Rick Dempsey

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Rick Dempsey
Rick Dempsey 2.jpg
Catcher
Born: (1949-09-13) September 13, 1949 (age 64)
Fayetteville, Tennessee
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 23, 1969 for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1992 for the Baltimore Orioles
Career statistics
Batting average .233
Home runs 96
Runs batted in 471
Teams
Career highlights and awards

John Rikard Dempsey (born September 13, 1949) is an American former professional baseball player.[1] He played for 24 seasons as a catcher in Major League Baseball from 1969 to 1992, most notably for the Baltimore Orioles.[1] Dempsey was known for being one of the best defensive catchers of his era.[2]

Major League career[edit]

Dempsey was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 15th round of the 1967 Major League Baseball Draft out of Crespi Carmelite High School.[3] After two seasons in the minor leagues, he made his major league debut late in the 1969 season for the division winning Twins managed by Billy Martin, however he didn't qualify for the post-season roster.[1] Dempsey spent a few more seasons shuttling between the Twins and their minor league teams, before being traded to the New York Yankees in October 1972.[4] During his tenure with the Yankees, he served as a reserve catcher to Thurman Munson, and received tutoring from Yankees coach and former catching standout, Jim Hegan.[2] After three and a half seasons with the Yankees, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in June 1976, where manager Earl Weaver made him the Orioles' starting catcher.

For the next ten and a half seasons, Dempsey would remain as the Orioles' starting catcher.[5] He became known for his exceptional ability to handle pitching staffs, his strong throwing arm, and for his agility behind home plate.[2] In 1979, the Orioles defeated the California Angels in the 1979 American League Championship Series to reach the World Series.[6] In the 1979 World Series, the Orioles won three of the first four games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and seemed to be on the verge of winning the championship, when the Pirates, led by Willie Stargell, rebounded to win the final three games.[7] It was one of Dempsey's greatest disappointments of his playing career.[8]

The highlight of his career came in 1983, when the Orioles won the American League Eastern Division pennant, then defeated the Chicago White Sox in the 1983 American League Championship Series, before winning the 1983 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.[9][10] Dempsey posted a .385 batting average along with a .923 slugging percentage in the five-game series, and won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, one of six catchers to have won the award.[5][11][12][13]

In 1987, Dempsey became a free agent and signed a contract to play for the Cleveland Indians.[4] After only one season with the Indians, he became a free agent once again and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he would be a member of another World Series-winning team in 1988, this time as a back up catcher to Mike Scioscia.[1] While playing for the Dodgers in 1990, he became involved in a brawl with Phillies' center fielder Lenny Dykstra, who took exception to Dempsey's fraternization with the home plate umpire.[14] After three seasons with the Dodgers, he played one season with the Milwaukee Brewers, before returning to the Baltimore Orioles for his final season in 1992.[4]

His sense of humor during his playing career was renowned, and he was famous for his "rain delay theatre" performances, in which he emerged from the dugout in stockinged feet onto the tarpaulin covering the infield during a rain delay and pantomimed hitting an inside-the-park home run, climaxed by his sliding into home plate on his belly on the wet tarp, all to the raucous delight of the soggy fans.[5] He sometimes did this while wearing a pair of underpants over his uniform, making fun of teammate Jim Palmer's famous advertisements for Jockey brand briefs.

Career statistics[edit]

In a 24 year career, Dempsey played in 1,765 games, accumulating 1,093 hits in 4,692 at bats for a .233 career batting average along with 96 home runs and 471 runs batted in.[1] He ended his career with a .988 fielding percentage.[1] Dempsey led American League catchers twice in fielding percentage, twice in baserunners caught stealing and once in assists.[1] He played more games as a catcher than any other player in Orioles history (1230).[15] During his career, Dempsey caught ten different twenty game winning pitchers.[5] He was a durable player, only going on the disabled list twice in his career.[16]

While he was a light-hitting player, Dempsey's lengthy major league career was due in part to his excellent defensive skills.[2] He usually did not make a large contribution offensively; he holds the major league record for the most seasons with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title with less than 50 runs or RBI, with 22.[citation needed] During his season with the Brewers, Dempsey made two relief pitching appearances, giving three hits and one run in two innings pitched.[17] Dempsey also won a Little League World Series in 1963 with the team from Canoga Park-Woodland Hills, California.[16] He is the uncle of former major league catcher Gregg Zaun.[1] Dempsey is one of only 29 players to play in four different calendar decades.[citation needed]

Coaching and broadcasting career[edit]

After his playing career ended, Dempsey became a minor league manager in the Los Angeles Dodgers organisation, winning the 1994 Pacific Coast League championship with the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes.[18] He then joined the New York Mets organisation, managing the Norfolk Tides in 1997 and 1998. Dempsey also served as first base coach for the Orioles for several seasons, first as a third base coach in the 2005 season after bench coach Sam Perlozzo was promoted to interim manager. He assumed the bullpen coach position in the 2006 season, replacing Elrod Hendricks who the team intended to reassign to another position in the organization before his death. Later in 2006, he became the first base coach again when the team reassigned Dave Cash.

Dempsey has been a candidate for managerial openings with the Orioles in the past, as recently as 2003 when the Orioles interviewed him for the spot that eventually went to Lee Mazzilli. He was mentioned again as a possible candidate for the Baltimore manager's job in 2010, after the firing of Dave Trembley.

Dempsey also served as an Oriole color commentator in 2000 and began another stint in 2007, as the studio analyst for O's Xtra on MASN, the cable channel that carries Orioles games. In addition, he serves as a game analyst for occasional games on MASN. In 1985, Dick Enberg was in Toronto for Games 1 and 7 of the 1985 ALCS on NBC. Enberg hosted the pregame show alongside Dempsey (who was still active with Baltimore at the time). In 1995, Dempsey worked as a field reporter for ABC's coverage of the All-Star Game from Texas.

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References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Tom Beyers
Bakersfield Dodgers Manager
1993
Succeeded by
John Shelby
Preceded by
Bill Russell
Albuquerque Dukes Manager
1994–1995
Succeeded by
Phil Regan
Preceded by
Bruce Benedict
Norfolk Tides Manager
1997–1998
Succeeded by
John Gibbons
Preceded by
Mark Cresse
Los Angeles Dodgers Bullpen Coach
1999–2000
Succeeded by
Jim Lett
Preceded by
Eddie Murray
Baltimore Orioles First Base Coach
2002–2005
Succeeded by
Dave Cash
Preceded by
Tom Trebelhorn
Baltimore Orioles Third Base Coach
2005
Succeeded by
Tom Trebelhorn
Preceded by
Elrod Hendricks
Baltimore Orioles Bullpen Coach
2006
Succeeded by
Larry McCall
Preceded by
Dave Cash
Baltimore Orioles First Base Coach
2006
Succeeded by
Sam Mejías