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 newlyweds 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.
--Kelvin C. Bias
COLOR PHOTO: BILL EPPRIDGE (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: JAMES D. WILSON
Rudi was "fundamentally the best player of his generation,"
according to Billy Martin.