In 2019, Tim Hudson enrolled at Auburn University, his baseball alma mater, as an interdisciplinary studies major. More than 20 years before, he had led Auburn’s Tigers to the College World Series as the SEC’s Player of the Year. Then he played 17 seasons in the major leagues, appearing in All-Star Games, playoffs, and a World Series. He was back in school to finish his degree, partially to serve as an example to his children.
And in unaffected fashion, he told a reporter what it’s like to be a non-college-age college student: “I’ve never had to do a PowerPoint presentation, so I had to reach out to my two daughters to help me, show me the ropes … and that was kind of embarrassing.”1
It was homecoming for a father and ballplayer from humble beginnings who overcame pre-judgment as a young player to reach the top of his profession. As Hudson’s high school coach Russ Martin remembered, “I told every college coach I could find the same thing: Every now and then you’ve gotta judge a kid by heart and guts, because this kid will be a pretty doggone good player.”2
Timothy Adam Hudson was born July 14, 1975, in Columbus, Georgia. He was raised in Salem, Alabama, a rural community on the east-central side of the state, near Auburn. His father Ronnie was a plant supervisor at a cereal box factory and his mother Sue was a homemaker. In a 2005 Sports Illustrated profile, Hudson recounted his small-town upbringing: “There’s one four-way stop sign in the middle of town. I grew up in the country on five acres of land. Me and kids from the neighborhood, we were always out in the woods or riding bicycles or playing baseball. Not a lot of trouble to get into. We played baseball in a cow pasture.”3
Hudson played youth baseball in nearby Phenix City, Alabama, at age eight. In a Sports Illustrated article in 2000, writer Jeff Pearlman captured Hudson’s first appearance on a pitching mound.
Because it is 1984 and he is nine, Tim Hudson is Timmy Hudson, a wisp of a boy barely big enough to ride the town fair’s Tilt-a-Whirl. Little Timmy Hudson is a dynamite athlete—quick and fast and graceful—but clearly not a pitcher. Just look at him: arms like pipe cleaners, legs like twigs. Look how his Phenix City Cubs uniform hangs off his shoulders like a potato sack. Look at his munchkin hands and Tweety Bird feet.
Look at him on the mound, pitching against the Indians. He has never done this before. It shows. He walks the first batter. The second. The third. And the fourth. He hits two others. His teammates wilt in the blazing Alabama sun as pitch after pitch misses the plate, as hitters flop back from his wildness. “I was terrible,” says Hudson, “but I didn’t care. I loved it.”4
Hudson did not pitch again until he was a junior at Glenwood High School in Phenix City. By then, at 5’11” and 145 pounds, he played shortstop and center field and was an excellent hitter. He was also a starting cornerback on the football team. He helped lead the baseball team to the Alabama state championships in both his junior and senior years—and his football teams to two state championships during his years on the team.
Baseball author Jay Jaffe provided detail about Hudson’s high school career—and the odds he faced in his baseball progression: “As a senior, he went 9-0 with a 0.46 ERA and 107 strikeouts, plus a .475 batting average with eight homers and 16 steals. College coaches ignored him, however, as ‘Too small, too light, too unknown,’ in the words of his high school coach, Russ Martin.”5
With no scholarship offers, Hudson enrolled at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, where in two seasons he became one of the nation’s top junior college ballplayers. He was a starting pitcher who threw hard and also batted third as DH.
Hudson’s junior college pitching performance put him on the scouting map. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 35th round of the 1994 free-agent draft but did not sign. Instead, he headed to Auburn University.
In a 2014 story, writer Eno Sarris noted Hudson’s ability to learn new pitches and quickly add them to his repertoire, beginning with the summer before he pitched for Auburn when he learned to throw a split-finger fastball: “The first thing Tim Hudson did to become Tim Hudson was learn the splitter that summer before he went to Auburn. There’s no great back story, no grandpa behind the barn. ’I was just messing around in the bullpen one day before a game, threw a couple because I didn’t have a change-up, threw it in the game a couple times, and got some swings and misses,’ Hudson told me this month. ‘I’ve been throwing it ever since, and it’s gotten better every year.’”6
At Auburn, Hudson played outfield and pitched for the Tigers and excelled under the tutelage of coach Hal Baird. During the 1997 season, Hudson hit .396 with 18 home runs and 95 runs batted in. He was named first-team all-Southeast Conference as an outfielder. As pitcher, he had a record of 15-2, with a 2.97 ERA—good enough to be named SEC Player of the Year and an All-American. He was selected by the Athletics in the sixth round of the amateur draft in June and signed with the club less than two weeks later.
He was sent to the short-season Class-A Northwest League, where he continued to excel, going 3-1 with an ERA of 2.51 and a WHIP of 0.942 for the Southern Oregon Timberjacks. The next year he was promoted to the Modesto A’s of the California League and the AA Huntsville Stars of the Southern League. He finished with a combined record of 14-9 and an ERA of 3.92. He started 1999 in Class AA with Midland, Texas, as the A’s had switched their AA-affiliation to the Texas League team. Hudson soon earned promotion to the AAA Vancouver Canadians. He went a combined 7-0, with a 1.75 ERA and a 1.060 WHIP.
During his first minor-league season, he was approached by then-A’s minor-league pitching coordinator Rick Peterson, who wanted to know if Hudson would like to learn to throw a changeup. In his article, Pearlman recounts the story from Peterson’s perspective: “‘Sure,’ says Hudson. Peterson shows him four possible grips. Hudson tries the first grip and fires a strike from the bullpen mound. ‘It was as good as any changeup he’s ever thrown in the big leagues,’ says Peterson. ‘Great arm speed, and the bottom fell right out. Timmy turned to me and said, “How was that?” Uhhh, pretty good, Timmy. Pretty good.’ By June 1999, Hudson is in the major leagues.”7
Hudson made his major-league debut for the Athletics on June 8, 1999, starting against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium. In five innings, he allowed seven hits, struck out 11 batters, walked four, and gave up three earned runs. He did not earn a decision.
In his rookie season, Hudson made 21 starts, with a record of 11-2 in 136⅓ innings, an ERA of 3.23, and an ERA+ of 142. He was named The Sporting News American League Rookie Pitcher of the Year and finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year vote. He was on a fast track to big-league success.
After the season ended, Hudson married his college girlfriend Kimberly Bruner, who had graduated from Auburn in 1996 with a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and criminology. She earned a law degree a few years later and passed the Alabama bar.
Hudson remembered the beginnings of their relationship in the Sports Illustrated profile: “We sat beside each other in a class, World History 101. She’s really smart, made straight A’s. She was the notetaker while I was busy goofing off.”2 8As his baseball career took off, she played a prominent role. “She’s my sub-agent. I have my agent, and she checks my agent out, makes sure he’s on top of things. She’s sharp. I hope our kids get her brains and my athletic ability.”9
In Hudson’s second year with the Athletics, he performed even better than his rookie season. He completed the regular season with a record of 20-6 (.769 winning percentage) in 202⅓ innings, with a WHIP of 1.241. He was an All-Star and finished second in the American League Cy Young Award vote. The Athletics won the American League West but lost in the Division Series to the Yankees. Hudson made one start in that series, taking the loss in Game Three. It was the first of four consecutive division series losses for Oakland, each series going to a decisive five game.
The year 2000 was also the first year of what would soon be known as the Big Three, a trio of young starting pitchers—Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito—drafted by Oakland who came up through the organization’s farm system to become highly effective in the major leagues. The Big Three stayed together in the rotation through 2004.
In 2001, Hudson continued to be durable and affective, making 35 starts and finishing with a record of 18-9 in 235 innings. The Athletics finished second in the West and lost another Division Series to the Yankees. Hudson started and won Game Two of that series, shutting out the Yankees in eight efficient innings.
Hudson was also effective in 2002, going 15-9 with a 2.98 ERA (ERA+ of 145) in 238⅓ innings. He started Game One of the American League Division Series against the Twins and came away with no decision. He had a second start in Game Four and was charged with the loss. The A’s lost the series in five games.
Hudson played a key role in the Athletics’ historic 20-game winning streak that season. On August 14, he started and won the second game of the streak, a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Oakland. He won again five days later in Cleveland, pitching 8⅓ innings in an 8-1 Athletics win. In his next start, on August 24 in Detroit, Hudson pitched a complete game, striking out seven and walking one in a 12-3 Athletics win. On August 30 in Oakland, he was the winning pitcher in a 4-2 triumph over the Minnesota Twins.
Hudson was the starting pitcher on September 4 as the Athletics, in search of consecutive win number 20, took the field against the Kansas City Royals in front of 55,528 fans at Network Associates Coliseum—at that time, the largest crowd to ever see a regular-season baseball game in Oakland.10
Hudson cruised through the first three innings, giving up no runs on only two hits—a single by Brent Mayne in the second inning and a double by Michael Tucker in the third. Meanwhile, the Athletics offense had exploded for 11 runs, including six in the first, one in the second, and five more in the third.
Things began to unravel for Hudson and the Athletics in the fourth inning, as the Royals scored five runs on five hits; only two of the runs were earned. an error by Athletics shortstop Miguel Tejada helping the Royals cause. Hudson got out of the inning by striking out Carlos Beltran and pitched the next two innings with no further damage. In the seventh, he got two quick outs then gave up two singles and was lifted for reliever Chad Bradford.
The Royals scored five more runs in the eighth inning and tied it in the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the ninth, in a scene dramatically depicted in the film Moneyball, Athletics pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg hit a solo home run to win the game. In his five starts during the winning streak, Hudson was 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 37⅔ innings pitched.
Hudson had what could be called his best year in 2003: He was 16-7 with a 2.70 ERA (career-best ERA+ of 165) in a career-high 240 innings, and a career-low WHIP (Walks and Hits per innings pitched) of 1.075. His WAR (Wins-Against-Replacement) per Baseball-Reference.com of 7.4 was the third highest among American League pitchers. He made two starts against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series: He received no decision in the Athletics’ extra-inning victory in Game One and pitched only one inning in Game Four before suffering an injury to his left oblique.
He was also effective in 2004 but made only 27 starts due to a midseason left oblique strain that put him on the shelf for 45 days—his first trip to the disabled list. However, the offseason brought a shock—on December 12, the Athletics traded Hudson to the Atlanta Braves for three lesser-known players: Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer, and Charles Thomas. The Athletics soon traded Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals, further breaking up the Big Three. (Zito signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent after the 2006 season.)
The trade was stunning. In six years with Oakland, Hudson was one of the best pitchers in the major leagues: at that point, he had a record of 92-39 (.702 winning percentage) in 183 starts, with 16 complete games, a WHIP of 1.222, and a 136 ERA+. He tied for the American League lead in shutouts twice and had already compiled a WAR of 31.
Hudson told Sports Illustrated that the trade required emotional adjustment: “My wife, Kim, and I loved Oakland so much: the relationships we built with teammates, with fans. I had a pretty hard time with the trade the first few days. Kim had a really hard time. All the wives were calling her and crying, she was crying. But Atlanta was the one place that, if I was going to get traded, I would be happiest. It makes the transition a little easier.”11
In 2005, Hudson’s first season with the Braves, he won 14 games and took the loss in Game One of the National League Division Series against the Houston Astros. In that series, Hudson came back to start Game Four. He pitched into the eighth inning and left with the score 6-1. At the time, there were runners on first and second with none out. The Braves bullpen faltered, and the Astros came back to tie the game with a Lance Berkman grand slam in the eighth and a Brad Ausmus solo home run in the ninth. The game remained tied at 6-6 until the bottom of the 18th inning when Houston’s Chris Burke homered to win the series for the Astros.
In nine seasons with Atlanta, Hudson had a record of 113-72 and an ERA of 3.56 in 243 starts. His ERA+ was 115 over 1,573 innings. His best season was 2010, when he had a record of 17-9, a WHIP of 1.150, an ERA of 2.83, and ERA+ of 138. In 2010, he was also named to the National League All-Star team and won the league’s Comeback Player of the Year—Hudson had Tommy John surgery in 2008 and missed most of 2009. In the 2010 postseason, he started Game Three in the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. He left the game after seven innings with the Braves trailing 1-0. After he left the game, the lead changed hands on two occasions with the Giants winning 3-2. Once again Hudson’s team failed to get past the Division Series.
On July 24, 2013, at Citi Field, Hudson suffered a broken ankle when the New York Mets’ Eric Young, Jr. accidentally stepped on Hudson on a close play at first base. Hudson missed the rest of the season, which was the last in his contract with the Braves. Following the injury, Young apologized to Hudson. The next day, Kim Hudson, on Twitter, complimented Young and the Mets on how they handled the injury. USA Today wrote: “No wonder the sports world has shown so much support for the Hudsons over the past 16 hours. It’s easy to root for the good guys.”12
Four months later, Hudson signed a two-year, free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants. His performance with the Giants was not at the standard set in his earlier years, but he was named a National League All-Star in 2014—the same season Hudson finally made it past the division series round and won a World Series ring.
The 2014 Giants finished second in the National League West but won the Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Hudson started Game Two of the Division Series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. He pitched very effectively in 7⅓ innings, giving up only a run in the third inning of a game the Giants won in 18 innings. He started Game Three of the National League Championship Series and gave up four runs in 6⅓ innings. The Giants won the game in the bottom of the 10th inning. Hudson started twice against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. In Game Three he took the loss in a close 3-2 Royals victory. He was the starting pitcher in Game Seven, which the Giants won, 3-2, behind a five-inning save by Madison Bumgarner.
Hudson’s penultimate career start came on September 26, 2015, in an emotional appearance against the Athletics before more than 36,000 fans at O.com Coliseum (once known as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum). Hudson was matched up against friend and former teammate Barry Zito, who had spent nearly all of the 2015 season pitching for the AAA Nashville Sounds and was called up by the Athletics just the week before. The Giants won the game and neither pitcher lasted more than two innings, but the ovations for both were loud and frequent. Former Big Three teammate Mark Mulder was at the game to deliver the ceremonial first pitch with Hudson and Zito.13
Hudson’s final major-league appearance came on October 1, against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. In 2⅓ innings, he gave up three hits, struck out one, walked two, and gave up three earned runs. After giving up a single to Howie Kendrick, he was replaced by Jeremy Affeldt—who made his final major-league appearance three days later.
Hudson’s career record was 222-133, with a .625 winning percentage. His ERA was 3.49. Other highlights include 3,126⅔ innings pitched, a 120 ERA+, a WHIP of 1.239, and a 57.9 WAR (Baseball Reference). He made four All-Star teams—in 2000 and 2004 with the Athletics, 2010 with the Braves, and 2014 with the Giants. In 17 major-league seasons, his winning percentage fell below .500 only twice. He is one of only 21 pitchers in major-league history to win at least 200 games, strike out 2,000 batters, and have a winning percentage over .600.
In 2018, Hudson was named to the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He was named volunteer assistant and pitching coach at Auburn in 2020.14 An article in the Auburn Plainsman quoted head coach Butch Thompson: “Tim has already impacted Auburn baseball, Auburn University and our community enough to last a lifetime. But amazing people always seem to have more to give, and that couldn’t be more true for Tim and Kim Hudson.”15 Later that year the Hudsons donated $200,000 to Chattahoochee Valley Community College’s baseball program, the largest donation ever given to the school.16
For the Hudsons, community and philanthropy had long been part of their marriage. In 2009, they formed the Hudson Family Foundation, which supports children and families in need in Georgia and Alabama. In November 2010, Hudson was named the recipient of the 46th annual Hutch Award, which goes to the player who “exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication” of former major-league player and manager Fred Hutchinson. He received the award at a ceremony in January 2011.17
In an article in the Seattle Times, Hudson said: “You start realizing what is important. It’s not winning 20 games, it’s not winning the World Series or making the All-Star team. It’s making a difference in this world.”18
Tim and Kim Hudson live in Auburn with their three children, Kennedie, Tess, and Kade.19 The Hudson Family Foundation’s website provides some detail about Hudson’s post-career life: “In his free time, Hudson enjoys coaching son Kade’s baseball teams and spending time at his farm.” Kim Hudson practices law in an Auburn-based real estate and estate-planning-centered firm and volunteers for local non-profit agencies.
Baseball author Jay Jaffe aptly summarized Hudson’s playing career: “He’s not Hall of Fame material, but there’s no shame in that. Tim Hudson was a damn good pitcher who contributed to several winning teams that had hard luck in the playoffs, but he stuck around long enough to play a significant role on a championship team, and left his mark in all three cities where he pitched.”20
Last revised: April 15, 2021
This biography was reviewed by Bill Nowlin and David H. Lippman and fact-checked by Steve Ferenchick.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed the following websites: Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and Baseball Prospectus. In addition, he used a clippings file provided by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Giamatti Research Center. He also used:
Lewis, Michael. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, (New York, W. W. Norton, 2003).
1 Jeff Shearer, “Star to Student: Auburn Baseball Great Tim Hudson Returns to School,” Auburntigers.com, June 26, 2009.
2 First Person: Tim Hudson, Braves Pitcher,” Sports Illustrated, February 28, 2005. https://vault.si.com/vault/2005/02/28/tim-hudsonbraves-pitcher
3 “First Person: Tim Hudson, Braves Pitcher,” Sports Illustrated, February 28, 2005. https://vault.si.com/vault/2005/02/28/tim-hudsonbraves-pitcher
4 Jeff Pearlman, “Straight A’s Student: Oakland Ace Tim Hudson, a Remarkably Quick Study, Has Moved To the Head of the Class of the Game’s Young Pitchers,” Sports Illustrated, September 25, 2000. https://vault.si.com/vault/2000/09/25/straight-as-student-oakland-ace-tim-hudson-a-remarkably-quick-study-has-moved-to-the-head-of-the-class-of-the-games-young-pitchers
5 Jay Jaffe, “JAWS and the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot: Tim Hudson,” FanGraphs, November 20, 2020. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/jaws-and-the-2021-hall-of-fame-ballot-tim-hudson/
6 Eno Sarris, “Tim Hudson’s Evolving Arsenal,” FanGraphs, June 12, 2014. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/tim-hudson-and-his-evolving-arsenal/
8 First Person: Tim Hudson, Braves Pitcher,” Sports Illustrated, February 28, 2005. https://vault.si.com/vault/2005/02/28/tim-hudsonbraves-pitcher
9 “First Person: Tim Hudson, Braves Pitcher.”
10 The record was broken on June 26, 2004 when 55,989 fans attended a Saturday game between the A’s and the San Francisco Giants. The crowd size of the game in 2002 was helped by a promotion. It was “Dollar Night.” It cost $1.00 to get into the cheap seats and hot dogs were priced at $1.00. 17,000 fans took advantage of the promotion. https://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/05/sports/baseball-a-s-set-record-by-extending-streak-to-20.html
11 “First Person: Tim Hudson, Braves Pitcher.”
12 Chris Chase, “Tim Hudson’s Wife Thanks Player who Injured her Husband,” USA Today, July 25, 2013. https://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/07/tim-hudson-eric-young-wife-thanks
15 Christian Clemente, “Tim Hudson Added to Auburn’s Baseball Staff,” The Auburn Plainsman, January 15, 2020. https://www.theplainsman.com/article/2020/01/tim-hudson-added-to-auburns-baseball-staff
16 Stephanie Pederson, “Braves Pitcher Tim Hudson Gives $200,000 to Chattahoochee Valley Community College Baseball Program, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, April 20, 2010.
18 Larry Stone, “Atlanta Pitcher Tim Hudson Accepts Hutch Award,” Seattle Times, January 26, 2011. https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/mariners/atlanta-pitcher-tim-hudson-accepts-hutch-award/