April 11, 1977
Closing on a house can be tedious, but Joe Rudi will take working in real estate over playing the stock market any day. "The stock market is sort of like going to Las Vegas," says Rudi. "I like to have something I can see with my name on the deed. People will always need a place to live."
For most of 16 major league seasons Rudi was a fixture in leftfield. A three-time All-Star, he was one of the mainstays of the great Oakland A's teams that won three consecutive World Series in the early 1970s. Billy Martin called Rudi "fundamentally, the best player of his generation."
Rudi was in the prime of his career during the early days of free agency, and when A's owner Charles Finley refused to meet his star players' escalating salary demands, Rudi was part of the exodus of A's, signing a five-year, $2.09 million deal with the California Angels in November 1976. However, Rudi broke his wrist the following June and was plagued by Achilles problems during most of his four seasons with the Angels. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1981 and finished his career back with the A's in '82. "Fans got vicious," recalls Rudi. "You could definitely tell the difference before and after free agency."
Rudi had married his high school sweetheart, Sharon Howell, in 1966, and the newly-weds began dabbling in real estate at the encouragement of Sharon's stepfather, Gib Nikerson, a longtime broker. The couple bought fixer-uppers in and around their hometown of Modesto, Calif., renovated them and sold them for a profit. In 1983 the Rudis and their four children moved to a 300-acre ranch in Baker, Ore. Joe started the baseball team at Baker High. He spent four years there, returned to the A's for a two-year stint as the club's outfield coach, then assisted the Baker program for another two years.
Wanting to be closer to their families, the Rudis returned to Modesto in November 1998. For the past three months Joe, 53, and Sharon, 52, have worked at PMZ Real Estate, along with their eldest son, Michael, 31. Their other children have gone different routes: Scott, 29, is a graphic artist for a video-game company; Heather, 22, recently joined the Air Force; and Shaun, 21, is a college student who is playing summer baseball in an amateur league in Southern California. In addition to playing golf and his round-the-clock interest in real estate, Joe finds the time to teach hitting a few nights a week at a baseball academy. "We're afraid to get bored," Sharon says.