Robin Mark Ventura was born July 14, 1967 in Santa Maria, California. The six foot one left hand hitting Ventura, was a star ballplayer at his high School in Santa Maria. He then attended Oklahoma State University where he led the division twice in RBIs & had a 58 game hitting streak. Ventura also led his team to a National Championship game, although they lost to Stanford University.
In 1988 he was the U.S Olympics team’s third baseman, in Seoul Korea batting .409 while winning a Silver Medal. He starred in the 1988 World Cup as well, winning the Golden Spikes Award & getting named the best amateur player in the country. Later in 1988 he was the Chicago White Sox first round draft pick (the tenth pick overall). He spent just one season in the minors, batting .278 at AAA Birmingham in 129 games, getting to the big leagues that September.
He made the 1990 Topps All Star Rookie team, although he only hit .249 with 124 hits 5 HRs 17 doubles & 54 RBIs . The next season he adjusted well to the majors hitting 23 HRs driving in 100 runs & scoring 92 runs, while batting .284. Over his ten seasons in Chicago, Ventura hit 20 or more HRs five times, drove in 90 plus runs six times, drive in over 100 twice, hit 30 plus doubles three times & 20 or more doubles six times. He batted over .280 five times, Defensively he was one of the league’s best third baseman, winning five Gold Gloves and leading the league in put outs & assists three times each.
In 1993 the White Sox won the N.L. Western Title, as Ventura .262 with hit 22 HRs with 27 doubles 94 RBIs 101 walks posting a .379 on base & while scoring 85 runs. That season during a game in Texas, he was hit in the ribs by a fast ball from Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Ventura charged the mound, but was stopped getting caught in a head lock by the 45 year old Ryan. Ventura took at least six good blows to the head from Ryan as well. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez broke up the brawl, and Ventura was ejected from the game, taking a two game suspension. He was highly criticized for going after the popular Nolan Ryan, and was forever booed in the state of Texas.
In the 1993 post season he struggled, only batting .200 against Toronto pitching. In 1994 injuries slowed him up, but when he returned he hit well, finishing up batting .282 with 18 HRs & 78 RBIs in just 109 games.
The next two years were maybe his best overall in Chicago; batting .295 with a .384 on base % in 1995, followed career highs in HRs (34) & runs scored (95) in 1996 with 31 doubles & 105 RBIs.
In 1997 the Sox were heavily favored to win their division, but Ventura broke his ankle in Spring Training and his loss was a big blow to the team. It was feared he’d miss the season but he did return in late July. On the night he returned he got the game winning hit & the next night he hit his first HR of the year. In just 54 games he hit 6 HRs with 26 RBIs & a .262 average.
In 1999 he was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent and enjoyed his best season, playing in all but one game on the season. Ventura debuted as a Met playing 3rd base & batting sixth on Opening Day 1999 in Florida against the Marlins. In the second inning he hit a sac fly driving in his first career Mets run. He started off the year with a ten game hit streak & 11 runs during that streak. In his first month he drove in twenty runs, hit four HRs and was batting .300. On May 12th in Colorado he drove in three runs, then as the team went to Philadelpia he hit HRs in the next two games, all leading to Mets victories.
On May 20 in a double header against the Milwaukee Brewers at Shea Stadium, Ventura went into the record books. He became the first player to ever hit grand slams in both ends of a double header. The first blast came in the first inning of the first game against Jim Abbot. The game was a wild 11-10 Mets win that ended with Milwaukee's Alex Ochoa getting thrown out at home plate by Roger Cedeno. In that game Mike Piazza & Benny Agbayani also hit HRs. The second grand slam came in the night cap off pitcher Horatio Estrada. It came in the 4th inning, a long shot hugging the right field foul pole, in the Mets 10-1 twin bill sweep.
In the summer he had two separate games where he drove in six runs & hit a pair of HRs. On June 28th Ventura went to Florida, hitting two HRs while driving in six runs in the 10-4 Mets win. On July 31st he then went to Wrigley Field & drove in another six runs, hitting two more HRs in a wild 17-10 Mets loss. At the end of July Ventura drove in runs in ten of the last 13 games. He went into August hitting safely in 28 of 32 games as well.
On an early August Mets road trip to Milwaukee, Ventura homered in three straight games, driving in a total of six runs.
On August 15th, he hit a 5th inning grand slam off the San Francisco Giants Livan Hernandez in the Mets 12-5 win at Candlestick Park. On the month he drove in another twenty runs, keeping his average up over .300. As the Mets entered September chasing the Wild Card title, Ventura started out the month with a three hit four RBI day in Houston. He drove in runs in the next three games as well as the Mets took three of four.
On October 1st he singled off Pittsburgh's Scott Sauerbeck for a walk off game winning RBI, keeping the Mets within one game of the Wild Card leading Cincinnati Reds. The Mets & Reds ended up tied at the end of the season, forcing a one game Wild Card playoff. In the Mets 5-0 win that day, Ventura had a 3rd inning RBI single off Denny Neagle giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. He also drew a pair of walks in the game. In the final four games of the year he hit safely in all of them & drove in four runs.
At the plate Ventura drove in 120 runs (8th in the NL), hit 32 HRs with 38 doubles, a .379 on base %, while batting a career high .301. He also drew 74 walks, ten intentional walks, and came in 6th place in the MVP voting. He provided a lot of power batting next to Mike Piazza & Edgardo Alfonzo in the Mets powerful line up, which carried them within one game of the World Series.
Defensively, he won another gold glove, making only nine errors in 452 chances, posting a .980 fielding % (second in the NL). He led the league's third baseman in assists (320) games played at third (160) & was second in put outs. He was part of one of baseball’s best defensive infields ever assembled along with Rey Ordonez, Edgardo Alfonzo & John Olerud. The infielders made the cover of Sports Illustrated with that head line during the regular season.
In the clubhouse Ventura proved to be a team leader, inspiring the club with the Doors song “L.A. Woman”. He took the term ‘Mojo Rising” from the song, and made it the Mets rally cry for the stretch run. (Music Trivia: Mojo Rising was actually Jim Morrison’s name jumbled around.)
Post Season: In the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ventura only hit .214 (3-22) with one RBI. His moment of glory came in the NLCS against the rival Atlanta Braves. The Mets were down three games to one, facing elimination as they battled in the bottom of the 15th inning in Game #5 at Shea Stadium. The Mets had just tied the game as Todd Pratt drew a bases loaded walk & Ventura came to bat.
The rain was falling hard & Ventura blasted a shot over the right field wall off Braves pitcher Kevin McGlinchy. Roger Cedeno ran home & touched the plate with the winning run. As Ventura was rounding the bases, Todd Pratt got so excited getting caught up in the moment, he did not even realize it was HR. He ran over to celebrate, jumping up & down embracing Ventura. Since he failed to round the bases, Ventura was only credited with an RBI single. It became known as the “Grand Slam single”.
In his career Ventura hit 18 grand slam HRs (fourth on the All Time list) and was a .340 hitter with the bases loaded.
In the off season he needed knee surgery & as the 2000 season began Ventura was still recovering, with the knee problems affecting his swing. He began the year going hitless in the two game series in Japan against the Chicago Cubs.
After a slow start, he got things going on a road trip to Pittsburgh. He hit his first HR of the season off Kris Benson in an 8-5 Mets win, then two days later he had another six RBI day. He led the Mets to a 12-9 win, as he hit another HR, had three hits & drove in the six runs. Two days later when the Mets returned home, he hit a grand slam HR against Jamie Navarro & the Milwaukee Brewers, leading to a 10-7 win. He closed out the month driving in runs in five straight games.
He didn’t hit for a high average but continued to drive in runs. In May he drove in seven runs during a three day stretch on a West Coast road trip. In June he drove in another seven runs on an early month road trip, including a two run HR in the regular season subway series match ups. He returned to drive in nine runs on a long Mets home stand later that month. He also added an eleven game hit streak in June as well.
He struggled in July with shoulder problems causing him to miss two weeks of action. He only drove in one run that month but returned in August to hit three HRs the first week on road trips to Houston & Arizona. He drove in 13 runs in the first two weeks, including a four RBI day with a pair of doubles in Houston August 10th. On September 14th he hit a three run HR in Montreal, and when the Expos came to Shea he hit another HR, while driving in three more runs in a September 29th game. On the season his average fell off to .232 due to the injuries, but he hit 24 HRs, with 23 doubles 109 hits 75 walks a .338 on base % & 84 RBIs. At third base he posted a .954 fielding %, turning 27 double plays.
Post Season: In the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants he only had two hits (2-14) but one of them was a first inning two run HR in the final Game #5 at Shea Stadium. That was the night when Bobby Jones threw his spectacular one hit shutout.
In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ventura only batted .214 with just three hits (3-14) but had an important double with five RBIs. In Game #4 at Shea Stadium he hit a first inning double off Daryl Kile, driving in Edgardo Alfonzo & Mike Piazza, putting New York ahead 3-2. He later added a sac fly RBI in the 8th inning of the Mets 10-6 win.
In the 2000 World Series, Ventura hit a HR to lead off the bottom of the second inning in Game #3 at Shea Stadium. He later doubled, then walked in the Mets 4-2 victory. Ventura would go 3-20 in that World Series for a .150 average. Overall in the 2000 post season he had eight hits in 48 at bats,with two HRs two doubles six runs scored & eight RBIs.
In 2001 he began the year with two HRs driving in four runs on Opening Day in Atlanta. On May 1st he hit another grand slam, this one at Shea Stadium helping the Mets to a 7-5 win over the Houston Astros. A nine game hit streak & a solid month got him over the .300 mark once again. In June he hit eight HRs , his biggest day was hitting apair of HRs while driving in four runs in a 10-3 Mets win at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He also hit a solo HR in the subway series, in a 2-1 Mets losing effort.
On July 28th he hit a walk off HR off former Met team mate Turk Wendell giving New York a 4-3 win over the Phillies. In August he slumped, hitting no HRs while driving in just four runs as his average dropped to .228. After September 11th he returned to hit a HR in the final game of th e three game set in Pittsburgh. As baseball returned to New York, Ventura went hitless in the Famous Mike Piazza HR game against the Braves. The next night he singled to put the Mets up 2-1 in the 4th inning, then added a solo HR in the 6th off Steve Reed. The Mets went on win that game 7-3 and come within 3.5 games of the Braves in first place.
The Mets faded from the race as the month went on, Ventura ended the year hitting .237 as he only drove in 61 runs. He hit 21 HRs with 20 doubles with 88 walks posting a .359 on base %. All in all, Ventura wasn’t hitting as the Mets had hoped, thinking that the 33 year old was winding down, the Mets let him go to free agency at the end of the year. In his Mets career Ventura had 394 hits with 77 HRs 81 doubles 265 RBIs and a .266 batting average in 444 games over three seasons.
After the Mets, he signed on with the A.L. New York club, having a good season. He made the All Star team, hitting 27 HRs with 17 doubles 92 RBIs & a .247 average.
In 2003 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finished his career there in 2004. He hit two more career grand slams that season as well. His 17th career grand slam came on August 29th against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.
He is fourth on the All Time Grand Slam list & was a .340 hitter with the bases loaded.
Ventura finished a 16 year career, batting .262 lifetime with 1885 hits, 294 HRs, 18 grand slams, 344 doubles 1075 walks, a .362 on base % & 1182 RBIs. At third base he played 1887 games (17th all time) posting a .958 fielding percentage (71st all time). He made 3552 assists (21st all time) 1471 put outs (37th all time) & committed 220 errors (71st all time).
His ankle had never fully recovered from the 1997 break and he walked with a limp actually being forced to even use a cane for a bit after his playing days ended. He underwent an ankle allograft and after rehab from the surgery is able to be pain free & walk fine.
In 2008 he returned to Shea Stadium for the closing ceremonies of the Stadium.
In 2012 he was named manager of the Chicago White Sox, although he had never held any other managerial position at any level.