After bouncing around for ten years, Hudler won a platoon job at second base and shortstop with the 1988 Expos and reached new highs in every category, hitting .273 and stealing 29 bases. But the emergence of Delino DeShields and the steady play of Spike Owen ended Hudler's chances for regular playing time in the Montreal infield.
Hudler spent most of the 1990s coming off the bench as the quintessential utilityman with the Cardinals, Angels and Phillies. Always hustling, he won respect for his gung-ho attitude on the field and charismatic enthusiasm off it. Said the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1995, "His infectious manner of speech seems part-evangelist, part-hippie, part 12-year-old Little Leaguer."
Hudler, who grew up in Fresno, was a prep All-American as a wide receiver in 1977. Recruited by many schools as a football player (Joe Montana showed him around the Notre Dame campus) he decided to pursue baseball instead. "I'm a football player in a baseball player's body," Hudler once said. "When I hit the ball, I become wild abandon."
Hudler spent 1993 with the Yakult Swallows of the Japan League. There he earned the nickname "Worm Eater" for the living creatures on which he often snacked in the club's dugout. (WOR/JGR)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 8, 1978: Bob Horner, the College Player of the Year, is selected first in the free-agent draft by the Braves. Horner will skip the minors and debut on June 16 with a homer in his first game, off Blyleven. The Blue Jays make Lloyd Moseby the 2nd selection. The Yankees, with three first-round selections awarded as compensation in player signings, pick Rex Hudler, Matt Winters, and Brian Ryder. On the 23rd round they take a Clearwater RHP named Howard Johnson, who will make the ML as an infielder. MSU's Kirk Gibson, who most teams assume will play football, lasts until the 12th overall pick when his hometown Tigers take him. He signs for $200,000 and promises to drop football. Kent Hrbek lasts until the 17th round, and Ryne Sandberg goes the Phils on the 20th round. Besides Horner, three other draft picks, all high schoolers, will jump directly to the majors after signing: the A's Mike Morgan (June 11); Blue Jays Brian Milner (June 23) and the A's Tim Conroy (June 23).
»April 13, 1994:
Indians P Derek Lilliquist is credited with Cleveland's 6-5 win without retiring a batter. With two outs in 9th of a 5-5 tie, the runner on 1B, Rex Hudler, is thrown out trying to steal. The Indians go on to score in the 10th to win the game.
»May 26, 1996:
Rex Hudler is 5-for-5 with a homer as the Angels roll over the Red Sox, 12–2. Shawn Boskie (6–1) is the winner.