Monday, March 14, 2011

#113 - Dick Drago

After a three-card run through the NL we return to the AL with another non-Traded traded card. Dick Drago had been traded from the Royals to Boston and he is shown here on a bleak day barely air-brushed into a Boston cap from a road uniform God knows where. The artist gets a couple points for the "B" but he didn't even try to color the cap black. While Dick again posted a year of double-figure wins in '73, his ERA reached its highest level during his time in KC, based on too many hits and not enough strikeouts while he was on the hill. Add that to a bit of friction between Dick and new manager Jack McKeon and the trade news was not all that surprising.                         

Dick Drago was signed by the Tigers out of the University of Detroit in '64. A star pitcher in high school in Ohio - he went 18-3 and his senior year threw two no-hitters - Dick had barely played in college when Detroit grabbed him. Sent to A ball in '65 he would go 5-14 but with a very respectable ERA his first season. The next three, moving from A to Triple A, he would win 15 each year with excellent ERA numbers. All seasons he was principally a starter. Before he got a chance to pitch for Detroit though, he was left unprotected and taken by the Royals in the '68 expansion draft.

Pretty much right off the bat Drago took a place in the KC rotation and for the next five years would be the team's most consistent starter and winner. His first two years he tied for second in team wins while posting a combined better than league ERA, despite losing records.Then he posted his best season in '71 when he won 17 and had a 2.99 ERA, finishing fifth in Cy Young voting. That was followed by another very good ERA in '72, but with a losing record. After his discounted '73, Dick was sent that October to the Red Sox even-up for Marty Pattin. They'd both had off years and their new clubs were hoping a change of scenery would turn things around. Dick left KC as the team's career wins leader.

With Boston in '74 Drago became a swing guy, moving between starting and relieving, knocking over half a run from his ERA while adding three saves to his record. During the '75 season he moved into the closer role with a couple wins and 15 saves. He then pitched very well in the post-season, going 0-1 with a 1.04 ERA in eight innings. But prior to the '76 season, Dick was traded to the Angels for outfielders Dick Sharon and John Balaz. There he had a mediocre season as he posted six saves but also an ERA that moved up to his '73 one. After a good start to the '77 season he was sent to Baltimore for Dyar Miller, another reliever. There his numbers revived a bit and after the season he returned to Boston as a free agent. After a nice '78 - 4-4 with a low ERA and seven saves - he put up his best relief numbers in '79, going 10-6 with 13 saves and a 3.03 ERA. In 1980 the Boston pitching sort of imploded and Dick was pressed into some starts, having a particularly good week late in September when he won two of them in a row. But overall '80 was not great and the following season he went to Seattle for Manny Sarmiento, former Reds ace-to-be. After a pretty poor year there, Dick was done. He finished with a record of 108-117, 62 complete games, ten shutouts, 58 saves, and an ERA of 3.62.

In '82 Drago was one of a bunch of former major leaguers - George Scott, Diego Segui, and Luis Tiant were among the others - that SI caught up with while playing ball in Mexico in an article that highlighted the rigors of playing down there. He played in the Senior League that appeared in the late '80's and later had some financial issues. But in a blog posted by a friend in '09 he seemed content and charming. That blog is linked to here. Around this time he also was part of a group that put together a children's book about baseball used to raise money for non-profits.

In '66 Dick went 15-9 for Single A Rocky Mount. That no-hitter from the second star bullet was the first game of a double header. In the second game that day, Dick's roommate threw another no-hitter. Here we have another bowler and according to the cartoon, Dick was fond of using a ball bigger than his head.

Since I cannot seem to avoid the AL, let's see how it gets used on a career guy:

1. Drago and Jeff Burroughs '81 Mariners;
2. Burroughs and Davey Lopes '82 to '84 A's.

I believe this is the first time the Mariners name has been used in this blog.

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