Rhoden was born and raised in Boynton Beach, Florida. Rhoden overcame a childhood bone disease, osteomyelitis, and wore a brace until age 12. He attended Seacrest High School (which became Atlantic High) in Delray Beach, Florida, where he was the star pitcher for the school's baseball team. He was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 1971 amateur draft, and played minor league baseball in Daytona Beach, El Paso, and Albuquerque until he was called up to the Major Leagues in 1974.
Rhoden broke into the big leagues, at the age of 21, with the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 5, 1974. He was elected to the All-Star team twice (1976 with the Dodgers and 1986 with the Pirates), and won three Silver Slugger Awards (1984–1986). His teams made it to the post-season twice during his career: the Dodgers in two consecutive seasons, 1977 and 1978. In both of those years, the Dodgers reached the World Series against the New York Yankees, but lost in six games each year.
Rhoden earned a reputation as an outstanding hitting pitcher. He had an eleven-game hitting streak in 1984, one of the longest all-time for a pitcher. On June 11, 1988, New York Yankees manager Billy Martin made him the Yankees' starting designated hitter, going 0-1 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly. He batted seventh in the lineup, ahead of Rafael Santana and Joel Skinner. He was the first pitcher to start a game at DH since the AL's adoption of the DH rule in 1973. He was pinch hit for by José Cruz in the Yankees' 8-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Rhoden's final game was September 29, 1989 for the Houston Astros. In 413 career games, Rhoden compiled a 151-125 record, a 3.59 ERA, 1419 strikeouts, and one save. Rhoden batted .238 with 9 home runs and 75 RBI. He also was an excellent fielding pitcher, compiling a career .989 fielding percentage.
Since retiring from baseball in 1989, Rhoden has spent a lot of time on the golf course. He has qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, and has become a dominant player on the Celebrity Players Tour.
Rhoden has also played a number of Champions Tour events and has three career top-10 finishes: T-5 in the 2003 Allianz Championship, T-6 in the 2006 3M Championship and T-8 in the 2005 Constellation Energy Classic. His career earnings on the Champions Tour exceed $250,000. He became conditionally exempt for the 2006 season. Rhoden's 2007 season was scuttled due to neck surgery, forcing him into the Tour's 2007 qualifying school. He finished joint first place over the four-day event, earning him a spot into open qualifiers at all regular Champions Tour events in 2008.
Rhoden is a regular competitor at the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic, the annual competition to determine the best golfers among American sports and entertainment celebrities. He won the tournament in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2009, and has a total of 22 top ten finishes. The tournament, televised by NBC in July, is played at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.