And what of Ted Sizemore, the canny little hitter whom nobody watches for the perfectly valid reason that batting second for the Cardinals, he is at the plate when Lou Brock is on the bases? Or how about Vada Pinson, perhaps the most obscure 2,600-hit man in the game's history? And what must it be like to be a Bill Singer on a staff with a Nolan Ryan? Pause for a moment over the plight of Milwaukee's Johnny Briggs, who averages about 20 homers a season but was not even mentioned in the team's season-ticket brochure.
"I have to admit I feel kind of neglected," Briggs says. "When it comes to the laurels part of it, the others get 'em."
Briggs' lament is an anthem that has been heard, if faintly, through the ages. Let's hear a belated huzzah for "Old Reliable" Tommy Henrich, who played next to and in the shadow of Joe DiMaggio. Or for Bob Meusel, who was the Yankee leftfielder when someone named Ruth was in right. Since the Babe outshone so many lesser lights, it would not even be stretching a point to include on this roster the most sung of all unsung heroes, Lou Gehrig.
For obvious reasons a mournful cry should be raised for the unsung siblings, such as Paul Dean, Dom DiMaggio and Lloyd Waner. For all of his now well-documented heroics, even Henry Aaron was considered unheralded until it became apparent that he, not Willie Mays, would break Ruth's record.
What is it then that keeps these stars out of the constellation? For many it is merely that they have suffered in comparison with more spectacular personalities on their teams. Some have played on losing teams or in media-poor cities. In this regard Bob Stevens of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke for much of the nation last week when he complained, "Anyone is unsung who does not play in New York City." Other unknown soldiers are merely quiet fellows who shrink from the limelight.
Joe Rudi fits into most of these categories. He certainly plays on a team with more flamboyant personalities, and though the A's are winners, he plays before minuscule audiences at home. He also has little use for celebrity high life. And to aggravate the situation, he is openly nettled at being considered unsung.
"I'm getting more and more ink about not getting ink than most people do who always get ink," he says. "Against Texas not long ago I had four hits and five RBIs and all I read about the next day was how little publicity I get."
However, Rudi has had his moments at center stage. His wall-crashing catch off Denis Menke in the 1972 World Series with Cincinnati is regarded as a classic of the genre, ranking right up there with Willie Mays' robbery of Vic Wertz and Al Gionfriddo's Joe DiMaggio heist. In this year's All-Star Game, Rudi made a diving catch in foul territory that would have been considered best-of-game had it not been followed moments later by a similar effort from teammate Jackson.
Though the one clearly outshines the other, Jackson and Rudi have been best friends since they played together eight years ago on the A's farm team in Modesto, a torrid Central Valley community where Rudi grew to manhood and met and married his high school sweetheart Sharon, now the mother of his two sons. No one sings Rudi's praises louder than Reggie.
"I just dig the guy," says he. "We have opposite personalities and that's probably why we jive. Sometimes I have to be cognizant of not dominating our relationship, like in picking movies to see and places to go. Joe is quiet, passive, subdued, but in private he likes to have a good time, down a few beers, raise a little hell. But he's that way only around people he's comfortable with.