July 14, 1967
Santa Maria, California
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|September 12, 1989 for the Chicago White Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 10, 2004 for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Runs batted in||1,182|
|Career highlights and awards|
Robin Mark Ventura (pronounced /vɨnˈtɜrə/ vin-TURR-ə; born July 14, 1967 in Santa Maria, California) is a former professional baseball player, a third baseman who played for four major league teams, most notably for the Chicago White Sox.
After attending Righetti High School in Santa Maria, California, Ventura was a 3-time All-American at Oklahoma State University. After leading the nation in runs (107), RBI (96) and total bases (204) in 69 games as a freshman in 1986, he had an NCAA-record 58-game hitting streak (since surpassed) in 1987, breaking the previous record of 47; he also led Division I in RBIs two years in a row. His hitting streak remains the Division I record, though his mark was surpassed by Damian Costantino of Division III Salve Regina University in 2003. Ventura helped OSU reach the finals of the 1987 College World Series, although they lost the championship game to a Stanford team that included future teammate Jack McDowell. Ventura collected four hits – including a pair of doubles – in the final game and batted .364 for the Series. In 1988 he earned a spot on the gold medal-winning Olympic baseball team, batting .409 during the tournament, and won both the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy for outstanding collegiate play, concluding his 3-year OSU career with a .428 batting average, a .792 slugging percentage, and 302 RBIs. On July 4, 2006, Ventura was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class.
After being picked tenth in the 1988 Major League Baseball Draft by the White Sox, Ventura spent much of 1989 at AA Birmingham before joining the Sox that September. While in Birmingham, he earned a spot in the Southern League All-Star Game and was voted the league's top defensive third baseman. He was named to the 1990 Topps All-Star Rookie Roster and earned the starting third base role with the White Sox the next spring. While his 1990 rookie year was marred by an 0-for-41 slump and 25 errors, his 123 hits were the most by a Sox rookie since Ozzie Guillén in 1985; he also led AL rookies with 150 games played. The next year he won his first Gold Glove Award for fielding excellence, set a team record for RBIs at third base, and led the AL in putouts. In 1992, Ventura won another Gold Glove, earned a spot on the All-Star team – collecting an RBI double and a single on his 25th birthday – and several league-leading marks in both offensive and defensive categories.
1993 saw his batting average drop 20 points to .262, though both his slugging and on-base percentages rose slightly. Ventura also collected his 500th hit that May and won his third straight Gold Glove, while becoming the first AL third baseman with three consecutive 90-RBI campaigns since Graig Nettles (1975-78). The White Sox appeared in the ALCS that year, Ventura's only playoff trip while in Chicago, losing to the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 1994, the strike that year likely prevented him from reaching 90 RBI for the only time between 1991 and 1996. When play resumed in 1995, Ventura had ten errors in the first ten games. He spent some time at first base that year amid trade rumors, but ended the year with a career-high .295 average, and on September 4 hit two grand slams in one game, the eighth player in history to do so and the first since Frank Robinson in 1970. The next season he won his fourth Gold Glove, reached new highs in fielding percentage, homers and RBIs, and set team records in career homers by a third baseman (142) and grand slams (9).
When spring training began in 1997 the White Sox were picked by many to win their division. In a spring training game at Ed Smith Stadium, Ventura slid into home plate and caught his foot in the mud, suffering a broken and dislocated right ankle. The initial prognosis was that he would be lost for the season. However, Ventura returned on July 24, more than a week ahead of the most optimistic predictions. He collected the game-winning hit that night, and homered in his first at-bat the next evening. The White Sox did not make the playoffs, in part due to the “White Flag Trade”.
In 1998, Ventura's final season with the Sox, he won his fifth Gold Glove, but only hit .263. His homer and RBI totals weren’t far off his career averages, but the Sox attempted repeatedly to trade him and declined to renew his contract, with Reinsdorf claiming that he was “deteriorating”.
In an enduring image many people recall from 1993, Ventura was hit by a pitch in the ribs by Nolan Ryan, the hardthrowing Texas Rangers legend. Ventura charged the mound, and Ryan seized him in a headlock with his left arm and landed six blows to the head and face of the younger player before Rangers catcher Iván Rodríguez separated the two players. Ventura and White Sox manager Gene Lamont were then ejected from the game. Ventura was suspended for two-games and criticized by commentators. He would be booed in Texas for the remainder of his career.
Ventura departed Chicago on December 2 when the New York Mets signed him to a four-year deal. In his first year in New York, Ventura hit .301 with 32 homers, 120 RBIs and made only nine errors. On May 20 he became the first player ever to hit a grand slam in each game of a doubleheader. He and fellow infielders Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordóñez and John Olerud were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the “Best Infield Ever”; However, he injured his left knee some time in August; when the problem finally came to light, just before the postseason, it had worsened to torn cartilage. He took the phrase "Mojo Risin" from The Doors' "L.A. Woman" and made it the rally cry for the Mets that year, meeting Doors lead singer Jim Morrison's widow Patricia Kennealy Morrison when the Mets invited her to a game just before the playoffs.
Despite his injury, Ventura provided the game-winning, bases-loaded, two-out single in the eleventh inning against the Pirates on the final weekend of the regular season to propel the Mets back into the Wild Card chase. In Game 5 of the NLCS, with the Atlanta Braves up 3-2 in the fifteenth inning, a bases-loaded walk to Todd Pratt forced in the tying run and brought Ventura to the plate. Ventura hit a home run into right-center field. Pratt, however, didn’t see the ball leave the park and ran back to first base, hoisting Ventura into the air and lugging him off the field before he could round the bases. The hit was officially scored an RBI single, commonly referred to as the "Grand Slam Single". However, the Mets lost the series. He won his first NL Gold Glove that fall, bringing his total to six.
In 2000, still recovering from off-season surgery on both his knee and right shoulder, he only hit .232 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs. He spent part of July on the disabled list with inflammation in his repaired shoulder, and was plagued with errors; but rebounded to hit .320 with three homers and 13 RBIs in the last two weeks of the season. When the Mets reached the World Series, he hit his only World Series home run against the Yankees' Orlando Hernández. In 2001, he batted .237 with 21 homers and only 61 RBIs.
At the end of the season, the Mets traded him to the Yankees. In 2002, Ventura batted .247 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs, the eighth time he topped 90 RBI. He was selected to the All-Star team. He did, however, have the lowest fielding percentage of all third basemen in the major leagues, .941. The Yankees lost the Division Series that October, but in those four games he hit .286 with four RBIs. In 2003, he was platooned with Todd Zeile, another former Met, at third. Ventura struggled through the first few months of the year; by late July he had only nine homers and 42 RBIs. He tied Shea Hillenbrand for the major league lead in errors by a third baseman, however, with 23.
Re-signed by LA in December, Ventura entered 2004 with a chance to be the Dodgers' starting first baseman, but that changed during the last week of spring training when new general manager Paul DePodesta traded for Cleveland outfielder Milton Bradley, setting off a domino effect that ended in Ventura being relegated to a bench role as a backup infielder and pinch hitter. He had a game-winning RBI in the second game of the season, but it took over two months for him to hit his first homer, and he only had five the entire year, two of which were pinch game-winners. His best moments came on August 29 and September 7, when he hit his seventeenth and eighteenth grand slams, becoming the third in career grand slams; another “highlight” was his pitching debut on June 25 during a blowout loss against the Anaheim Angels, only allowing a single amid three fly ball outs. The Dodgers made it to the NLDS but lost in four games. Ventura retired after the season due to arthritis in his right ankle.
Ventura's 1997 ankle injury - a compound fracture and dislocation - also affected his leg muscles, which began to atrophy following the accident. Full strength in his leg never returned, and the daily pain from his ankle and leg contributed to Ventura's decision to retire from baseball. After retirement, Ventura limped badly and was forced to walk with a cane regularly. On November 18, 2005, Ventura underwent an ankle allograft. Following the surgery and rehabilitation, Ventura now walks without pain and without a limp. He also sometimes appears on ESPNU as an anchor. Recently, Ventura returned to Shea Stadium on the last season game played on the stadium on September 28, 2008 for the ceremonies of the stadium, with fellow ex-teammates of the Mets, Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco, Todd Zeile, and Mike Piazza.
Ventura became eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. 75% of the vote is necessary for induction, and 5% is necessary to stay on the ballot. He received 1.3% of the vote, and will no longer be on the BBWAA ballot.
Third basemen with most 90-RBI seasons
Note: Schmidt also had one 90-RBI season as a first baseman; Jones had two 90-RBI seasons as a left fielder.
Third basemen with highest career slugging average (Minimum 1500 games at 3B)
|Topps Rookie All-Star