In his 20th season in the big leagues, pitcher Arthur Rhodes fulfilled his goal of playing in a World Series, but not with the team he expected.
Ten years ago, on Aug. 11, 2011, the Cardinals signed Rhodes after he was released by the Rangers. Two months later, the Cardinals beat the Rangers in an epic seven-game World Series.
Rhodes, who turned 42 during the World Series, contributed significantly to the Cardinals’ effort. A left-handed reliever, he pitched in eight postseason games for the 2011 Cardinals and didn’t allow a run. Three of his appearances came in the World Series, including the decisive Game 7.
A high school pitcher selected by the Orioles in the second round of the 1988 draft, Rhodes was 21 when he made his debut in the majors with them in 1991.
Converted from starter to reliever in 1995, Rhodes was 9-1 for the Orioles in 1996 and 10-3 in 1997.
He became a friend of teammate Cal Ripken, who set the major-league record for consecutive games played despite engaging in a risky ritual.
“We wrestled every day before the game, rolling around the floor. Every day,” Rhodes told Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty. “He was in such good shape, he never worried about getting hurt.”
After the 1999 season, Rhodes became a free agent. He pitched for the Mariners, Athletics, Indians and Phillies before sitting out the 2007 season because of reconstructive surgery on his left elbow.
In 2008, Rhodes returned to the Mariners and finished the season with the Marlins. He became a free agent after the season and received interest from multiple teams, including the Cardinals.
“For years, we wanted Arthur on our ballclub and it never worked,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Rhodes signed with the Reds on Dec. 12, 2008. Four days before Christmas, he was devastated when his 5-year-old son, Jordan, died from an illness.
Afterward, whenever Rhodes came into a game to pitch, he etched his son’s initials, J.R., behind the pitching rubber. As Mike Lopresti of Gannett News Service wrote, “When he takes the mound, the first act comes not from his arm but his heart.”
Rhodes also had a tattoo of angel wings put on his right calf in memory of his son. “He loved to wake up in the morning,” Rhodes told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He loved going outside. He loved just playing. Whatever I loved doing, he loved doing, too.”
Despite his heartache, Rhodes produced two terrific seasons for the Reds. He had a 2.53 ERA in 66 appearances in 2009 and a 2.29 ERA in 69 games in 2010. Rhodes had 33 consecutive scoreless appearances for the 2010 Reds and was selected an all-star for the only time in his career. In seven games against the Cardinals in 2010, Rhodes yielded no runs in 6.1 total innings.
A free agent after the 2010 season, Rhodes, 41, wanted to sign with a team that would give him his best chance at reaching the World Series for the first time. He chose the Rangers, the 2010 American League champions.
The Rangers were as good as Rhodes hoped they’d be, but at the end of July they made a pair of trades for relievers, getting Koji Uehara from the Orioles and Mike Adams from the Padres.
Though left-handed batters hit .216 against him as a Ranger. Rhodes (3-3, 4.81 ERA) was deemed expendable. The Rangers released him on Aug. 8.
The Phillies, who had the best record in the National League, made an offer. Rhodes said he was tempted until the Phillies told him they wanted him to first go to their farm team in Clearwater, Fla., and get some work in.
“I had enough work for four months,” Rhodes told the Philadelphia Daily News. “Why should I go down to Clearwater and wait? If I don’t get called up, I’d be at home.”
The Red Sox, who had the best record in the American League, also called, but Rhodes liked best what he heard from the Cardinals. He said when they called, they said, “We want you.”
The Cardinals were in second place in their division and were not assured of reaching the playoffs, let alone the World Series, but Rhodes said he was sold on playing for La Russa.
Dream come true
Rhodes gave the Cardinals a second left-handed reliever, joining Marc Rzepczynski.
Rhodes made 19 regular-season appearances for the Cardinals and was unscored on in 15 of those. Overall, he was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA.
The Cardinals finished fourth in the National League, but got into the playoffs as a wild-card entry. Rhodes played a valuable role for them in each step toward the championship.
In the National League Division Series against the Phillies, he made three appearances, totaling an inning, and allowed no runs or hits.
Rhodes got into two games in the National League Championship Series versus the Brewers, totaled two-thirds of an inning and allowed no runs or hits, helping the Cardinals win the pennant.
Regarding Rhodes reaching the World Series in his 20th season, La Russa told the Philadelphia Daily News, “That’s a lot of dues. So very special. Special as it gets.”
The pattern was the same in the World Series. In three appearances totaling an inning, Rhodes gave up no runs or hits. Video
“Not only is he an effective pitcher, but he’s got a dynamic presence,” La Russa said to the Post-Dispatch.
The World Series championship was a fitting way for Rhodes to end his pitching career.
Rhodes finished with a career record of 87-70 and 33 saves in the big leagues. He was better as a reliever (69-48, 3.43) than as a starter (18-22, 5.81). He limited left-handed batters to a .217 batting average.