Kendall reflects on reaching milestone
Brewers catcher singles in second for 2,000th career hit
ST. LOUIS -- After Jason Kendall dislocated and fractured his right ankle in a horrifying injury against the Milwaukee Brewers on July 4, 1999, some wondered whether the then-Pirates catcher would play again.
There he was, lying on the ground at first base, going into shock as his bone stuck several inches out of his skin. His teammates, who had run to his aid, had to turn away when they saw what had happened.
But fittingly, almost 10 years later, Kendall singled up the middle in the second inning of Monday's 8-4 win over the Cardinals for his 2,000th career hit -- as a member of the very team he faced when his career was put in jeopardy.
"When I snapped my ankle 10 years ago, a lot of people said that I would never come back and be the same player," Kendall said. "This is very special."
Kendall became the eighth catcher who played in at least 1,000 games to reach the 2,000-hit plateau. He trails Hall of Famer Johnny Bench by 47 hits for seventh on the all-time catchers' hit list.
"That's pretty impressive for a catcher to do that," said Brewers manager Ken Macha.
The Brewers celebrated the milestone after they swept the Cardinals by toasting Kendall with specially labeled bottles of Bud Light, which congratulated Kendall on reaching the 2,000-hit club. The ball was thrown out of play and given to Kendall as a keepsake.
The veteran catcher was hitting .226 entering Monday's game with no home runs and 13 RBIs.
"It really makes you appreciate the guys that have 3,000 hits," Kendall said.
Kendall finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 1996, his first of nine seasons with Pittsburgh. After 2 1/2 years with the Oakland A's and a half-season with the Chicago Cubs after a midseason trade, Kendall joined the Brewers before the 2008 season.
Kendall had a career-high 191 hits in 2003 with the Pirates and has had more than 150 hits in a season eight times. But even as he tried to rehab from one of baseball's most horrific injuries in years, he never once thought his naysayers would be right.
"You don't have time to doubt yourself in this game," Kendall said. "You don't have time to care what people think. You just have to go out and grind it out on a daily basis and know that there is always something you can do to help the team win."
In his 14th season as a big leaguer, Kendall now finds his name alongside Bench, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Ted Simmons, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez as 2,000-hit catchers.
"You never know in this game," Kendall said. "I've been fortunate to be around for a little bit, and I'm going to keep going until they take the uniform off me."
B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.