Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#348 - Pete Richert

These are the final cards of Pete Richert's career. They are both taken at Shea, possibly during the same photo session since the cloud formation in the back looks exactly the same. But I guess that could just be smog which back then didn't move around too much. Pete was finishing up a short but pretty good run for the Dodgers, his original team. He and Jim Brewer were the elder statesmen on a young aggressive team that had been revitalized through excellent draft choices in the late Sixties. Pete had a solid year with his seven saves, second on the team to Brewer. Still primarily a fastball pitcher he also had a slow curve that balanced his out pitch well. At the end of the season he received his Southern Association Rookie of the Year trophy a tad late. He won it in 1960.

The Dodgers of the '73/'74 off-season were not a static bunch. In each of the two prior seasons they had taken a serious run at the title and while in '72 it seemed to be done with smoke and mirrors, in '73 it was due to the building of a cohesive young nexus about which the club would have great success the rest of the decade and into the Eighties. But there were some missing pieces. Both Brewer and Richert were getting on in years and while Charlie Hough was establishing himself he was deemed as a one-pitch guy. They also hadn't had a serious outfield power threat since Frank Howard went to the Senators a decade ago. So Willie Davis went to Montreal for Mike Marshall, a go-to fireman if there ever was one. That made Pete expendable since Brewer would be moved to a support role and the former guy got sent to St. Louis to bring in Tommie Agee to replace Davis in center. At least for a day. Pretty soon thereafter they grabbed Jimmy Wynn from the Astros in a very good move. All Pete got out of it was this horribly airbrushed new cap. The red over blue thing just doesn't work. And neither he nor Tommie would finish out the year in their new homes. Tommie's old one was Shea and I am pretty sure that's an ex-teammate of Tommie's behind Pete: either Wayne Garrett or Bud Harrelson.

Pete Richert came out of Floral Park, NY, in the borough of Queens, pretty much a stone's throw from Shea. When he graduated in '58 he was the last player signed to a contract by the Brooklyn Dodgers. In C ball that summer he went 10-13 with a high ERA but the next year in B ball he was 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA. Both years he struck out more than a batter an inning. In '60 he moved to Double A and had a big year, going 19-9 with a 2.76 ERA and 251 K's in 225 innings to garner that ROY trophy and set a league strikeout record. He spent '61 in Triple A where he had an off season after being injured but after a good spring training in '62 he made the Dodgers. For the next three seasons Pete would be a spot starter on some teams with awfully good pitching and would generally only get some starts when one of the big guys like Koufax or Drysdale was hurt. While he pitched pretty well and impressed with his heater, he couldn't get a regular gig and he would spend most of the '64 season back in Triple A. That winter he would be involved in a big trade that sent him, Frank Howard, Phil Ortega, Ken McMullen, and Dick Nen to the Senators for Claude Osteen and John Kennedy.

When Richert got to DC he was finally able to take a regular spot in a rotation and he made the most of it, becoming the staff ace the next two seasons while recording a better than .500 winning percentage on a losing team. He also nabbed All-Star berths each year. In '65 he made a run for the ERA title and in '66 he finished fourth in AL strikeouts. After a slow start in '67 he was an instrumental part of his next big trade, going to the Orioles for Mike Epstein and Frank Bertaina. He finished out the year for Baltimore mostly as a starter and did well, pulling his ERA below 3.00 and winning seven. But after that year it was all relief. He missed a bunch of games in '68 when he got called up for reserve duty back in DC to quell potential riots after the King assassination. But he still got six saves and had a winning record. He then put up a couple excellent seasons in the pen for the pennant winners, getting 12 saves in '69 and 13 in '70. And he finally got to the post-season after being shutout his years in LA. Unfortunately although he pitched well enough, he was directly involved in a Series play that contributed to a Mets win. The only batter he faced, J.C. Martin bunted with no outs and two on. Pete fielded the ball even though catcher Elrod Hendricks called for it. Being a lefty, Pete had to make a full turn to throw to first and when he did he hit Martin on the arm, allowing Rod Gaspar to score what would be the winning run. The play was controversial as well because the O's contended - rightfully so - that Martin had run inside the baseline to first and was therefore out. But the ump let the play stand and the loss gave the Mets a 3-1 Series lead. But the next year Pete won a ring. In '71 nagging injuries brought his saves total down to four and boosted his ERA. That December he participated in his last big trade, going with Frank Robinson back to LA for Doyle Alexander and other players.

After the trade here Pete actually had a pretty good though brief run in '74. He had a 2.38 ERA and a save in 13 games for the Cards and after being sold to the Phillies went 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA the rest of the way. But Philly released him after the season and Pete was done. He went 80-73 with a 3.19 ERA, 22 complete games, three shutouts, and 51 saves for his career. In the post-season he pitched scoreless ball - the Gaspar run was unearned - over four games and got a save. He did pretty well in a couple lifetime pitching categories, currently ranking 30th in hits per nine innings and 84th in strikeouts per nine innings all-time.
After he finished playing Richert did some fantasy camp work and by the late Eighties was coaching. From '88 to '98 he was pitching coach at the higher levels of the Oakland minor league system. He then moved to Fresno in the Giants system from '99 until at least 2001 when he then went radio silent. I have read that he is still residing in California.

Pete gets a couple good star bullets. Regarding the second one, what Topps doesn't mention is that those strikeouts were part of six in a row - the first six batters Pete faced in his MLB career. He tied a rookie record with that feat that was ironically broken by Sammy Stewart, an Oriole who turned the trick in '77.

The back of the Traded card is kind of a yawner. Let's get to the hookup.

The subject of another big trade gets these two guys together:

1. Richert and Andy Messersmith '73 Dodgers;
2. Messersmith and Sandy Alomar '69 to '72 Angels.

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