Monday, August 1, 2011

#216 - Ray Sadecki

Like Al Kaline on the prior post, Ray Sadecki was signed to a big bonus, although technically he wasn't a bonus baby. But that was a long time ago and by '73 Ray was a grizzled clubhouse presence and all-around pitcher for the pennant-winning Mets. Ray and Harry Parker were go-to guys. They would start, throw long relief, and close games. Ray would also put in some quality post-season time in '73 but we can get to that later.

Ray Sadecki is of Polish descent and he grew up in a Polish neighborhood in Kansas City. His baseball idol was Stan Musial, the day's most formidable Polish athlete. In high school Ray was widely scouted beginning in his sophomore season and after his team went undefeated its senior year there was a mad scramble to get him. He was ultimately signed by the Cards for $68,000 in '58 and got off to a nice start that season in C ball. He was only 17 but was already showing tendencies that would continue throughout his career: decent ERA and win totals coupled with high walk totals and a relatively low amount of completed games. He shot up to Triple A in '59 where he won 13 and got off to an excellent start there in '60 before he was called up. He went right into the rotation and won nine. In '61 he stepped things up, winning 14, and although he was still plagued by high walks and only finished about a third of his starts, he was progressing nicely. Then in '62 Ray held out for more money, pissing off management. Then when he threw a bad game early in the season it caused manager Johnny Keane fits and got Ray fined and basically benched. He was viewed as a kid with an attitude and was only given an occasional start, pretty much wrecking his season, which ended back in Triple A where he went 7-1 in the last couple months. He then pulled an army stint and was allowed to return to St. Louis in '63 and was eased into the rotation but still had a high ERA. Then in '64 he became a pitching leader during the pennant run, winning 20 at age 23. By then Ray, whose primary pitch was a fastball, had developed a curve and a type of changeup he called a slip pitch. He also brought his walk totals way down. Billy Williams would later say he was the hardest pitcher to hit against. In the Series that fall Ray would go 1-0 in two starts despite a monstrous ERA.

In '65 Sadecki had a disastrous year as the Cards tumbled hard. Then in '66 after an excellent start to the season he was sent to the Giants for Orlando Cepeda. It turned out to be a great trade for the Cards. Ray finished poorly in '66, had a pretty good '67, but then led the league in losses in '68. He finished things up in San Francisco with a losing record in '69. After the season he was sent to the Mets with Dave Marshall for Jim Gosger and Bobby Heise. In NY Ray's career revived as he put up a lot less decisions but nicely filled a role as spot starter and reliever, putting up his best ERA's. In the '73 Series he was quite good, posting a 1.93 ERA with six strikeouts in four innings. He would stay with the Mets through '74 and then do some travelling, back to St. Louis, to Atlanta, KC, and Milwaukee. In '77 he returned to the Mets for a couple games and was done. He finished with a 135-131 record with a 3.78 ERA, 85 complete games, 20 shutouts, and seven saves. A pretty good hitter, he hit .191 with five homers for his career. In the post-season he went 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA in six games. He also hit .500.

After playing Ray returned to the KC area where he became a sales rep for an industrial lighting company. He did that through '90 and then took a coaching gig with the Cubs. That lasted through '93 and he then worked with the Giants in '94. He walked away from coaching, though, after he realized riding a bus was no fun in his mid-50s. He would be inducted into the Polish Sports Hall of Fame and has a video on YouTube connected to it which I have linked to here.

Ray gets a nice star bullet. He beat Whitey Ford in that game. Regarding the cartoon, it is correct. The $68,000 I mentioned above included three years of guaranteed salary of $6,000 per. Ray gets some good coverage in the Halberstam book "October 1964" in which he is described as very down to earth and mature when he was younger and gives some interesting color about Ray's relationship with Johnny Keane. It also gives a hilarious account of Ray's tryout with the Indians.

Another tough one. A mostly all-NL guy with a strictly all-AL one:

1. Sadecki and Rusty Staub '72 to '74 Mets;
2. Staub and Mickey Stanley '76 to '78 Tigers;
3. Stanley and Al Kaline '64 to '74 Tigers.

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