Pro Perspective: Ken Rudolph
Pro Perspective: Ken Rudolph
- Chicago Cubs, 1969 - 1973; San Francisco Giants, 1974, 1977; St. Louis Cardinals, 1975 - 1976; Baltimore Orioles, 1977
Rudolph’s Career Bio
From Young Catcher to Top Draft Pick
Kenneth "Ken" Rudolph was born on December 29, 1946 in Rockford, Illinois.
Though born in the Midwest, Rudolph was raised in Los Angeles and played high school ball at LA's Cathedral High School.
In college, he played at Los Angeles City College followed by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, a program that has produced major league standouts like Darin Erstad and Alex Gordon.
While at the University of Nebraska, Rudolph was drafted in the second round (26th overall) of MLB's inaugural 1965 draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Of note, he was selected by the Cubs 10 picks ahead of another catcher - future Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
Rudolph played regularly in the Cubs' minor league system between 1965 and 1968.
During this period, he played for teams such as the Treasure Valley Cubs, the Lodi Crushers, the Quincy Cubs and the San Antonio Missions.
Time with the Cubs
Ken Rudolph made his major league debut with the Cubs on April 20, 1969. He came into the game as a pinch hitter for Cubs' pitcher Phil Regan in an away game against the Montreal Expos, which Montreal won 4 - 2.
Rudolph entered the game in the ninth inning against Expos' pitcher Dan McGinn, and he flied out to right field in his first MLB at bat.
He went on to play in 27 games that season for the famous 1969 Chicago Cubs team that came notably close to winning the pennant.
Rudolph split time between the majors and both the AA and AAA levels in 1970 and 1971, appearing in a total of 45 games with the Cubs across those two seasons.
Of note, when catching for the Cubs in 1971, Rudolph threw out 13 of 16 runners attempting to steal, good for a phenomenal 81% caught stealing percentage (CS%).
By 1972, Rudolph was in the majors for good. He was on the Cubs’ roster all season in ‘72 and ‘73 as a back up to everyday catcher Randy Hundley.
Tenure with the Giants, Cardinals and Orioles
In early 1974, Rudolph was traded to the San Francisco Giants. He went on to have the best big league season of his career that year, hitting .259 with 41 hits over 181 plate appearances.
After ‘74, the Giants sent Rudolph and pitcher Elias Sosa to the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Marc Hill.
Rudolph was on the Cardinals roster as a back up catcher to future Hall of Famer Ted Simmons through the entire 1975 and 1976 seasons. He played in 44 games for the ‘75 Cardinals and 27 games the following year.
In March of 1977, Rudolph was shipped back to the San Francisco Giants, with whom he played 11 games that season.
Then, prior to the 1977 all star break, the Giants sent Rudolph to the Baltimore Orioles.
Rudolph played 11 games for the ‘77 Orioles, hitting .286 in 14 plate appearances.
The 1977 season would be his last in the majors, as Rudolph played only at the AAA level in 1978 then retired as a player.
Over the course of his MLB career, Ken Rudolph had 158 big league hits, 6 home runs, 55 runs, 2 stolen bases and 64 RBIs.
He had a .980 career fielding percentage as a catcher. Of note, Rudolph had a strong arm, as he ended his MLB career with a 42% CS% - seven percentage points over the cumulative average of MLB catchers during this period.
After his playing career ended, Ken Rudolph became a baseball coach. Most recently, he was the head baseball coach until his retirement at Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona.
Q&A with Ken Rudolph
Ken Rudolph is a former big league catcher who has played for Hall of Fame managers (like Leo Durocher and Red Schoendienst) and on the same team with Hall of Fame players (like Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ted Simmons and Lou Brock).
A while ago, I sent Mr. Rudolph a letter asking for his feedback on his career and on the typical questions that I enjoy asking MLB catchers.
He kindly signed my 1970 Topps and he took the time to write answers to each of my questions.
Like others in our Pro Perspective series, I want to share Rudolph’s input with readers as I am hopeful that catchers can learn from his advice and put it in practice.
Here are the questions and his responses, as you can see in the picture of the Q&A sheet below.
Question 1: I am very interested to learn about your favorite memory from your playing career. Can you please expand on that for me?
Answer: I grew up in LA (Los Angeles) and watched the Dodgers play and my favorite player was Gil Hodges. I had a chance to meet him during my rookie year in 69 and he was more than nice. He even wish(ed) me the best in my career.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Quick hands and quick feet. Always relax the hands on receiving pitches, always watch the ball into the glove.
Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to play at the next level, what would it be?
Answer: Be the first one on the field and (the) last one off. Never anticipate a pitch to be thrown where you want it, etc, inside or outside. Always expect the unexpected. Believe in yourself and stay positive all the time.
Ken Rudolph shares a lot of good advice in his brief responses to my questions. In particular, I love that he talks about some of the intangibles involved in being a good catcher.
Intangibles like demonstrating leadership by hustling on the field and being the last one to leave the field. Or things like expecting the unexpected and staying positive.
There is lots of great wisdom from the former Cubs, Giants, Cardinals and Orioles catcher that current catchers should take note of.
That’s a Wrap!
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