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The 100 Greatest Angels: #50 Buck Rodgers

#50 - Buck Rodgers, C

Career Stats

In his 932 Major League games, Buck Rodgers wore a Halo for every one, 11th most in franchise history. He caught 896 games. He is tied with Bob Boone for 14th most Angel At Bats with 3,033. Other than these counting stats, his glove is the story. He caught the majority of Dean Chance's 1964 Cy Young season and broke in Andy Messersmith as well. He also had a short, unspectacular managerial stint with a lackluster early-90s Angels team. And he is #50 in our Countdown!

Rob McMillin of the 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog has more...

Buck Rodgers is probably more remembered for his star-crossed, four-year managerial stint than for the nine years he spent behind the plate for the Halos, mostly as a switch-hitting starting catcher. Originally signed as a free agent in 1956 by the Tigers, the Angels got him in the 1960 expansion draft. An original Angel in 1961, he got a cup of coffee backing up Earl Averill in September of that year, but Averill's near-total collapse in 1962 sparked a December trade that sent him to the Phillies for outfielder Jack Davis, moving Rodgers to a starting role. That year, he finished second to Tom Tresh in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Rodgers had a reputation as a good handler of pitchers, which is what reporters like to say about catchers who can't hit. And it was true: after Rodgers great 1962 season, he never hit above .250 again, all the while injuries sapped his effectiveness. But the time behind the plate helped him after his playing career ended following the 1969 season; he settled into coaching for the Twins and Giants. Later, he managed in the minors and replaced Brewers manager George Bamberger in 1980, leading Milwaukee to a second-half title in the strike-split year of 1981. Milwaukee lost in the playoffs to the Yankees, and midway through the 1982 season, they fired Rodgers. Three years later, he turned up as Montreal's coach, winning NL Manager of the Year when he piloted Nos Amours to a 91-71, third-place finish.

Released from his contract with Montreal in 1991, the Angels picked him up after pulling the plug on Doug Rader. Buck, who because of his connection as an original Angel, was always on Gene Autry's short list of managerial candidates. But it was a horrible era for the Angels, and for Rodgers personally: not only was there turmoil in the front office (Dan O'Brien and Whitey Herzog shared GM duties), but it was the twilight of the 1986 division-winning squad, but there was almost nobody in the farm system -- save for a young hot outfield prospect named Tim Salmon -- to take over for them. Even physically, Rodgers suffered: in May 1992, the team bus crashed into a row of trees, breaking his right rib, left knee, and right elbow. Bench coach John Wathan took over, but Rodgers eventually recovered enough to complete the season.

The 1993 Angels finished 20 games below .500, paving the way for his eventual dismissal in 1994 by Bill Bavasi, who, as newly appointed GM, felt it necessary to make his mark on the team. Rodgers disliked Bavasi, calling him a "paper man" who didn't understand the game, and that his dismissal was "another case of a young general manager being intimidated by a veteran manager." He also made the mistake of calling Angels president Rich Brown "a cancer", words that have probably cost him his career in baseball:

"I've thought a lot about it. I could have used maybe a lesser word, but if that was what it took to get Rich Brown out of there, then I think for the Angels' overall sake it was good. He was the most out-of-place person by word and deed of anybody there at the time. Nobody knew from day to day what they were expected to do; nobody received any encouragement. Rich Brown is a fine person, but he was in the wrong job."

Brown remained president until Disney bought the team in 1996. Rodgers has not managed in the major leagues since his dismissal.