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Aurelio Rodriguez

February 26, 2009

aurelio-rodriguez-77The first man named Aurelio to make it to the major leagues was Aurelio Monteagudo, a partial, inconsequential presence in the margins of seven nonconsecutive major league seasons starting in 1963. A relief pitcher, Aurelio Monteagudo twice faced the second Aurelio to make the major leagues, Aurelio Rodriguez. The first time the two Aurelios faced off, in 1970, Aurelio Monteagudo struck out Aurelio Rodriguez while mopping up in a loss. The second time the two Aurelios faced off, in 1973, Aurelio Monteagudo struck out Aurelio Rodriguez to record the first out of the 11th inning in a 3-3 tie. He then surrendered two singles and a wild pitch, allowing the winning run to score. That was Aurelio Monteagudo’s final season in the majors. Some years later, in 1990, just a few days shy of his 47th birthday, Aurelio Monteagudo was killed in a car accident in Mexico.

***

Tuesday was one of those days. The bus I need to get to work was either delayed or had its schedule recession-slashed, so I had to stand waiting long enough to wonder if this is really the life I am supposed to be living. I had my earphones jammed into my brain, and through them came the voice of Howard Stern and the gang playing a new game that involved asking basic informational questions (“How many legs does a snake have?”; “What animal do kittens come from?”) to two developmentally disabled regulars on the show. I forget what the game was called. Which Retard Is Smarter, maybe. When the bus finally came I lumbered right onto it, foregoing any of the customary looking from side to side to see if I might be able to allow a pregnant woman or octogenarian to board before me. I did this because I was sick of waiting, sick of the whole world, and because the bus that showed was one of the two models used on my line, and it was the model apparently designed by people who would not know how many legs a snake has. It makes terrible use of the interior space of the bus, somehow offering just a few places to sit at all, and making those few spaces into a miserable game of commuter Twister, everyone on top of one another and sitting at angles that make the ride jerky and unpleasant, as if the designer of the bus wanted every rider to have the change shaken out of their pockets. The only two decent seats are way in the back row, on the extreme left and right. I wanted one of those seats and I got one, then I watched the rest of the suckers play that daily game of silent, joyless musical chairs.

***

The third and last Aurelio to play major league baseball, Aurelio Lopez, began his career in 1974, the year after the first Aurelio pitched his last game. Like the first Aurelio, Aurelio Lopez was a relief pitcher. He never faced the second Aurelio, Aurelio Rodriguez, but for one season, 1979, the second and third Aurelios played together on the Detroit Tigers. It would be the last full season on the up and coming Tigers for the second Aurelio, but the third Aurelio would stick around long enough to play a key bullpen role for the 1984 champions, logging a sparkling 10-1 win-loss record. Aurelio Lopez would pitch for eleven seasons in the majors in all. At the time of his final release in 1987 by the Astros, Aurelio Lopez had a .633 career winning percentage, 93 career saves, and a World Championship ring. In 1992, one day after his 44th birthday, Aurelio Lopez was killed in a car accident in Mexico.

***

After the bus had filled up, I saw a transit card tumble from the parka of a guy sitting several feet forward in the bus. By that point I was hemmed in by a thicket of knees to my left and right. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed the fallen card. It seemed that no one else had, or else they didn’t care. I weighed my options. I’d have to fight through human limbs to get to the guy and tell him. Also, he had his own earphones stuffed into his brain, so I’d have to yell at him or shake him to rouse him out of his commuter stupor, which would startle him and otherwise interrupt the general numb haze we were all collaborating on to forget that this was the life we’d fallen into. On one hand, it was the right thing to do, but on the other hand, fuck it. I went back and forth, trying to decide, and the moment passed. Now if I got up and tugged on the guy’s sleeve it would be weird. Hey, a few minutes ago your card fell out, and then I thought about it for quite a while, and now here I am. So fuck it, I said. I wondered if I was going pay for the whole thing, karmically. I began considering that maybe the guy who lost his card was an asshole. Maybe I’m doing the right thing, I tried to convince myself, by doing absolutely nothing at all. A half hour later, when I got off at my stop, I walked right past the guy and his trampled card.

***

Sometimes I think about life, its brevity, and how I’m wasting it. Someone hit me the ball! But why would they? I’m certainly not ready, like Aurelio Rodriguez is at the top of this page in his 1977 card, ready and willing to seize on anything hit to him and to do his part.

Aurelio Rodriguez was the second of the three Aurelios to play in the major leagues, but he was the Aurelio with the longest career, which lasted from 1969 (when his first baseball card appeared featuring not his own picture on the front but the picture of the team bat boy) until 1983. He won a Gold Glove at third base in 1976 and had, perhaps more significantly in the greater scope of things, a skill that qualified as one of those singular talents that fellow players continue to talk about with one another long after they hang up their spikes. He had a cannon for an arm. He is remembered for this. And for being a major league Aurelio. One night in 2002, he was neither in his native Mexico nor driving a car. Maybe he avoided these things when he could, aware of what had happened to the other Aurelios. He was walking around Detroit, his major league town. A car struck and killed him.

***

Are there such things as curses? I don’t really think so, but then again yesterday I couldn’t help but think that I was being punished. Now, a few days later, thinking about the three Aurelios, I see how small-minded I was being. Any day aboveground is a bonus. But I couldn’t really see things like that at the time. All day long I was beset with exactly the kinds of things that make me want to punch myself in the head. As some readers of these words may recall, I have had an ongoing punching-self-in-head problem. I get frustrated, usually with technological glitches that I, an idiot, feel powerless to solve, and the frustration and feelings of powerlessness build into an anger that I long to unleash on myself with a quick stiff jab to the side of my skull. Yesterday, as it happened, I did not punch myself in the head, for just a few days earlier, after a long stretch of restraining myself from that abuse, I had rung my own bell pretty good. That recent punching was enough to get me to take that second before punching and try to talk myself down. So I didn’t punch myself in the head, but neither did I rid myself of the clenched frustration of the day, the anger. That’s one thing about a good punch in the head. It really is the only thing to make me no longer want to punch myself in the head. When I left my cubicle for the day my computer was frozen and my fists were clenched and my earphones were feeding the rest of the radio game show I’d recorded before work–retards getting things wrong–straight into my brain.

12 comments

  1. Have you heard the old line that is supposedly from Sid Vicious-“Why do I bang my head against the wall? Because it feels so good when I stop.”


  2. I feel this way at least once a week riding the train. Normally it’s not holding the traindoor for the old guy walking down the stairs with a cane or the pregnant lady standing up while I’m sitting. I definitely believe in karma and how it works, and just hope it won’t be a car that evens things out.


  3. I knew about Rodriguez, but I did not know about the demise of these other vowel completists. If I ever have a kid, I won’t name him Aurelio.


  4. That’s pretty spooky about the Aureios.

    I miss Howard Stern.


  5. The bus you’re describing sounds like the M1 in Manhattan, a diesel-electric hybrid that has very few seats and no place to stand, and apparently no shock absorbers. People are actually frightened of the treacherous steps leading to the back seats. Like you, I always choose one of the rear corner seats and watch the maelstrom go on before me when not buried in my book.

    The death of the three Aurelios is an amazing, mind-blowing coincidence that in a way recalls Spinal Tap drummers and Grateful Dead keyboardists. Or maybe more than a mere coincidence, it’s one of those cosmic events that makes it seem like we’re not alone in the universe.


  6. Aurelio Lopez was actually the mayor of his town in Mexico when he met his demise. Aurelio Rodriguez was in Detroit for a card show that weekend. He went to dinner to see some old friends in the Mexicantown part of Detroit (Near the AMbassador Bridge to Canada, if you are thinking of visiting) A woman lost control of her car, it struck a curb went up onto the sidewalk and landed on him..

    If the curse is going to get you, you aren’t safe anywhere.

    Thanks for featuring the Tigers two posts in a row.


  7. Always loved the fact that in 1973 Aurelio Rodriguez hit a Home Run off Eduardo Rodriguez while Ellie Rodriguez was catching. They missed by a year of having Armando Rodriguez umpiring behind the plate.


  8. Gotta love the nickname “Senor Smoke” for Lopez. Rodriguez was a really, really bat hitter. It’s hard to believe he lasted so long.


  9. The original A-Rod’s batting deficiencies come up a few times in Bill James’ Historical Abstract, once for being a guy with a particularly low “secondary average” and once for being a guy who had the highest ratio of defensive value over offensive value. He could yank a home run over the fence every once in a while but I guess he never walked and he hit into double plays a fair amount and didn’t have a whole lot of power, really, besides the occasional tater. But I guess he could pick ‘em at third.


  10. I just looked up Rodriguez on B-R, and he was a truly brutal hitter. A career OPS+ of 76, topping out a a whopping 102 in 1970, he also maxed out his walks with 40. The most amazing thing, though, is that he still had 12 seasons with at least 106 games (and another with 96), so he was basically a regular for 13 years even though he hit like Craig Grebeck (who had a OPS+ of 86 for his career)! That’s fascinating. This guy basically hit like Craig Grebeck and started for 13 years.

    I remember as a kid the battle for best third base glove was between him and Greg Nettles, but he must have have been one Hell of glove at the hot corner.


  11. Great story; it illustrates how easy it is to lose site of the fact that everyday above ground is a bonus, and tying it in with the fate of the three Aurelio’s– excellent. (I didn’t remember Monteagudo at all).
    I remember as a kid being excited that the Tigers were going to have a third baseman that could put up the HR and RBI totals Rodriguez did in 1970. It took a couple years to sink in, in those pre-OPS days, how deceiving his ’70 numbers were. It’s pretty shocking in retrospect to see how many 500-plus at-bat seasons he had considering his offensive abilities. Killer arm, though.


  12. Such a good post. It is SO easy, too damn easy, to feel like everything is a recession-slashed hassle and that one has possibly fallen into a life one is not supposed to be living, but…

    As I once heard it put, “You only have three dimensions on this earth for so long.”



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