April 2, 2020

Happy Birthday (April 2) to Dick Radatz

His best season in the Majors was in 1963 when he won 15, saved 23, struck out 162 in 132 innings, and posted a 1.97 ERA.

Dick Radatz would have been 83 today. He was born April 2, 1937 in Detroit, MI. While attending Michigan State University, Radatz roomed with another future MLB star pitcher – Ron Perranoski. While at MSU, both Radatz and Perranoski pitched in the Basin League (an independent league made of professionals and amateurs).

In 1958, his senior year at MSU, Radatz was 10-1 with a 1.12 ERA for the Spartans. After graduating, he signed with the Boston Red Sox. For his first season in professional baseball in 1959, Boston assigned him to the Raleigh Capitals, their Class-B affiliate in the Carolina League. Radatz started 12 of 13 games he pitched in for Raleigh in 1959, posting a 4-6 record with a 3.04 ERA. The Capitals finished first in the standings that season in the Carolina League, aided by Radatz’s teammate Carl Yastrzemski who would lead the league with a .377 average while hitting 15 home runs with 100 RBI. Unfortunately, the Wilson Tobs took the Carolina League championship in 1959 defeating Raleigh 4-0 in a best-of-seven series.

In 1960, Radatz started the season with Raleigh before being promoted to the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers. In 17 games, Radatz started 13 and struck out 133 in 107 innings for the Capitals, going 9-4 with a 3.79 ERA.

In 1962, Radatz made his MLB debut for the Red Sox as a relief pitcher and pitched the entire season in Boston. He pitched in 62 games with 24 saves while going 9-6 with a 2.24 ERA. His rookie year performance placed him 3rd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and 21st in AL MVP voting. He was selected as an AL All-Star in 1963 and 1964.

Radatz became a feared relief pitcher in baseball and holds the MLB record for most strikeouts by a relief pitcher when he struck out 181 in 1964. His 181 strikeouts resulted from pitching 157 innings, all in 79 relief appearances for Boston, with Radatz not starting a single game.

Radatz earned the nickname “Monster” in the Majors, with some crediting Mickey Mantle for giving Radatz the name. In a game against the Yankees, Radatz came in to pitch with the bases loaded and struck out Mantle, Roger Maris, and Elston Howard in a row (the 3 Yankees were also the 3 previous AL MVPs). After the game, it is alleged that Mantle was overheard by reporters grumbling about Radatz saying, “that monster!” The nickname was born and stuck with Radatz the remainder of his career.

Mantle was also quoted regarding Radatz as saying, “I know what he’s going to throw and I still can’t hit it.” For their career against each other, Radatz struck out Mantle 12 times in 16 at bats, with Mantle getting just 3 hits – one of those hits a home run.

Radatz retired from baseball after the 1969 season. His MLB career lasted 7 seasons, mostly due to being overly used as a relief pitcher – which was common during his time. He appeared in 381 games, all in relief, with 120 career saves to go with a 3.13 ERA. His best season in the Majors was in 1963 when he won 15, saved 23, struck out 162 in 132 innings, and posted a 1.97 ERA.

Baseball-Reference.com: Dick Radatz’s career stats

SABR (Bill Nowlin)
The Boston Globe (Gordon Edes)
Los Angeles Times
The Joy of Sox

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