In this week’s Where Are They Now, we continue the trend of sharing a player from the Chicago Cubs 1998 roster with the upcoming ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary ‘Long Gone Summer’ less than a month away.
It’s funny, after Michael Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth NBA title in June of 1998, the shift of sports for Chicagoans almost immediately shifted to the Cubs as Sammy Sosa launched 21 home runs the same month. The man who batted behind Sosa more often then not in the lineup was Henry Rodriguez.
By seasons end, all eyes were on Sosa as he helped revive baseball on the national scene with 66 moon shots, but Rodriguez helped supply a safety net for Sosa as a dangerous hitter behind Slamin’ Sammy, forcing pitchers to pick their poison.
Rodriguez launched 31 home runs of his own, the second best of his career. He hit seven home runs in the month of June. That’s 28 home runs in one month from the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters. Rodriguez would go on to slam a season high nine more in July. Sosa would match him with nine as well.
Rodriguez’s best game as a Cubs outfielder was on May 14, 2000 against his former team, the Montreal Expos (R-I-P). The slugger went 4-for-6 with two homers, including the go-ahead 3-run bomb to put the Cubs ahead in the top of the 9th inning. What is forgotten is Rodriguez hit into a triple play in the first inning in the same game.
What’s even more wild is after he gave the Cubs the lead in the 9th inning, the Expos would go on to score three more runs in the bottom half to win 16-15.
Rodriguez is arguably known more for his time with the Expos. He played his best seasons in Montreal, making the All-Star team in 1996, a season where he finished with career highs in home runs (36), slugging percentage (.562), OPS+ (127), doubles (42), hits (147), runs (81), games played (145), runs batted in (103), and unfortunately strikeouts (160).
Rodriguez never played a better season but was a fan favorite for the small market Expos.
He became famous for the ‘Oh Henry’ gimmick. Playing in Canada means most fans are crazy about hockey, which is why fans began throwing candy bars on the field when Rodriguez would hit a homerun, similar to fans celebrating a hat trick at an NHL game.
While he’s still popular for the Cubs faithful, he isn’t the first Cubs player to come to mind when talking about the past. He played with the Cubs until the end of July, 2000 when the Cubs traded him to the Florida Marlins for Ross Gload and Dave Noyce. Yes, the same Gload who played with the White Sox and was part of the 2005 team that went on to win the World Series.
Gload played one season with the Cubs, hitting .194 in 18 games. Noyce never made it to the major leagues.
Rodriguez went on to finish his last 20 games of his career in Montreal in 2002. He finished his career with a .259 batting average, 160 homers and 2.4 fWAR.
Today there isn’t much online referring to what he’s up to these days. I suspect he’s back in the Dominican Republic, where he was born and raised. Who knows, maybe he’ll be interviewed in the upcoming documentary?