Dick Radatz

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Dick Radatz
Relief Pitcher
Born: (1937-04-02)April 2, 1937
Detroit, Michigan
Died: March 16, 2005(2005-03-16) (aged 67)
South Easton, Massachusetts
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 10, 1962 for the Boston Red Sox
Last MLB appearance
August 15, 1969 for the Montreal Expos
Career statistics
Win–loss record 52–43
Earned run average 3.80
Strikeouts 745
Saves 122
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Richard Raymond Radatz (April 2, 1937 – March 16, 2005) was an American relief pitcher in Major League Baseball. Nicknamed "The Monster," the 6'6", 230 lb. right-hander had a scorching but short-lived period of dominance for the Boston Red Sox in the early sixties. He got his nickname by striking out several New York Yankees in a row at a game in Fenway Park in 1963. Mickey Mantle, who had a tough time facing Radatz, was heard to call him “that monster,” and the name stuck.

Early years[edit]

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Radatz attended Berkley High School. He was a star basketball and baseball player at Michigan State University before signing with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1959.[1] Originally a starting pitcher when he began his professional career, Radatz compiled a 16-10 record and 3.48 earned run average in his first two seasons in the Red Sox farm system.

A sore arm led Seattle Rainiers manager Johnny Pesky to convert him into a reliever in 1961 against Radatz's will.[2] The experiment worked, as Radatz earned a job out of spring training the following season as a non-roster invitee.

Sporting News "Fireman of the Year"[edit]

Radatz was immediately dominant at the major league level, as he pitched 18.1 innings and recorded six saves before surrendering his first earned run on May 15, 1962 against the Yankees (a game which the Red Sox won, and Radatz earned his seventh save).[3] He went on to lead the American League in saves (24), games (62) and relief wins (9), while posting a 2.24 ERA in 124.2 innings his rookie season, earning the AL's Fireman of the Year by The Sporting News.

Yankee manager Ralph Houk, who said, "For two seasons, I've never seen a better pitcher,"[4] added Radatz to his 1963 AL All-Star squad after a 33 scoreless inning streak saw his ERA dip to 0.88 on June 14. He gave up one earned run in two innings pitched, but impressed with strikeouts of Willie Mays, Dick Groat, Duke Snider, Willie McCovey and Julián Javier.[5] For the season, he saved 25 games and went 15-6 with a 1.97 ERA, becoming the first pitcher in history to have consecutive twenty-save seasons and finishing fifth in MVP voting despite Boston's seventh- place finish.

The Red Sox toyed with the idea of converting Radatz back into a starter for the 1964 season.[6] Instead, he remained in the bullpen, and earned his second Fireman of the Year award in 1964 for his league-leading 29 saves with 16 wins and a 2.29 ERA in 79 games. Most notably, he fanned 181 batters in 157 innings, setting a record that still stands for most strikeouts by a relief pitcher in a single season.[7] He was named to the AL's All-Star Game pitching staff again in 1964, and struck out the first two batters he faced when he entered the game in the eighth inning. He was, however, unable to hold onto the AL's 4-3 lead, as he surrendered four runs in the ninth, including a game ending three-run home run by Johnny Callison.[8]

Developing a sinker[edit]

Sportswriter Jim Murray wrote that "Dick Radatz brings one weapon - a fastball. It's like saying all a country brings to a war is an atom bomb."[9] But Radatz's one-pitch arsenal was a worry for Boston, and Ted Williams encouraged him to develop a sinker.[10]

Radatz complied, but in changing his mechanics to incorporate the new pitch he lost the edge on his fastball. He got off to a horrible start to the 1965 season, blowing three save opportunities and posting a 7.54 ERA through May 14.[11] He settled down, bringing his ERA down to a far more respectable 3.91 and earning 22 saves by season's end, but his 9-11 mark was the first losing record he had posted in his major league career.

Radatz was mentioned in trade rumors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves and Minnesota Twins during the off-season, but eventually returned to the Bosox in spring training of 1966. Hoping for a bounce-back season, he went a miserable 0-2 with a 4.74 ERA before being dealt to the Cleveland Indians on June 2 for Don McMahon and Lee Stange.[12]

Overall with Boston, Radatz saved 104 games (a team record later broken by Bob Stanley) with a 49-34 record and 646 strikeouts in 576.1 innings pitched. With the other four teams, he went only 6-20 with 26 saves in 117.2 innings.

Cleveland Indians[edit]

A change of scenery did little to improve Radatz's fortunes, as he went 0-3 with a 4.61 ERA in Cleveland. He earned a combined fourteen saves between his two teams in 1966, marking the first time in his career he failed to reach twenty. He also failed to win a game as he ended the season with an 0-5 record.

Chicago Cubs[edit]

Nine games into the 1967 season, Radatz was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later. On June 9, Radatz pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field to earn his first career win since September 14, 1965.[13] But in 21.2 innings pitched with the Cubs through July 7, Radatz surrendered twelve hits, 23 walks and hit five batters. He was sent down to the minors to work on his control, but was unable to regain it. In 34 innings pitched in the minors, Radatz surrendered 25 hits and forty walks and hit eight batters.

Detroit Tigers[edit]

The Cubs released Radatz during spring training of 1968. He signed with his hometown Detroit Tigers shortly afterwards, and spent the 1968 season with their Triple A affiliate Toledo Mud Hens.[14] He earned a spot on the major league roster out of spring training 1969, and was 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA in eleven appearances when his contract was sold to the Montreal Expos at the June 15 trade deadline.[15] He went 0-4 with a 5.71 ERA for the Expos before he was released in August.[16]

Career stats[edit]

Seasons W L Pct. ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB K BAA WP HBP WHIP Fld% Avg.
7 52 43 .547 3.13 381 297 122 693.2 532 260 241 65 296 745 .212 25 30 1.19 .920 .131

Radatz's only career home run came of the Kansas City Athletics' Jesse Hickman on June 5, 1965.[17] He was selected to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.[18]

He died in March 2005 after falling down a flight of stairs at his home in Easton, Massachusetts.[19] He left behind a wife and three children. The Red Sox held a moment of silence during their 2005 home opener in his honor.[20]

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Luis Arroyo
Stu Miller
American League Saves Leader
1962
1964
Succeeded by
Stu Miller
Ron Kline
Preceded by
Carl Yastrzemski
Thomas A. Yawkey Boston Red Sox MVP
1964
Succeeded by
Carl Yastrzemski

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Spartan Baseball To Honor 1971 Team, Dick Radatz". MSUSpartans.com. May 11, 2006. 
  2. ^ Gordon Edes (March 17, 2005). "Former Red Sox closer Radatz dies after fall". Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ "Boston Red Sox 14, New York Yankees 4". Baseball-Reference.com. May 15, 1962. 
  4. ^ Ian Browne (March 17, 2005). "Red Sox mourn loss of Radatz". MLB.com. 
  5. ^ "1963 Major League Baseball All-Star Game". Baseball-Reference.com. July 9, 1963. 
  6. ^ "'Monster' a Starter Next Year?". The Evening Independent. December 17, 1963. 
  7. ^ "Relief Pitching Records". Baseball Almanac. 
  8. ^ "1964 Major League Baseball All-Star Game". Baseball-Reference.com. July 7, 1964. 
  9. ^ "#295 Dick Radatz". The Great 1965 Topps Project. February 3, 2009. 
  10. ^ Gabriel Schechter (June 5, 2008). "A Closer Look: Dick Radatz". Never Too Much Baseball. 
  11. ^ "Red Hot Horton Hits Two Homers". Toledo Blade. May 15, 1965. 
  12. ^ "Boston Trades Dick Radatz to Tribe for Two Pitchers". Spartanburg Herald. June 3, 1966. 
  13. ^ "Chicago Cubs 6, New York Mets 5". Baseball-Reference.com. June 9, 1967. 
  14. ^ "Whatever Happened to Dick Radatz?". Rochester Sentinel. May 17, 1968. 
  15. ^ "Expos Buy Radatz, Juggle Roster". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. June 17, 1969. 
  16. ^ "Expos Obtain Fist Canadian". Edmonton Journal. August 20, 1969. 
  17. ^ "Boston Red Sox 5, Kansas City Athletics 3". Baseball-Reference.com. June 5, 1965. 
  18. ^ "Carlton Fisk to be Honored". Warsaw, Indiana Times-Union. September 9, 1997. 
  19. ^ Ian Browne (March 17, 2005). "Radatz passes away at 67". MLB.com. 
  20. ^ Ian Browne (April 9, 2005). "Red Sox set schedule for home opener". MLB.com.