White Sox

White Sox

Rauch is German for "smoke," and that’s what Jon Rauch threw.

OK, he threw mid-90s at his best, but work with me.

Of course, he’s best known for being the tallest player in MLB history, at 6-foot-11.

Remember that guy?

Jon Erich Rauch was born September 27, 1978, in Louisville. He played baseball at Oldham County High School, as well as basketball, as you might expect from someone who stands 6-foot11. He went on to play baseball at Morehead State and was drafted in the third round by the White Sox in 1999. He might have gone higher if it weren’t for a case of viral meningitis, which robbed Rauch of energy, and a few ticks on his fastball for a stretch of time.

In 2000, the selection paid dividends for the White Sox, as Rauch posted a 16-4 record and a 2.66 ERA at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. That year, the big right-hander was named the minor league player of the year by both The Sporting News and Baseball America. In addition, Rauch was a member of the gold medal winning United States Olympic team in Sydney, allowing one earned run with 21 strikeouts in 11 innings over two appearances (one start).

Entering the 2001 season, he was ranked fourth on Baseball America’s list of the top 100 prospects, but the season didn’t play out as Rauch or the White Sox imagined. Rauch was limited to six starts and a 5.79 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte and underwent surgery on his shoulder in May.

 

Rauch started 2002 with the White Sox and made his MLB debut on April 2. At 6-foot-11 he became the tallest player in MLB history, surpassing Randy Johnson and Eric Hillman, who both stood 6-foot10. He still remains the tallest, for now.

The first batter he faced was Jeff Cirillo and coaxed a flyout to get out of a bases-loaded jam. He tossed 1.1 innings, even getting the great Ichiro Suzuki to foul out. His next appearance, two weeks later, was his first major league start, and he allowed three runs in four innings, earning a no-decision against the Indians. His first major league strikeout was of Travis Fryman.

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Rauch was roughed up a few times, including a start on May 2 against the Mariners where he got only one out, allowing six hits and eight runs (five earned), including the first of Mike Cameron’s four home runs in that game. He was sent to Charlotte after that start and returned Sept. 3 in Toronto, where he earned his first career win, tossing two innings in relief of Rocky Biddle. He finished his first season in the majors with a 6.59 ERA in eight games.

Rauch spent all of 2003 at Charlotte working on his craft and in 2004 made two spot starts for the White Sox before being dealt to the Expos along with Gary Majewski in exchange for Carl Everett. With the Expos, Rauch wore No. 51 — just as Johnson did back in 1988 and 1989. Rauch made a few starts with Montreal before settling into a relief role.

On Aug. 13, 2004, Rauch tossed 4.2 no-hit innings before having to leave the no-hit bid with an oblique strain. In that game, he also connected for his first major league hit, a home run off Roger Clemens. It’s one of only two homers The Rocket ever allowed to an opposing pitcher (Shawn Estes hit the other), and of course it made him the tallest player in MLB history to hit a home run.

In 2006, Rauch spent the entire season in the majors, now with the Washington Nationals (who moved from Montreal in 2005). Rauch appeared in 85 games with a 3.35 ERA in 2006. He pitched a major league high 88 times in 2007, with a 3.61 ERA.

In July 2008, Rauch was sent to Arizona in exchange for Emilio Bonifacio. In August 2009, he was dealt to the Twins to bolster the Minnesota bullpen, which he did, posting a 1.72 ERA in 17 games down the stretch. He made his postseason debut in the 2009 ALDS for the Twins against who else, the Yankees, and after a solid 2010 campaign (3.12 ERA in 59 games with 21 saves, his lone 20-save season), made two more appearances in another Twins ALDS loss to the Yankees.

Rauch pitched for the Blue Jays in 2011, the Mets in 2012 and the Marlins in 2013 before being released in May. He never made it back to the majors despite signing with the Orioles in mid 2013 and the Royals in 2014.

 

In 11 major league seasons, Rauch made 556 appearances, compiling a 43-40 record with a 3.90 ERA and 62 saves. Taller pitchers often struggle with command due to their size and difficulty in repeating mechanics, but Rauch did fairly well in this respect, walking only 179 in 595 big league innings (2.7 BB/9).

He remains the tallest player in MLB history, though Giants prospect Sean Hjelle could tie him if he were to reach the majors. After overcoming a rocky start, Rauch managed to overcome inconsistency and injury to carve out a pretty good MLB career.

After his playing days, Rauch opened up the Bullpen Garage in Tucson, Arizona, where he offers aftermarket products and installation for 4x4 vehicles.

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