Intimidation, They Name Is James Rodney Richard…

I would not want to see that in the batters box.

Most everyone knows the sad take of J. R. Before the era of 24-hour info cycle, the news of Richard’s plight did spread quickly. If I recall, a lot of the media members took the Astros side that Richard was malingering. That, of course was ghastly wrong, and Richard’s life was forever altered.

But before that fateful day, Richard was the most intimidating pitcher in baseball. I contend that he was even more intimidating than Nolan Ryan. Richard had the wildness, the heat, and he had the added factor of being 6’8 and looked like he could be playing linebacker for the Houston Oilers.

Just look at this card. Did you want to stand in there and have him throw 99+ MPH ‘near’ you. He didn’t hit many batters, but he was wild enough to keep batters honest and not comfortable.

I know it’s easy to speculate “What if” a dozen different ways with Richard, but sometimes I like to remember ‘What was”. And what it was, for any of us lucky to see him pitch, was incredible.

 

Did I Make A Faulty Career Choice?

Oh, things were fine and dandy back in 1976. I went from Lehigh (got the ol’ engineering degree) to Quad Cities (not that much of a change, really) to Anaheim in less than a year. I was a swingman then, just happy to be in the big leagues. Sid Monge and I filled in the fifth starter role, picking up the scraps left over from Ryan and Tanana.

But the Angels kept yanking me out of the rotation in 1977 and 1978. It took Gary Nolan, Wayne Simpson and Gary Ross to crash and burn in 1977 and Ken Brett to be found wanting in 1978 for me to get the spot in the rotation I thought I deserved.

Then I was part of the Rod Carew trade. On paper, it was great for me and probably the best the Twins could do.

It didn’t work out that way. 6-10, 5.36 and an ERA+ 82. I went from sunny California to Minnesota, playing in front of indifferent fans on a team going nowhere. I stunk and they stunk.

Maybe I should have taken that internship…

He’ll Take Paul Lynde To Block…

As you know, LaCock’s dad was Peter Marshall, the ringleader of the Hollywood Squares for years.

You may have been following the shenanigans up in Zion, IL. Deadspin has the basics and the other links, but besides being a total clusterflop involving the Los Dos Cansecos, Todd Rundgren’s son,  Tim “Vietnam Vet Wanna Be” Johnson and Kevin Costner, it also involved Pete LaCock in a major way, and LaCock comes off like one of the good guys in it.

It seemed like a good time to get a LaCock post up here.

Now, he wasn’t just up in the bigs because of his name or his connections. Leave that for Pete Rose, Jr. or Greg Booker or Marc Sullivan. LaCock had some cred – he was a first round pick in the January 1970 draft. He hit .306 in Midland in 1972 at age 22, .297 at Wichita in AAA at age 23 and was the American Association MVP in 1974 after he hit .327 with 23 homers and a .974 OPS.

After that season, he never played a minor league game again, but he probably should have.

He had cups of coffee in ’72 and ’73 and a full audition in ’74 after Wichita’s season was over.  He struggled at the bat and in the field.  Up full-time for the Cubs in 1975 and 1976 he showed flashes of potential amongst mind-numbing mediocrity on offense and defense. He wasn’t a good outfielder nor a good first baseman, and didn’t hit with enough power to justify playing either corner outfield spot much less first base. He had a good eye, so there was hope. But he was -2.5 WAR for the Cubs so it was off to KC after the ’76 season in a three-team trade involving the Mets where the Cubs got the criminally underrated Jim Dwyer (who the Cubs ignored, of course – Earl Weavers still says his thanks) and the Mets received the fast yet inept Sheldon Mallory.

LaCock, though, was somewhat of a surprise for the Royals for three seasons, amassing a 2.3 WAR as a platoon player. He had a great ALCS in 1978 for the Royals and thus probably played too much in 1979. But he wasn’t a ‘joke’ – he was a real player.

Then he collapsed in 1980, with an OPS+ of 52 and not even slugging .300. That was the end of that. He later went to Japan for a year where he drew the ire of all of the Japanese players and media. Quietly he’s been in the game for most of the rest of his life, but until this past year he’s avoided the spotlight.

He was a AAAA player, but not a joke. What happened this past week in Zion, though…that’s the joke!

 

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