Tuesday, January 31, 2012

#323 - Richie Scheinblum

Before George Brett took over and immortalized Number 5 on the Royals uniform that number belonged to this guy, who may not have been able to match George's ability to hit up top - except for one-plus seasons - but sure does make for an interesting subject while researching these posts. After a hugely successful '72 Richie here did some traveling, going first to Cincinnati and then California. For the Reds he got off to a slow start - he always did - and when he criticized the team for not playing him it struck enough nerves in the Reds organization that their pr guy took out an ad in The Sporting News to explain their side of the situation. Shortly thereafter Richie was sent to the Angels for a couple minor leaguers - one of whom was named Thor - and hit over .300 the rest of the way, including over .400 in September when he was the club's regular left fielder. Richie had a pretty good sense of humor, also. A pretty poor fielder when he once stumbled climbing the dugout steps he said "No pushing, coach!" when the guy to whom he was referring was at the other end of the dugout. On what will be his final card he is posing in Oakland.

Richie Scheinblum has about as colorful a past as anyone in this set. Born in NYC, his mom was very sick and his dad was constantly working at two jobs so Richie and his siblings were for the first seven years of his life foster kids at various homes. His mom had passed away when he was seven and that year his dad moved them all to Englewood, NJ. It was there that Richie began playing baseball and famously learned how to switch hit from his Little League coach who was a woman. After high school at his dad's urging he went to CW Post College in NY mostly because it was the only school to which his lousy grades would grant him admittance. There he earned ten letters - setting a school record - including in hoops where he played guard alongside NBA coaching legend Larry Brown. In '64 he tried out for both the Pirates and the Indians and was signed by the latter team for what he said was "a book of greenstamps" but was actually around $12,000, a pretty decent bonus back then. That summer he hit .309 in Class A ball and did well enough in winter ball in Venezuela that he had a rookie card in '65. That year he upped his average to .318 in A ball and got into a couple games up top (he claimed he was 19 that year but the baseball-reference site still lists him as 22). In '66 Richie moved to Double A and clipped a few points from his average. But in '67 he closed in on .300 again in Triple A and the next year he hit .304 with 14 homers and 78 RBI's. Both years he got some action in Cleveland.

In '68 the Indians experienced a bit of a revival mostly due to its pitching staff. Lee Maye, who was more-or-less the regular left fielder was getting up there and at the end of the season Richie was pretty much promised the gig for '69. But after a poor spring he came out of the box 0 for 35 and that sort of sealed the deal - along with the acquisition of Ken Harrelson - on any shot as a regular in Cleveland. In '70 after an excellent season back in Triple A - .337 with a .424 OBA, 24 homers, and 84 RBI's - Richie was sold to the Senators.

Scheinblum was back in Triple A to kick off '71 but he took full advantage of it by putting up some of the biggest numbers his league had seen in a generation, hitting .388 with a .490 OBA, 25 homers, and 108 RBI's in just 374 at bats. Those numbers didn't go with him in his few games in DC and so after the season he got sold again, this time to the Royals. In KC Richie got off to one of his slow starts but by early June began rallying and at the All-Star break - a game in which he participated - was hitting .324. As late as September he was neck-and-neck with Rod Carew when they were both hitting around .340. Then he fouled a pitch off one ankle thrown by Catfish Hunter and the next game got pegged in the other foot by Blue Moon Odom and, barely able to run, his hitting tailed off. But he still finished with a .300 average and at trade time he was a hot enough property for the Royals to get Hal McRae and Wayne Simpson for him and Roger Nelson. Richie then became pretty itinerant and after his '73 travels hit the road again after a poor start in Anaheim, first back to KC for Paul Schaal, and then when the '72 magic didn't recur, to the Cards. That was Richie's last stop up top and he finished with a .263 average and a .343 OBA.

In '75 and '76 Scheinblum played for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, hitting .291 the first year and .308 the second. Nobody there could pronounce his last name so they called him Richie Shane. His first year he and Gail Hopkins, coincidentally another ex-Royal, led Hiroshima to the playoffs for the first time in a long while. In the '76 off-season Richie tore his Achilles tendon, ending his baseball career. He moved back to Anaheim where for a while he ran his own jewelry store. He'd married a woman from Providence and they had a son, Monte, who became a pro golfer. At one point his buddy Jay Johnstone went into the store and announced "It's a stickup!" and sent the customers in the place into a panic. He kept the store through '89, got divorced in '92 and relocated to Florida shortly thereafter where he has since worked for Corp LogoWear, a company that makes promotional products.

Richie gets a big star bullet for his '71 season in Denver, but there are tons of other options. A fun negative one is that in '69 spring training he hit for what he called a "negative cycle." He was thrown out at first, second, third, and home in the same game.

Again we need a league-changer to make this connection:

1. Scheinblum and Lou Piniella '72 Royals;
2. Piniella and Mike Torrez '77 Yankees;
3. Torrez an Ernie McAnally '72 to '74 Expos.

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