Classic Yankees: Vic Raschi

He was only in the majors from 1946-1955, and did not become a rotation mainstay until he was 29 years old. He won “only” 132 games in his career. But Victor John Angelo Raschi or just Vic Raschi, the “Springfield Rifle,” made his mark as the middle name of the “Big Three” of Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat.

Raschi didn’t make the majors until 1946, when he was 27. WWII, of course, had a lot to do with that. Raschi served in the Army Air Force during WWII. He pitched in just two major league games in 1946, going 2-0, 3.94. ERA+ 90. There is a great story about Raschi in David Halberstam’s Summer of ’49, in which he describes Raschi’s debut. The Yanks were playing the Philadelphia A’s at the Stadium, and Raschi got into trouble in the fourth inning. Halberstam writes:

Suddenly he heard a voice coming from somewhere nearby saying, “He can’t hit a high fastball.” Raschi stepped off the rubber and turned around, wondering who had said that. In those days there were only three umpires and so one of them had to go between second and the pitcher’s mound with men on base. Bill Summers was bent over behind the mound. Raschi looked at him. Summers’ head never moved. But the disembodied voice spoke again. “Yeah, you heard me right—he can’t hit a high fastball.” Then there was a brief pause, and he heard the voice again: “We Massachusetts boys have to stick together.” So Raschi went to his high fastball and got the batter out.

He wasn’t used much in 1947 when the Yanks won the WS, going 7-2, 3.87 in 15 games, ERA+ 91. He pitched in two games in the WS, going 1 1/3, no decisions, ERA 6.75.

Raschi then became a rotation mainstay from 1948 to 1953. He was 29 in 1948 when he finally became a regular in the rotation. He went 19-8, 3.84, ERA+ 106. He was an all-star and finished 11th in the MVP voting.

In 1949, Raschi repeated as an All-Star and 11th in the MVP voting. He went 21-10, 3.34, ERA+ 121. He led the league in games started. His most important win was the last one. With the Yankees and Red Sox tied going into the final game of the season at Yankee Stadium, Raschi’s complete game 5-3 victory gave the Yankees the pennant.  He then went 1-1, 4.30 in the WS, losing game two 1-0 but getting a 10-6 triumph in Game 5 to give the Yankees the championship.

In 1950 he won 21 again, it was the second of three consecutive years (1949-1951) that he won exactly 21 games. At 21-8, he led the AL in winning percentage, despite an ERA of 4.00 (ERA+ 108). Despite the high ERA, Raschi was once again an All-Star, and this time finished 7th in the MVP vote. He then pitched a gem in Game 1 of the WS, outdueling the Phils’ MVP, Jim Konstanty, by a 1-0 score. Raschi pitched a two-hit shutout.

1951 and those 21 wins. 21-10, 3.27. ERA+ 117. 8th in the MVP voting. He led the AL in GS and the majors in strikeouts.  Raschi was a tough pitcher who never wanted to come out of a game. He had 21 CG in 1949. In the 1951 WS, Raschi went 1-1 with an ERA of 0.87.

Raschi had knee trouble, and it started to get real bad around 1952, to the point where you could bunt on him. At this stage, he couldn’t field or run well. Still, he went 16-6, 2.78, ERA+ 120. He was an All-Star for the fourth and final time and finished 17th in the MVP voting. He pitched in three WS games, starting two, and went 2-0, 1.59. He pitched a CG in Game 2, giving up one run on three hits.

In 1953 at the age of 34, Raschi really started to slow down, going 13-6, 3.33, ERA+ 112. Still, the Yanks went on to win their record (never to be broken?) fifth consecutive WS Championship and Raschi’s sixth. Raschi pitched well in his only WS appearance, but took the loss, giving up 3 R in 8 IP.

Raschi’s WS record was 5-3, 2.24.

George Weiss, the Yankees’ GM, wanted to cut Raschi’s salary after 1953, and Raschi would have none of it. In February of 1954, Raschi was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Raschi was done, however. He went 8-9 in 1954 for the Cards, with an ERA of 4.73, ERA+ 87. Early that year he gave up a HR which seemed insignificant at the time (just another HR) but that HR would gain a whole lot of significance twenty years later, for Raschi gave up Henry Aaron’s first MLB hit and then soon after that, Aaron’s first MLB HR.

Raschi’s last year was 1955. He started with the Cardinals, going 0-1, 21.60 in one game then was released. He signed with the KC A’s and went 4-6, 5.42. For the season, 4-7, 5.68, ERA+ 74. His career record was 132-66, 3.72. ERA+ 105. His 162 g. average was 17-9.

He wore #12 as a rookie, then 19 and 43 in 1947 before ending up with #17, for which he is most famous. As a hitter, Raschi hit .184 with 1 HR. He drove in 7 runs in a game in 1953.

His career was brief, 1946-1955, and he was at his peak only for a few years, mostly 1948-1952, but Raschi won six rings, five in a row, and was a key rotation mainstay in doing so. During that heyday, 1948-1952, Raschi averaged 20-8, 3.45 and 247 IP.

After his retirement, Raschi operated a liquor store. In October 1988 became the first of the “Big Three” (Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat) to pass away when he suffered a heart attack at the age of 69.

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One Response to Classic Yankees: Vic Raschi

  1. sharon says:

    I think this article on Vic Raschi is very indepth and although I am not a baseball fan and haven't watched the game for years on TV, I enjoyed reading this writeup on one of the truly great Yankee pitchers of this era, when the World Series was won so many times due the pitching talents of three men and a team that worked with them in admiration of their talents. After Raschi was let go, the morale of the team waned and the Yankees lost the title of champions the following year, showing how valued Raschi was to the Yankees, who didn't see it that way and tried to pay him less on contract. They didn't realize that despite an ailing knee, Raschi had strong sentiment with his team and after he left, there was a hole the size of a big loss waiting for the Yankees in future years and the streak of wins ended. Never underestimate the power of a pitcher, when his teammates think he's the best for they will ensure that winning the game continues one way or other, even if its based on sentiment alone. The Yankee club would have been wiser paying Raschi for his talent and contribution to the game and recognizing his status with his team, which more than likely would have extended the streak of wins they enjoyed for so many years. Instead they put finances ahead of talent and contribution and paid for it with losing the title after Raschi was gone and sold to another team. Despite the ailing knee, team morale suffers when a player is cut loose or not recognized by a club's cutthroat policies and this is why Raschi will be recognized, not as simply the guy that Hank Aaron got his first home run off of, but that he was a great pitcher, who along with his mates, brought baseball into the limelight of glory, with a streak of wins which has not been emulated since. I also like the picture posted as it is one of the handsomest ones I have seen of him. I was born in 1947 so I missed all of his great pitching, but I like to read of him anyway and imagine what he was like. Thanks for posting this great article on a truly great pitcher.

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