Rudi was an underrated superstar for the mighty A’s of the early 1970s, overshadowed on his own team with better stats and more dynamic personalities. Oakland won three consecutive World Series (1972-74) with a lineup that featured Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, and pitchers Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, and Rollie Fingers. But nobody was more important to the A’s overall success than Rudi. He was an excellent defensive player, a smart hitter, and a good baserunner. His arm was strong and accurate, and he was outstanding in the clutch. In Game Two of the 1972 WS against Cincinnati, Rudi homered, then saved the 2-1 win with a spectacular ninth-inning catch. And in Game Seven against the Dodgers in 1974, his seventh-inning homer broke a 2-2 tie, and Oakland held on to win 3-2.
Rudi broke into the ML with the Kansas City Athletics in 1967, but never hit better than .189 while playing infrequently in his first three seasons. He came into his own in 1970, hitting .309 in 350 at-bats, and for the next six seasons he would be a mainstay in the Oakland lineup, often playing first base or DH. He led the AL in hits and triples in 1972, and in doubles in 1974.
When owner Charlie Finley began to break up the A’s in the mid-1970s, he tried to sell Rudi and Fingers to the Red Sox, but Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the deal. Rudi then signed with the Angels as a free agent after the 1976 season, but was hampered by injuries for most of his four seasons with California. He finally made it to Boston in 1981, arriving in the trade for Fred Lynn, but he hit only .180 in limited playing time and closed out his career with Oakland again in 1982.