Arthur Rhodes

This article was written by Ryan Brecker

Arthur RhodesArthur Rhodes forged a 20-year major-league career by establishing himself as a reliable left-handed reliever for nine franchises. He is the career leader (as of 2020) in holds since it became an official statistic in 1999, with a total of 231. Rhodes overcame family tragedy to become one of the oldest first-time All-Stars at the age of 40, and capped his career with a World Series victory with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.

Arthur Lee Rhodes was born on October 24, 1969, in Waco, Texas. One of four children, he followed his older brother, Ricky, who was drafted by the Yankees in the 35th round of the 1987 draft, into pro baseball. Ricky Rhodes never advanced past Class-A ball in the Yankees system and went on to a second career as the women’s basketball coach at McLennan Community College, where as of 2020 he has been head coach since 1999.

Growing up, Ricky and Arthur, who were just under 17 months apart in age, pushed each other on the diamond. Ricky noted that they would challenge each other to see who could throw the hardest, “We played a game called burnout. We’d pitch to each other and let it go. Who won just depended on the day. We both loved the game and tried to make each other better.”1

Arthur Rhodes started playing in the Southern Little League in Waco and became a star for the La Vega High School Pirates. In his senior season, Rhodes pitched to a 17-0 record in 1988 and set a Texas Class 3A record with 16 strikeouts in the playoff semifinals.2 La Vega fell to Stinton in the championship game, with Rhodes throwing 4⅔ innings of relief.

It was during this run to the championship game that Rhodes was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round, 34th overall, of the 1988 draft. Rhodes noted, “I felt like a little kid in a candy store. I just wanted to play pro ball. After I pitched in the state championship game, I signed with the Orioles.”3 After being signed by Orioles scout Ray Crone, Rhodes advanced quickly through the Orioles system, reaching Double A in 1990 and rising up prospect lists, being recognized by Baseball America as the number 6 overall prospect entering the 1991 season.

Rhodes pitched up to this potential, in 1991 being named the Orioles Minor League Player of the Month in July and the Eastern League pitcher of the year for the Double-A Hagerstown Suns. This strong performance earned Rhodes his first taste of the major leagues, where he debuted against the Texas Rangers on August 21, 1991. He went four innings and took a no-decision in his first start, noting, “My family was there and I was nervous, I always got butterflies before I pitched, but I had a good game.”4 He made eight starts down the stretch in 1991, but pitched to an 8.00 ERA.

Despite these initial major-league hiccups, the potential was still evident and Baseball America ranked Rhodes as the number 5 overall prospect heading into the 1992 season, which he split between Triple-A Rochester and the Orioles while refining his arsenal that featured a fastball, slider, and changeup. He married his first wife, Kerry Garrett, on October 24, 1992.

Rhodes remained on the shuttle between Rochester and the Orioles for the 1993 and 1994 seasons, pitching exclusively as a starter. He appeared to be turning a corner with consecutive shutouts against Minnesota and Milwaukee to earn AL Player of the Week honors in early August of 1994. This run was halted by the 1994 strike.

Rhodes was unable to continue his Player of the Week success as a starter in either the 1995 or 1996 season, and found himself moved to the bullpen. He noted, “When I struggled as a starter, they had to move me somewhere else. My career went up from there. I really didn’t change my approach. I just had to prepare myself to get loose and ready to go into the games.”5 He thrived in this relief role, pitching middle relief with a 9-1 record in 1996 and a 10-3 record in 1997. He earned down-ballot MVP votes in 1997, finishing in 20th place with 5 points.

The 1998 season saw Rhodes get his only major-league base hit, on June 8 with a groundball single off Phillies reliever Jerry Spradlin in the seventh inning. This was one of only six plate appearances Rhodes had in his career, and the only one that did not result in a strikeout.

Rhodes reached free agency after the 1999 season, and signed a four-year, $13 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. He was a bullpen mainstay for his four seasons in Seattle, appearing in at least 66 games each season. The 2001 season was particularly noteworthy as he finished with an 8-0 record supported by a 1.72 ERA for the American League record-setting 116-win Mariners.

On August 25, 2001, Rhodes was involved in one of the more unusual ejections in major-league history during an afternoon game in Seattle against the Cleveland Indians. He was summoned from the bullpen with two outs in the ninth inning of the 2-2 game and an Indian at first base. Omar Vizquel complained to home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano about sunlight reflecting off the diamond earring that Rhodes was wearing. Rhodes refused to remove the earring and was ejected from the game, resulting in a bench-clearing brawl. The Mariners did prevail in 11 innings, winning 3-2. Indians bench coach Grady Little noted, “It may be the first and last time you see that. But he wears those big earrings, and with the sun where it was, there was a lot of glare coming from those and it was one of those things where most of the time no one says anything about it. But today it was bothering Omar, so he said something about it.”6

Rhodes was also brought into pitch the next evening against the Indians. Umpire crew chief Tim McClelland, who had ejected Rhodes,  insisted that he remove his earrings, “I didn’t know, but I figured that (Cleveland) would ask that the earrings be removed. I just didn’t want to go through again what went on yesterday. So I asked him to remove the earrings and he said, ‘Why?’ I told him I didn’t want a repeat.”7 Rhodes reluctantly complied, noting “(McClelland) told me I wasn’t going to pitch if I didn’t take them off. Once the umpire stopped me, I knew what I had to do. Stay calm. Stay cool. Stay in the game.”8 Rhodes wore earrings throughout his career, and these are the only reported instances of their causing a problem.

Rhodes was a free agent after the 2003 season; and signed a three-year, $9.2 million contract with the Oakland Athletics. The team planned to use him as a closer, hoping his success as a set-up man would translate. The deal did not work out as planned, with Rhodes struggling to find his footing as a closer, demoted to middle relief by mid-June, and on the disabled list with an upper back sprain before the end of the month.9 Oakland acquired Octavio Dotel to be the closer, and after the season Rhodes found himself traded for the first time. He commented, “I knew they were going to trade me, the whole year was very frustrating.”10

Rhodes was on the move not once, but twice that offseason.  His first trade was from the Athletics to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Mark Redman and cash for Jason Kendall and cash. About two weeks after that, Rhodes was flipped to Cleveland in a trade for Matt Lawton. In Cleveland, Rhodes re-established himself as a dominant set-up reliever, appearing in 47 games with a 2.08 ERA; despite appearing in only three games after August 2 due to an at the time undisclosed family illness.11

Cleveland traded Rhodes to Philadelphia in January of 2006 for outfielder Jason Michaels. Rhodes struggled in his first season in the National League, going 0-5 with a 5.32 ERA, and missing time down the stretch with a sore elbow. Seeking to recapture his success with the Mariners, Rhodes signed a minor-league contract with them for the 2007 season. However, he missed the entire season after being found in spring training to have a torn ulnar collateral ligament – the cause of his elbow pain in 2006 – requiring Tommy John surgery.

Rhodes entered the 2008 season on another minor-league contract with the Mariners and while he did not make the Opening Day roster, he was added after a single minor-league appearance on April 14. Rhodes found his form and at age 38 pitched to a 2.86 ERA over 36 games with Seattle. He was a trade-deadline acquisition by the Marlins, for pitching prospect Gaby Hernandez. His second go-around in the National League was much improved, with a minuscule 0.68 ERA over 25 games for the Marlins down the stretch.

The offseason of 2008 brought great tragedy for Rhodes: His 5-year-old son, Jordan, died in December. The intensely private Rhodes didn’t speak publicly of this for over 18 months – disclosing only when a reporter asked in 2010 what he scratched in the mound when he pitched. Rhodes had started scratching “JR” in the mound after his son’s death. He said, “I feel like he’s right behind the rubber, watching me pitch.”12

It was young Jordan’s illness that had led to Rhodes’ absence at the end of the 2005 season. While Rhodes didn’t speak publicly about the details of Jordan’s illness, his daughter Jade has been more open, noting that Jordan died of brain and spinal cancer.13 Regarding the effect this tragedy had on her father, Jade Rhodes said, “It’s hard, it really is. He kind of lost everything; he couldn’t really talk.”14 Jade Rhodes went on to become an All American Softball Player at Auburn, appearing in the College Softball World Series, and played professionally in the National Pro Fastpitch league, winning the Rawlings Gold Glove Award as the league’s top fielder.15

Jordan’s death led Rhodes to contemplate retirement, but he instead decided to keep pitching in Jordan’s memory and signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Rhodes had a late-career renaissance with Cincinnati, pitching in 135 games with a 2.41 ERA over the 2009 and 2010 seasons. During the 2010 season, Rhodes tied a then major-league single-season record with 33 consecutive scoreless appearances,16 spanning 30 innings.17 After the streak ended at the end of June, Rhodes said, “I was thinking about it when I was running in. Now it’s over. I have to move on and try to start another streak.”18

This streak led to Rhodes’ selection by National League manager Charlie Manuel to his first All-Star team at the age of 40, becoming only the fifth player to make his first All-Star roster after the age of 40.19 Reds manager Dusty Baker had the honor of telling Rhodes he was selected for the 2010 All-Star Game, but pranked the reliever first by telling him he’d been traded to the New York Mets, before revealing the real reason for the meeting.20 Recalling the meeting, Rhodes remarked, “I just got silent and quiet and couldn’t say a word. I just said, ‘Thank you very much.’”21

It was during the All-Star festivities that Rhodes first spoke about his son’s death publicly. He left tickets in Jordan’s name22 and noted, “I knew he’d have liked to be at the All-Star Game, like the rest of the other kids running around. But he’s my little idol, and he’s up there. He’ll be there with me and he’ll be watching me pitch.”23 Rhodes did not appear in the game, but teammate Brandon Phillips summed up Rhodes’ demeanor and status as an elder statesman, “He’s like Benjamin Button – he’s getting better with age. But he’s always been good, and he’s always approached the game the same way. Everybody says they’ve never seen him smile, but hey, that’s just how his personality is. When he’s on the mound, he’s all about business.”24

Rhodes returned to his Texas roots and signed with the Rangers for the 2011 season. Happy to return home at the age of 41, Rhodes said, “I like playing at home. My family gets to come to the games and I can enjoy myself. I’m still having fun. I just take it year by year and do whatever I can for the team.”25

He was released in early August, and signed quickly with the St. Louis Cardinals. As luck had it for Rhodes, he made his first World Series appearance as the Cardinals advanced and defeated his prior team, the Rangers, in the World Series. Rhodes pitched in three games in the Series, retiring the lone batter he faced in each appearance. Rhodes was only the third player to play in the World Series against a team he had played for earlier in the season, following Lonnie Smith and Bengie Molina. Rhodes commented on the Cardinals’ World Series win, “Winning the World Series made me feel like a little kid again. It takes you back to when you were a little boy, playing baseball for the first time. I really wanted to do it for my son, Jordan. That’s kind of why I hung around that long.”26

Rhodes did not sign a contract for the 2012 season and never pitched professionally again, although it wasn’t until 2015 that he officially retired.27 He explained, “I wasn’t thinking about retirement back in 2011. I had just won the World Series, and it was a dream come true. Then you get into the offseason and start facing the work that has to be done to stay in shape. … I wasn’t really looking to come back, but after three years away I just said, ‘It’s time to retire.’”28

Rhodes’ post-baseball career has included coaching youth baseball programs in and around Waco,29 as well as appearing at Mariners fantasy camps.30


In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted and the Arthur Rhodes player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


1 John Werner, “Ageless Former La Vega Star Still Pitching in Major Leagues,” Waco Tribune Herald, June 26, 2011. Accessed November 13, 2019.

2 “Cooper Captures Crown,” Victoria (Texas) Advocate, June 11, 1988.

3 Werner.

4 Werner.

5 Werner.

6 Patrick Dorsey, “Yearbook, Aug 25: The Earring Ejection,”, August 25, 2010. Accessed November 13, 2019.

7 John Hickey, “Rhodes, Forced to Remove Diamond Earrings, Blows Save,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter, August 26, 2001. blows-1063868.php.

8 Hickey.

9 Burt Graeff, “As Closer, Rhodes Was Set Up to Fail,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 26, 2003.

10 Graeff.

11 “Indians Rhodes Ends Year,” Albany (New York) Times Union, September 14, 2005.

12 Tyler Kepner, “For the Reds’ Rhodes, Pitching Becomes a Tribute,” New York Times, July 6, 2010.

13 James Crepea, “The Rhodes Unknown: Auburn Softball Slugger Defined by Loss of Brother, Estrangement with Former Major League Father,”, June 2, 2016, updated March 7, 2019.

14 Crepea.

15 Doug Fernandes, “Column: Rhodes Gloves Fold for MPF Softball Comets,” Sarasota (Florida) Herald Tribune, August 26, 2018.

16 Mark Guthrie had 33 consecutive scoreless appearances in 2002 and Mike Myers had 33 consecutive scoreless appearances in 2000  

17 Mark Sheldon, “Rhodes’ Scoreless Streak Ends in Reds’ Loss,” June 29, 2010. (paper copy in files at the National Baseball Hall of Fame).

18 Sheldon.

19 Satchel Paige, Connie Marrero, Jamie Moyer, and Tim Wakefield are the other players to make their first All Star Game after turning 40.

20 “At 40, Reds’ Arthur Rhodes Is an All-Star at Last,”, July 13, 2010.

21 “At 40, Reds’ Arthur Rhodes Is an All-Star at Last.”

22 Werner.

23 Kepner.

24 Kepner.

25 Brice Cherry, “Arthur Rhodes’ Legacy Continues Past Mound,” Waco Tribune-Herald, January 23, 2015.

26 Cherry.

27 Bill Baer, “Arthur Rhodes Officially Retires,”, January 16, 2015.

28 Cherry.

29 Cherry.

30 “Mariners Announce Coaching Staff for 2020 Fantasy Camp,”, August 15, 2019.

Full Name

Arthur Lee Rhodes


October 24, 1969 at Waco, TX (USA)

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