Joe Rudi



The Oakland A’s of the early 1970’s dominated the MLB, winning three straight World Series. The club was loaded with talent including a quiet, unassuming left fielder named Joe Rudi. Born and raised in Modesto, California, Joe Rudi would come to emulate all that is good and pure in small town USA. This is his story.


Early Years


Joseph Oden “Joe” Rudi was born on September 7, 1946 in Modesto, California. Standing six feet tall at the young age of 11, Rudi had to carry his birth certificate wherever he went in Little League. Partly due to his size, he was a pitcher from 11 to 14 but switched to left field when he entered Oakdale High School in Waterford, California. When his family moved to Modesto in 1961, Rudi transferred schools. While at Downey High School, Rudi played a variety of sports including football and wrestling. However, his greatest strengths were in baseball where he batted .436 as a junior.



Through out his high school years, Joe Rudi’s father refused to watch him play baseball, wanting his son to focus on a real future. His senior season was cut short when Pat Jacquez of Stagg High School in Stockton threw a ball that broke a small bone in Rudi’s hand. Despite the pain, Rudi stayed in the game and hit a two-run home run. As a result of the injury, Joe Rudi was burdened with a cast for the next three months, costing him a promising senior season.

Before the injury, Joe Rudi had been a highly valued prospect in pro baseball. When he got hurt, most teams shied away; but not the A’s. Still based in Kansas City at the time, the A’s signed Rudi to a $15,000 signing bonus in the summer of 1964. Soon, he would prove to them how right they had been about his potential.


The A's

For two years, Joe Rudi toiled in the minor leagues, learning the intricacies of professional baseball. In 1966, he was sent to the A’s farm team in Modesto, Rudi’s home town. There, his father decided to watch him play the game. Witnessing how good of a player his son was, he realized that he could earn a living by playing a game. His reservations quickly waned and soon, Joe Rudi’s father was his biggest fan.



After spending three years in the minor leagues, Joe Rudi made his big league debut in 1967. In 19 games with Kansas City, Rudi recorded eight hits and one RBI. The A’s moved to Oakland the following year and Rudi appeared in more games while recording 12 RBI. The 1969 season was another disappointing year for Rudi who only appeared in 35 games for Oakland, his manager Hank Bauer still having reservations about this young, anxious player.


He finally appeared in more than 100 games in 1970 at the age of 23, recording 108 hits, 11 home runs and averaging .309. What really helped him in that breakout season was batting coach Charlie Lau, who decided to put Rudi in a very closed stance, shortening his swing. From there, his career took off and he became a legend in Oakland.


In 1971, he hit ten home runs while averaging .267. By then, Dick Williams had taken over as manager and Rudi was allowed to blossom as a player. The A’s lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS that year and Joe Rudi struggled throughout the series, only averaging .143 and collecting a single hit. The 1972 season felt different. Joe Rudi was made an All Star for the first time as he collected career highs in hits (181) and home runs (19). He also placed second in the league MVP voting behind Dick Allen of the Chicago White Sox. By the time the A’s reached the ALCS against Detroit, Rudi was ready for the spotlight. He batted .250 and drove in two RBI for the series while the A’s defeated the Tigers to reach their first World Series in Oakland. Joe Rudi averaged .240, collected five hits and slammed a home run while the A’s defeated the Cincinnati Reds in seven games.

Joe Rudi injured his thumb in July and was lost for a month of the 1973 season but still appeared in 120 games. Despite injury, he still collected 118 hits and 12 homeruns while batting .270. The A’s reached their second straight World Series that year, this time against the New York Mets. Rudi helped the A’s defeat the Mets in seven games by averaging .333, driving in four runs and collecting nine hits.


Rudi was back to form in 1974, slamming 22 home runs, driving in 99 scores and averaging .293 while earning his second All Star selection and the first of three straight Gold Glove Awards while placing second in the league MVP voting behind Jeff Borroughs of the Texas Rangers. The A’s made the World Series for the third straight year in 1974 where they defeated the Dodgers in five games. Joe Rudi helped his team become world champions for the third time by averaging .333, driving in four runs and collecting six hits.

After another All Star season in 1975, Joe Rudi and the A’s played against the Boston Red Sox for the ALCS where they would lose in three games. It was the end of an era as a large number of the team’s biggest stars would soon be traded to other organizations while the A’s owner Charlie Finley tried to save as much money as possible. Joe Rudi played one more year in Oakland before being traded to the California Angels in 1977. The A’s dynasty was officially no more.


Twilight


As a member of the Angels, Joe Rudi spent long stretches on the disabled list. However, despite his injuries, he still managed to hit above .250 twice in his four years with the club. His best season in Anaheim was 1978 when he slugged 17 home runs and drove in 79 scores. After the 1980 season, he signed with the Boston Red Sox. In his lone season with the team, Joe Rudi only appeared in 49 games while averaging .180 and hitting six home runs. Signing with Oakland in 1982, Joe Rudi finished his career where it all began. Though the great times had passed, he provided a bit of nostalgia for the fans who knew him when he was helping the club win three straight World Series. After hitting five home runs, driving in 18 scores and batting .212 in 1982, Joe Rudi retired. He finished his career with 179 home runs, 810 RBI and a career batting average of .264.


When his baseball playing career ended, Joe Rudi settled into a life of retirement. He started the baseball team at Baker High School in Baker City, Oregon and in 1986 and 1987 was a hitting coach for the A’s. The A’s wanted him back in 1988 but by then he couldn’t stay away from his family any longer and returned to Oregon. He coached at Baker High School for another couple of years before returning to Modesto to be near his and his wife’s elderly parents. It was while in Modesto that he learned the intricacies of the real estate business. He and his family returned to Oregon in 2001 where he continued to work in real estate. He now resides in Florida and is a longtime amateur radio operator.

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