Richardson in 1963
August 19, 1935 |
Sumter, South Carolina
|August 5, 1955, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 2, 1966, for the New York Yankees|
|Runs batted in||390|
|Career highlights and awards|
Robert Clinton Richardson (born August 19, 1935) is a former second baseman in Major League Baseball who played for the New York Yankees from 1955 through 1966. Batting and throwing right-handed, he was a superb defensive infielder, as well as something of a clutch hitter, who played no small role in the Yankee baseball dynasty of his day. He is the only World Series MVP ever to be selected from the losing team. He wore the uniform number 1 for the majority of his career (1958–1966).
Richardson debuted on August 5, 1955. He racked up 1,432 hits in his career, with a lifetime batting average of .266, 34 home runs and 390 RBIs. He won a Gold Glove at second base each year from 1961-65 (not until Robinson Canó in 2010 would another Yankee second baseman win a Gold Glove) while forming a top double play combination with shortstop and roommate Tony Kubek. With the light-hitting but superb-fielding Yankee third baseman Clete Boyer, Richardson and Kubek gave the Yankees arguably the best defensive infield in baseball. His most famous defensive play came at the end of the 1962 World Series, mentioned below, when Richardson made a clutch catch off a Willie McCovey line drive that prevented Willie Mays and Matty Alou from scoring the runs that would have beaten the Yankees and given the Series to the San Francisco Giants.
His best year was probably 1962, when he batted .302 with 8 home runs and 59 runs batted in. His 209 hits led the American League, and he stole 11 bases in 161 games. He made the AL All-Star team, won his second Gold Glove, and came in second in the AL MVP voting, just behind teammate Mickey Mantle. One of the best parts of Richardson's game was his ability to make contact. He struck out just 243 times in his entire 12-year career, less than 5% of his plate appearances. He was among the top three players in the league in at bats per strikeout eight times during his career, and led the league three times, 1964–1966. He twice led the league in sacrifice bunts.
He also led the league in at bats three times, partly because he batted early in the order and partly because he rarely missed a game, coming to be known as a workhorse. His career high was 692 at bats in 161 games in 1962.
He had an all-time fielding percentage of .979 at second base, and six seasons with 100 or more double plays turned.
Richardson won three World Series (1958, 1961, 1962) of the seven he played with the Yankees (1957, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964). In the 1960 Series, Richardson was named Most Valuable Player after hitting .367 with 12 RBIs, becoming the first non-pitcher to earn the relatively new award, and is to this day the only MVP to play for the losing team. Two years later, he caught the final out of the 1962 Series; hardly moving from his position, he snared a screaming line drive off the bat of Willie McCovey, which, if it had been two or three feet higher would have won the Series for the San Francisco Giants.
In Game One of the 1963 World Series, which the Los Angeles Dodgers swept in four games over the Yankees, Richardson struck out three times against Sandy Koufax—his only three-strikeout game in 1,448 regular-season/World Series games. (Koufax would finish with 15 strikeouts, then a World Series single-game record.) Just that regular season, Richardson had struck out only 22 times in 630 at-bats, without ever striking out twice in one game.
In the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Richardson set a World Series record with 13 hits; this record has since been tied by Lou Brock and Marty Barrett in the 1968 and 1986 World Series, respectively. However, batting against Cardinal ace Bob Gibson with the Yankees trailing 7-5 in the 7th and deciding game of that World Series, he popped out to Dal Maxvill for the final out of the Series. Richardson also had the dubious distinction of committing errors that affected the outcome of two games in the Series. In the sixth inning of Game Four, he mishandled Dick Groat's ground ball for a double play that would have ended the inning with no runs scoring; the error was followed one batter later by Ken Boyer's grand slam—the four runs the Cardinals needed in defeating the Yankees 4-3. In the fifth inning of Game Five, he bobbled Curt Flood's double play ground ball, which also would have ended that inning without any damage. The Cardinals eventually scored twice in the inning, then won the game 5-2 on Tim McCarver's 10th inning, three-run home run.
Post professional baseball career
Richardson retired at the end of the 1966 season. He was only 30 years old, and easily could have played longer.
Richardson served as the head baseball coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks from 1970 to 1976. He led the Gamecocks to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1974, which set the stage for what would happen a year later in 1975 when South Carolina posted a 51-6-1 record and made the College World Series for the first time ever. They advanced all the way to the national championship game against Texas (a 5-1 Longhorns victory). Richardson left South Carolina after the 1976 season, finishing his tenure with a 221-92-1 record and three NCAA Tournament appearances. Richardson is considered the father of Gamecocks baseball, and is credited with having set them on their path to becoming one of the elite college baseball programs in the NCAA still today.
Richardson ran for the United States Congress from South Carolina's 5th congressional district in 1976 as a Republican, losing to incumbent Democrat Kenneth Holland by a narrow margin. Holland was aided by the strength of Jimmy Carter's winning campaign in South Carolina to hold off Richardson by a tally of 66,073 (51.4%) to 62,095 (48.3%). His campaign was supported by former baseball players Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, and Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell among others. Richardson's old friend, Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek, declined to campaign for him because Kubek was a Democrat.
In the 1980s, Richardson served as the baseball coach at Liberty University and also for two seasons (1985–86) at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, where he compiled a record of (61-38).
Richardson is a born-again Christian. He is a national leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a much sought-after Christian speaker. He makes personal appearances at churches and on October 18, 1970, at the invitation of President Richard Nixon, preached at the White House. For instance, he appeared on October 27, 2007, at North Monroe Baptist Church in Monroe, Louisiana, to sign autographs and share baseball tales with fans of all age groups.
Richardson also officiated at his Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle's funeral.
His 2012 book, Impact Player chronicles his life including his years with the Yankee dynasty.
In the late 1960s, an LP record (LP # W-3343-LP) produced and titled The Bobby Richardson Story, produced by Word Records Inc. of Waco, Texas, was released. The sub-title is "The Exciting First-Person Account of His Own Life, By the Yankees' Famous Second Baseman".