Tuesday, August 21, 2012

#417 - Rich Folkers


Back to the regular player cards we get Rich Folkers showing his follow-through in spring training. Rich had been with the Cardinals a bit over a year and his time with them would be the best run of his career. In ’73 seven of his games were starts and he added three saves to his shown totals. He would embark on his best year up top in ’74 when he went 6-2 with a couple saves and a 3.00 ERA, all in relief. Rich had come to St. Louis after the ’71 season after he sort of faded to obscurity after being a high draft pick for the Mets. The trade that got him to the Cards had Chuck Taylor – a recent subject – on the other side. Sadly his next trade, which would send him to San Diego, was not a portent of good things pitching-wise.

Rich Folkers grew up in Iowa where he was a schoolboy pitcher who could throw heat. After graduating high school in ’64 he went to Ellsworth Community College in his home state and in his second year was an all-JUCO selection on a team that included Gary Gentry – another recent subject – and Kurt Bevacqua. In ’67 he went to Parsons College, a Division 2 school, and established a D2 record by fanning 126 batters in the 60 innings he pitched (the school closed in ’73). MLB teams took note of his exploits as he was drafted by the Giants in ’66 and the White Sox in January ’67; both times he declined. After his ’67 season at Parsons the Mets made him a first-round pick and sent Rich to A ball where he continued to strike out a ton of guys. In ’68 he put in a nice season in Double A and began to learn what would be his money pitch: a screwball. After missing all of ’69 to the military he returned in late spring of ’70 to go 4-0 in five Triple A starts and get promoted to NY. Things didn’t go too well there as Rich put a bunch of guys on base and had a high ERA. In ’71 he returned to Triple A where his numbers continued to be not so hot as he worked to master his new pitch. After that season he was traded to the Cards.

For St. Louis Folkers began the ’72 season in Double A to iron out his kinks and did much better in a season split between the rotation and the pen. After filling the same role in a few Triple A games, he returned to the majors and did much better this time in his few innings. He then threw a few excellent relief innings to open ’73 before returning to the top for good. After his markedly better ’74 he was traded to San Diego in a multi-team trade that had Ed Brinkman landing in St. Louis and Nate Colbert in Detroit. For San Diego Rich would get 15 starts, his career high, and win six again, but also lose eleven as his ERA climbed by more than a run. In ’76 it was back to the pen pretty much full time as he went 2-3 and his ERA climbed another run. During spring training of ’77 the Brewers would select Rich off waivers but he would only get into a few innings in Milwaukee before spending most of the year in Triple A Spokane where he went 5-7 with a 4.55 ERA. After that year he was included in the swap of Jim Slaton to Detroit for Ben Oglivie but was released by the Tigers before he pitched. Rich went 19-23 with a 4.11 ERA up top and 39-37 in the minors with a 3.39 ERA.

There is a pretty big gap after Folkers finished his pitching career media-wise. At some point he relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, where from ’88 to ’92 he was the pitching coach at Eckerd College. In ’93 he was a coach in the White Sox system before later that year becoming one in the Cardinals one. That affiliation seems to have lasted into the early 2000’s. He has stayed close to baseball since and was interviewed at a Marlins game in 2011 and still resides in St. Petersburg.


Rich gets a good star bullet and a sort of pedestrian one, although that must have been exciting for him at the time. He has a very erect signature. While at Eckerd he taught the screwball to Jim Mecir who would go on to an MLB career as a reliever with that as his out pitch.

With that big team post a bunch of music news got missed and, frankly, a bunch of it deserved to be. In ’73 on August 17, Paul Williams, a founding and former member of the Temptations, shot himself in his car, depressed over a failed business and failing health. On the 18th, the new Number One in the US was “Touch Me In The Morning.” Diana Ross’ newest solo song, In ’74 August 10 brought a new Number One in the States with Roberta Flack’s newest mellow chart-topper, “Feel Like Making Love.” It was vastly different from the Bad Company song of the same name. It would be replaced a week later by “The Night Chicago Died,” a silly story song by one-hit wonder Paper Lace. In the UK on the 17th the new Number One was “When Will I See You Again,” the sweet ballad by The Three Degrees, Barry White’s all-female back-up singing group. The night before, August 16, back in NYC a group begins its forever residency at CBGB’s, the dive punk bar. The Ramones brings its three-chord pile of tunes to that venue where they will play at regular intervals the next twenty years.


Rich could have been a White Sox if he wanted in ’67:

1. Folkers and Lou Brock ’72 to ’74 Cardinals;
2. Brock and Dick Allen ’70 Cardinals;
3. Allen was on the ’73 White Sox.

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