COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The Hall of Famers who play in the annual induction-eve golf tournament get to bring guests, often family members, to the event. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez brought along his own pro. His foursome included Chi Chi Rodriguez (no relation), a 30-time winner on the PGA and Champions Tours.
“He hasn’t found out that, here, in golf, they count foul balls,” said Chi Chi, 81, who has been a friend of the former catcher for 20 years. “Really, he’s a good player.”
The renowned golfer, one of the more popular players on tour, said that he always has been a huge baseball fan. His famous nickname, in fact, was inspired by Chi Chi Flores, a baseball standout in Puerto Rico. “I used to play Class AA baseball in Puerto Rico,” the golfer said [Saturday], sitting in the cart he shared with Pudge. “Believe it or not, in Class A, Roberto Clemente was our pinch runner. What a manager we had.”
Pudge said of Chi Chi, “He’s the first person to put a club in my hand, a long time ago. As a matter of fact, the first set of clubs I got was from him. He was still on the senior tour and we met in Puerto Rico in a charity event. And from that day we’ve been good friends.”
The golfer referred to the ballplayer as “the greatest catcher of all time.” When he was asked what it meant to see him enshrined, Chi Chi said, “Well, I’m here. I would come for him and for Carlos Beltran when he gets in because they’re both good people.”
The 8-to-5 club
Between holes in the golf tournament Saturday, Wade Boggs crossed paths with Tim Raines, which put the former in mind of their time together on the champion 1996 Yankees. “Rock was an outstanding teammate,” Boggs said. “I’m so happy for him. It took a long time for him to get in, but when you look at his stats alone, he deserves to be here. I love him to death.”
Both were in the latter stage of their careers and were role players. Boggs said that was representative of that club. “I don’t think we had any superstars,” he said, mindful that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera will someday join him and Raines in the Hall. But even those two weren’t stars yet. “We were 8-to-5 guys. We went out and did our business. Everybody had a great work ethic and everybody knew their role. Joe Torre kept everybody somewhat in check, but we policed ourselves. We had a lot of consummate professionals. We had a nice blend of everything.”
The Schuerholz secret
John Schuerholz took over as general manager of a successful Kansas City Royals team and turned it into a first-time World Series winner, then he took over as general manager of a consistent losing Atlanta Braves franchise and turned it into a 14-time division winner and World Series champion. He will review that career in his induction speech Sunday. Do not expect him to reveal some mysterious formula.
“The secret sauce is just having great people there with you, working with you. I started with the Orioles and learned it there, I went to Kansas City and took a lot of the Oriole philosophies with me. We developed those and grew those and enhanced those,” he said. “From there to Atlanta, working with people like Bobby Cox and such, it’s hard not to succeed when you’ve got great people working with you, side by side.”
What a relief
Rollie Fingers, Hall of Fame Class of 1992, still is proud to have been the first reliever inducted. “I was kind of breaking new ground. Since then we’ve gotten four or five other relief pitchers in. It was nice to kind of open the door for our position,” he said. “Nowadays I think every organization realizes that if you don’t have a guy down in the bullpen who’s going to get somebody out in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning, you’re not going to win. The bullpen is probably the biggest change in baseball. I was happy to be part of that.”