“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”
Dick Radatz was born on April 2, 1937 in Detroit and graduated from Michigan State University, where he was a star basketball and baseball player. The Red Sox signed him before the 1959 season as an amateur free agent.
Johnny Pesky turned him into a reliever in 1961 with Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, and he became one of baseball's most dominant relievers in the early '60s with the Boston Red Sox. He spent two years with Triple-A Seattle, then joined Boston in 1962. He had 627 strikeouts in 557 1/3 innings.
Radatz, who reportedly was first dubbed "The Monster" by Mickey Mantle, was an overpowering reliever. He holds the major league record for strikeouts in a season by a relief pitcher with 181 in 1964. He struck out five batters in two innings in the 1963 All-Star game and five in 2 2/3 innings in the 1964 All-Star game. He often pitched several innings, unlike modern closers. His fastballs arrived at 95 miles an hour, and he commonly pitched multiple innings in a game in relief.
His rookie year, 1962, was by any measure a success. Unfortunately, he would finish in a three-way tie for the Rookie of the Year. This didn't stop him from putting together an even better season in 1963. He certainly got plenty of attention.
In 1963, his best season, he embarrassed the whole league, as he went 15-6 with a 1.97 ERA, and 162 K, becoming the first pitcher in history to have consecutive 20-save seasons. The same season he was selected to the All-Star Game, and impressed with strikeouts of Willie Mays, Dick Groat, Duke Snider, Willie McCovey and Julián Javier in the two innings he pitched. He finished 5th in MVP voting despite Boston's 7th-place finish.
He received his second Fireman of the Year award in 1964 for his league-leading 29 saves and a 2.29 ERA in 79 games. Again, he was selected an All-Star (but was saddled with the loss in that game when Johnny Callison hit a dramatic home run). Most notably, he fanned 181 batters in 157 innings, setting a record that still stands for most strikeouts by a relief pitcher in a single season.
His one-pitch arsenal was a worry for Boston, and Ted Williams encouraged him to develop a sinker. Dick complied, but in changing his mechanics to incorporate the new pitch, he permanently lost the edge on his fastball.
1965 was a let-down for him and Red Sox fans. The team finished 9th, lost 100 games, and he came back to Earth. He went 9-11 with 24 saves and a high 3.91 ERA. He developed a pretty good sinker, but he never regained his fastball. He changed his mechanics too much to accommodate the sinker. Without his fastball, he lost the extra in extraordinary.
He was diagnosed with injuries in his arm and shoulder which required season-ending surgery. The Red Sox traded him to Cleveland in June, 1966 and later played for the Cubs, Detroit and Montreal.
After leaving the game, he worked at a number of jobs, including working for Welcor, a copying machine business. He sold industrial lumber at one point. He had his own weekly radio show, and was a frequent guest on other sports talk radio shows in Boston.
In the 2003 and 2004 seasons, he worked as pitching coach for the North Shore Spirit, an independent league team based in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Dick Radatz was selected to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997 and passed away on March 16, 2005, after falling down a flight of stairs at his home in Easton, Mass. He was 67 years old.