I lived in Colorado Springs for a short time and it so happened to be the same year the Sky Sox (Indians AAA team at the time) moved back there. He was one of coaches and I got a job at the ballpark selling Pepsi and peanuts in the stands. Game 2 was my chance, opening day was a zoo, I got to the park early with my stuff and waited for the team to come onto the field. When I saw him, I introduced myself to him and told him I was from Detroit and he was happy to be remembered. From that day on we would talk everyday and I would get an occasional game ball or broken bat. I remember him trying to teach Terry Francona how to play 3rd, but I’ll save that for another post.
Unfortunately his life was shortened while he was in Detroit to attend a card show in 2000. While walking to his car after lunch, he was struck by a car whose driver suffered a stroke and jumped the curb. He died later that day in the hospital.
Rodriguez spent 9 yrs with the Tigers and even though he wasn’t a power hitter like today’s A-Rod, he was one of the best defensive 3rd basemen in the game. He even won a Gold Glove in 1976 breaking Brooks Robinson’s streak of 16 straight Gold Gloves. He played with 7 teams in his 17 yr career playing in 4 American League Championships Series and 1 World Series with the Yankees which they won, where he hit .417.
The original A-Rod lives on in this fans heart!