For 12th time, Pudge honored for his 'D'

AL Gold Glove winners announced

A battery that helped power the Detroit Tigers into the American League playoffs for the first time in 19 years came equipped with a golden touch.

Left-handed starter Kenny Rogers and catcher Ivan Rodriguez were rewarded on Thursday for their defensive excellence when the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company and Major League Baseball announced the American League Gold Glove winners for the 2006 season.

The Tigers were the only AL team to have more than one Gold Glove recipient.

Rodriguez, the league's premier catcher throughout most of the 1990s -- capturing Gold Glove honors every season between 1992-2001 -- picked up his 12th overall after a sensational defensive campaign. He committed just two errors in 801 total chances and threw out a Major League-best 45.7 percent (21-for-46) of would-be basestealers, including a nearly two-month span around midseason without allowing a stolen base.

Rogers, who added a fifth Gold Glove to his collection, was one of seven repeat winners.

The others were: Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Oakland Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez and outfielders Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins, Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Chavez, Hunter and Ichiro have now each won six consecutive Gold Gloves, while Jeter and Wells are three-time winners.

Kansas City Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek won his first Gold Glove in his first season in the AL. He spent the previous 11 seasons in the National League, whose Gold Glove winners will be announced on Friday.

Managers and coaches from each team vote for the best defensive players in their league and are prohibited from voting for their own players.

The Boston Red Sox led the Major Leagues with the fewest errors with 66, coming within one miscue of tying the big-league record for fewest bobbles in a season, set by the Mariners in 2003. That Mariners team had four Gold Glove winners: Bret Boone, John Olerud, Mike Cameron and Ichiro.

The 2006 Red Sox were surprisingly shut out.

Third baseman Mike Lowell committed six errors in 463 total chances; shortstop Alex Gonzalez misplayed seven of the 475 fielding chances he had; second baseman Mark Loretta was so sure-handed that he fielded all but four of his 639 chances cleanly; and first baseman Kevin Youkilis made five errors in 1,035 fielding chances.

All were Gold Glove worthy, but had stiff competition.

"Nothing against Lowell; obviously, he's a great player," said Athletics center fielder Mark Kotsay. "But I get to watch [Chavez] play every day, and I've yet to see someone in my career as good over there as he is on a daily basis."

And, while Gonzalez made fewer than half as many errors as Jeter (15), the Yankees shortstop had 610 fielding chances.

"The Gold Glove Award means a great deal to me," Jeter said in a statement. "Fielding doesn't get many headlines, but it's a big part of the game of baseball. I take great pride in my defense, and to be recognized with a Gold Glove for three straight seasons is a great honor that I will always cherish."

Chavez was rock solid again at third for the AL West champion A's with just five errors in 391 chances, Grudzielanek made just four errors in 637 chances and Teixeira was also adept in the field with only four errors in 1,480 chances, leading his first-base colleagues in putouts, chances and double plays.

"It's an honor to win my second Gold Glove," said Teixeira. "I continue to work hard on improving my defense, and my goal is to just keep getting better as a first baseman."

The outfield Gold Glove winners had something else in common: All finished the season as center fielders.

Wells, who had no errors and 12 assists in 2005, committed four errors and had four assists in '06. Hunter was steady, as usual, for the Twins, committing just four errors in 355 chances while contributing eight assists. Ichiro made two errors and had eight assists while playing right field (121 games) along with one error and one assist during his 39-game stint in center field at the end of the season.

In 938 games since 2001, Ichiro's .994 fielding percentage is the highest among Major League outfielders who have played in more than 450 games. He has made 14 errors in 2,195 career chances with 59 outfield assists. Ichiro won seven consecutive Gold Glove Awards while playing for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan.

"He's amazing," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. "He's a tremendous athlete. You could probably put him at shortstop or second base and he would do good there, too. ... He's that kind of athlete."

The 2006 season marked the 50th year of the Gold Glove Award.

The first Rawlings Gold Gloves were awarded in 1957 to one player at each position encompassing both leagues. But since the '58 season, the award has been presented annually to a lineup of nine players for both the American and National leagues.

The idea of awarding Gold Gloves to the top fielders in the game came in 1956 when Elmer Blasco, the Rawlings Sporting Goods public relations/sales manager, discovered during a Spring Training survey that 83 percent of MLB regular players used Rawlings gloves or mitts.

He noted that Hillerich & Bradsby, the Major League's leading baseball bat supplier, awarded "Silver Bats" to the game's top hitters, so Blasco reasoned that Rawlings ought to sponsor some sort of fielding award.

After his idea was accepted by Rawlings' management, Blasco contacted the Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis and obtained from them a hide of gold lame-tanned leather used to make ladies formal slippers. A glove was crafted from the hide, laced and stamped as a regular fielder's glove, and attached to a metal fixture on a walnut base with an engraved plate. Thus was born the Gold Glove Award.

The Oct. 2, 1957, edition of The Sporting News featured a full-page announcement: "Recognizing the importance of superior individual fielding performance to the advancement of baseball as America's national game, Rawlings has established the annual Gold Glove Awards beginning with the '57 season."

A committee selected by The Sporting News voted from 1957-64; MLB managers and coaches took over the voting responsibility in 1965.

Jim Street is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.