Sunday, August 21, 2011

#231 - Dick Tidrow

Here is big Dick "Dirt" Tidrow on what I believe is his last card sans mustache. Unlike many current Indians and Yankees to be he gets his shot taken at Oakland. Off his big '72 season, Dick produced a sophomore '73 year that outside of a much higher ERA was a pretty close duplicate. Dick appears quiet and serene in this photo, a stark contrast to his pitching motion. In the mid-'70s it was interesting to watch a Yankee game where Dirt would set up Sparky Lyle. Lyle had a very smooth, almost poetic motion while Dick looked like he was shot mid-pitch. But for almost five years they were a very effective team.

An aside - or two - is worth mentioning here. I have long been curious about the identity of the player behind Tidrow. It is definitely a Cleveland guy but that number 64 is awfully high. Normally those numbers went to guys trying to make cuts but this is for sure not a spring training photo. It could also be a coach but frankly, this guy looks too fit to have occupied that role. He has a bat in his hand so my guess is that he's not a pitcher. According to baseball.reference nobody listed on its page used that number during the '73 season. My only though regarding a younger guy would be Tommy Smith, who was huge, which would seem to fit for the guy here. But Tommy didn't come up until September and Cleveland's two series in Oakland happened in April and July. So I am only left with a mid-year call-up who saw no action.
The other aside is that while looking at the games played during those series, in one of them Darold Knowles of the A's got a blown save (and the win) in a game in which he gave up no hits or walks and got out the only two guys who batted against him. Curious to see how that happened, I checked out the box score. In the top of the ninth, singles by Jack Brohamer and Charlie Spikes sandwiched a Chris Chambliss sacrifice to get runners on first and third. Those all happened off starter Catfish Hunter. In came Knowles and with Oakland up 2-1 he got both John Ellis and Dave Duncan to fly out to center. But Ellis' fly scored Brohamer, tying up the game. Hence the blown save. Oakland won it in the bottom when Bert Campaneris drove in pinch runner Blue Moon Odom. And the Tribe intentionally walked Ted Kubiak - Ted Kubiak? - to get to Campy. One final note: our boy Tidrow here won the prior game with a two-hit shutout.
Dick Tidrow came out of Haywood California's Chabot College - George Mitterwald attended there as well - drafted by the Indians in '67. Dick was a big fastballer and had been drafted by the Senators, Giants, and Reds after high school but opted for a couple seasons at Chabot. In his first two seasons in the minors, '67 to '68, he only pitched a combined 43 innings so he was either hurt or spent time in the military. In '69 he had a great year in Single A going 15-6 with a 2.65 ERA and over a K an inning. He then spent the next two seasons split between Single and Triple A, enjoying only moderate success at the higher level. Then in '72 he had a very good training camp and he began the season in Cleveland and stayed for good.

'72 would be a good rookie season for Tidrow as he became the second most reliable starter behind Gaylord Perry on a pretty bad team, going 14-15 with a 2.77 ERA. His performance got him on most rookie teams and nabbed him TSN Rookie Pitcher of the Year.  In '74 after a couple bad starts he was included in the deal that brought him, Chris Chambliss, and Cecil Upshaw to the Yankees for Fred Beene, Fritz Peterson - of just two posts ago - Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline. Dirt pretty much justified the trade as a solo performer, winning 11 over the balance of the season. In '75 he then took over the role as chief set-up guy for Sparky and did well in that position, going a combined 16-12 with an ERA under 3.00 and 20 saves the next three seasons. In '77 he went 5-0 in seven spot starts and in '78 he spent most of the year in the rotation due to injuries to Catfish, Don Gullett, and Andy Messersmith. Then, much like in '74, after posting a high ERA his first few games in '79, he was traded, this time to the Cubs for Ray Burris. The Cubbies got the better of that one.

Tidrow rallied for Chicago in '79, going 11-5 with a 2.72 ERA all in relief. He then led the NL with 84 games in '80 and posted his best strikeouts to innings pitched ratio. '81 would be a big step back as his ERA popped to above 5.00 but in '82 he pretty much reversed his record and his ERA came back to earth. In '83 Dick moved across town in a big trade, continuing in relief for the Sox and getting his last post-season time. In '84 he signed with the Mets as a free agent - he is one of only a few guys to play for both Chicago and both NY teams - but his arm was toast and he was released early that season. Dick finished with a 100-94 record, a 3.68 ERA, 32 complete games, and 55 saves. In the post-season he was 1-0 with a 4.01 ERA in 13 games.

After playing Tidrow took his varied skills to management, becoming a scout for the Yankees ('84 to '92) and moving to the front office for the Giants('93 to present). He has received a great deal of credit for putting together and helping to develop the 2010 Series-winning pitching staff.

Dick gets some notice for his schoolboy achievements. He is the second guy in a row to be on a Topps rookie team. When playing he was a pretty good mentor and got lots of credit from Ron Guidry and Dave Righetti in helping them learn to pitch in the majors. I guess that skill came in handy later.

Let's use another league switcher to hook these guys together:

1. Tidrow and Alex Johnson '72 Indians and '74 Yankees;
2. Johnson and Tony Perez '68 to '69 Reds.

1 comment:

  1. Dirt was awesome with the Cubs; well, for two years. In '79 and '80 he was Bruce Sutter's set up man. Tidrow in the 8th, Sutter in the 9th. When Sutter was traded, Tidrow took over as the closer, but he was not a closer, as the stats you showed would indicate.