First-Rate Third Sacker
Robin Ventura Combined Offensive and Defensive Excellence
By CRAIG MUDER
January 4, 2010
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- No matter what the level – college or pro – Robin Ventura could hit the baseball.
But it was his all-round skills – as well as his attention to detail – that made him one of the top third baseman of his era.
|Robin Ventura is one of 26 players on the BBWAA ballot for election to the Class of 2010 at the Hall of Fame.|
“Robin Ventura transcends about every possible thing you can think of when it comes to professionalism,” said Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who managed Ventura during his days with the Dodgers.
Ventura is one of 26 players on the 2010 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2010 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He is making his debut on the BBWAA ballot.
BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 6. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 25 in Cooperstown.
Born July 14, 1967, in Santa Maria, Calif., Ventura burst onto the national scene in 1986 when he led all NCAA Division I baseball players with 107 runs, 96 RBI and 204 total bases in just 69 games as a freshman at Oklahoma State University. The next season, Ventura assembled an NCAA-record 58-game hitting streak, which often put his name in the same sentence with Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio – author of a big-league best 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
“(DiMaggio) told me it doesn’t matter what league you do it in – it’s still hard to do that,” said Ventura, who met DiMaggio in 1988 at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City while being honored with the Golden Spikes Award – given to the nation’s top amateur baseball player.
The Chicago White Sox selected Ventura with the 10th pick in the 1988 amateur draft, and by 1990 Ventura was the White Sox’s everyday third baseman. The next year, Ventura hit 23 home runs, drove in 100 and won the first of six Gold Glove awards.
Ventura was selected to his first All-Star Game in 1992, and was a fixture for the Sox at third base before breaking his right ankle in Spring Training of 1997 in a play at home plate. Ventura returned to play 54 games that season, then hit 21 home runs and drove in 91 runs in 1998 while winning another Gold Glove.
He signed a free agent contract with the Mets before the 1999 season, and had his best year in the big leagues that summer with 32 homers, 120 RBI and a .301 batting average – finishing a career-best sixth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting. He was traded to the Yankees for David Justice following the 2001 season, and in 2002 Ventura hit 27 home runs and drove in 93 runs while being named to the All-Star Game for the final time.
His right ankle, however, never fully recovered from his 1997 injury. By 2004, Ventura – now with the Dodgers – required multiple shots of cortisone to get through the season. He retired after that year, and in late 2005 underwent ankle transplant surgery – which involved grafting a piece of bone taken from a cadaver – to alleviate the pain.
“I don’t even think about it now,” Ventura said. “I’m just happy it works.”
Ventura ended his 16-year big league career with 1,885 hits, 294 home runs, 1,182 RBI and a .267 batting average.
Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum