Monday, October 8, 2012

#445 - George Medich

Topps gives George “Doc” Medich an action shot and an honorary card number, which is pretty interesting since neither Randy Jones nor Steve Rogers received either honor and they both beat out Doc for spots on the Topps rookie team. He did make the Baseball Digest team, however, in a nod to an awfully good rookie campaign that certainly belied Doc’s selection as a 30th round draft pick in ’70. He was a busy boy in ’73, returning right after the season to Pitt’s med school to continue his studies. It was a frenetic existence he led back then and would continue to do throughout his MLB career and it led to some serious and sad problems down the road. But for the moment he got to enjoy his status as a big member of the NY rotation which he’d keep for a couple years. Here at Yankee Stadium he looks pretty enormous – he does go 6’5´- as he gets ready to unload what looks like a curve in front of a sea of blurry faces.

George Medich was born and raised in Beaver County, PA, an area that was strongly industrial business-wise. George was industrial as well, especially in sports, where he was a quarterback, basketball forward, and baseball first baseman and pitcher. Following his graduation in ’66 he went to the University of Pittsburgh on a scholarship where he played both football and baseball and studied pre-med. In the former sport his best year was his junior one when he caught 23 passes for 330 yards as a tight end. He was also a punter. His senior year he got a late start because of his baseball duties. In that sport he went 4-2 his senior year and won the school’s Charles C. Hartwig award given to a senior athlete. He was drafted by the Yankees that June and after finishing his studies that year had a super season in A ball and a tough one in Double A. In ’71 he again had a late start due to his studies and had another very good year at the lower level. After another delayed start to the ‘72 season he solved the Double A puzzle with more excellent pitching and made his NY debut in September. Then it was back to school.

After his big rookie year in ’73 Medich topped himself in ’74 by winning 19 to tie Pat Dobson for team lead. He was a streaky pitcher that year, at one point throwing five complete game wins in a row. In ’75 he went 16-16 with a 3.50 ERA and after that season went to Pittsburgh for Ken Brett, Dock Ellis, and a kid named Willie Randolph. The trade was a huge win for the Yankees and this Doc went 8-11 in a year slowed down a bit by injury. The next year he was involved in another big trade, going to the decimated A’s with Dave Giusti and rookies Doug Bair, Tony Armas, Mitchell Page, and Rick Langford for Tommy Helms and Phil Garner. Doc wasn’t too happy with the deal since at the time he was in Pitt’s med school and Oakland was nasty bad but he eventually showed up and while his 4.69 ERA was high, he was the only guy in the Oakland rotation outside of Mike Torrez (who went 3-1) to post a winning record at 10-6. But when Charlie O realized he wouldn’t be able to sign Doc he sold him in mid-September to Seattle for whom he went 2-0 in three starts. But he wasn’t done traveling yet and two weeks later he went to the Mets off waivers where he went 0-1 in a good start. He then signed with Texas as a free agent and over the next four seasons generated some decent numbers for the Rangers, most of them in the rotation. His best year was the strike season of ’81 when he went 10-6 with a 3.08 ERA. All his complete games that year – four of them – were shutouts. In ’82 his arm sort of blew up as he went 7-11 for Texas with a 5.06 ERA. That pushed them to sell him to Milwaukee for the Brewers’ stretch drive in August and for them his ERA stayed pretty much the same but he went 5-4 in ten starts. He got some post-season action against St. Louis but the results weren’t so great. He was released after the season and decided to pursue the medical career. Doc went a combined 124-105 with a 3.78 ERA, 71 complete games, 16 shutouts, and two saves. In that game against the Cards he had an 18.00 ERA in his two innings.

Medich did the residency thing at Pitt and then did one at Children’s Hospital from ’81 to ’86. Not too surprisingly he specialized in orthopedic surgery. In ’83, though, everything hit the fan when Doc was busted for writing pain-killer scrips for fictitious patients to support a drug habit he’d apparently had since when he was playing. He got off relatively lightly the next year and was supported by a guy named Mickey Zernich, another local former Pitt athlete who had an orthopedic practice. Over the next few years Doc worked at various local hospitals, did a long rehab stint, worked in drug counseling, and won a bunch of local golf tournaments. But bad news followed him: in ’92 he was suspended from his chief of surgery gig at the Medical Center of Beaver County and in 2001 he relapsed on the drug thing, again getting busted for writing scrips that were basically for himself. Another stint in rehab followed and depending on the source he either is or is not continuing to work as a doctor. A couple sites say he lost his license and was banned following his second incident but in ’05 when his son got married, he is listed as a working physician and he seems to have a current practice back in the Aliquippa area, although he is no longer with Zernich. Whatever he’s doing I sure hope he got the drug thing handled.

Doc gets a bunch of star bullets, a couple requiring an explanation. As indicated above, part of the reason his ’72 season was short was because he was in med school when it began. The Mayor’s Trophy Game was an annual exhibition game between the Yankees and the Mets that no veterans really liked to play – Sparky Lyle bitched about it a bunch in “The Bronx Zoo” – and was a quick mid-season rookie showcase.

These guys probably barely played each other:

1. Medich and Willie Stargell ’76 Pirates;
2. Stargell and Vic Davalillo ’71 to ’73 Pirates.

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