Friday, September 7, 2012

#429 - Dick Lange

Here is a true rookie card, another rarity of late. Dick Lange looks pretty swarthy in an unfamiliar setting, at least to me. Dick was yet another hot college prospect – we have  had a good run of those lately – who rose fairly quickly through the minors. He too threw some serious heat, although I guess everything was relative back then to teammate Nolan Ryan. He began ’73 at Triple A where he put up some nice starting numbers and then came up late in the season to get some work as a swing guy, with four starts among his 17 games. His ERA was a bit high, but not as high as it is on baseball-reference where they credit him with a couple less innings of work. Sometimes reassessments can be a bitch.

Dick Lange was a star in Midland County, Michigan in the big three sports, and his American Legion team was the state champ in ’67. That team also included Jim Kern and Terry Collins. Dick then went to Central Michigan University where he continued to pitch and was 20-4 for his career with a school-record 229 strikeouts. His junior year of ’70 he went 9-2 with 99 K’s – another record – and that spring he was drafted by California. Dick wasted no time in creating some buzz, going 13-0 with 151 strikeouts in 111 innings that summer in Rookie ball. After some pretty good numbers in eight starts at Double A in ’71 it was up to Triple A Salt Lake City where he would spend a pretty good chunk of time the next seven years. In ’71 he got a save in the only game he didn’t start at that level and in ’72 he added four more to his totals. He debuted that September in Anaheim and got a K an inning in his two games, one of which was a start. '74 was all MLB and though Dick put up his best ERA at that level of 3.80 he only went 3-8 in the rotation. In ’75 he was again a swing guy and went 4-6 with a save but his ERA climbed over a run and in ’76 he was back in Triple A where he went 12-7. At some point that year he apparently hurt his arm and in ’77 although he went 7-2 in nine starts his ERA was 5.37 and he didn’t finish out the year. That was his final season and he finished 9-15 with a 4.47 ERA. In the minors he was 58-36 with a 3.32 ERA.

Lange returned to the Midland area where for a number of years he had his own steel-related business and then was a house painter. In ’91 he was inducted into the Midland County hall of fame and thereafter into the Central Michigan one. Around 2008 he began coaching pitching at a place in Almont called The Strike Zone where he was interviewed and from which a bunch of the above information was gleaned. He also participates in baseball-related golf tournaments.

Dick’s star bullets refer to that excellent Rookie ball year in ’70. He also threw a no-hitter in college that year. He returned to Central Michigan to finish his education degree while in the minors. I do not know how long he taught thereafter.

Let’s try another infielder for the hook-up:

1. Lange and Denny Doyle ’74 Angels;
2. Doyle and Tony Taylor ’70 to ’71 Phillies;
3. Taylor and Gary Sutherland ’67 to ’68 Phillies.

Taylor really should have had a card in this set.

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