Classic Yankees: Bobby Richardson

He shares the WS record for RBI in a game with six. He holds the record for RBI in a WS with twelve. He had eleven hits in one WS, a record thirteen in another.

… and the Yankees lost those World Series.

He is also the only man to be the MVP of a WS in which his team lost.

Bobby Richardson played his last game at the age of 31, retiring to spend more time with his family and with his faith.

When Richardson made his MLB debut in August of 1955, he was still two weeks shy of turning 20. He went 4 for 26 with 3 RBI in 1955, then 1 for 7 in 1956.

He was named an All-Star in 1957 despite playing in just 97 games. The trade of Billy Martin after the Copacabana incident opened up a spot for Richardson. Richardson hit .256-0-19 in 1957. His OPS+ was 58. The good-fielding, light-hitting second baseman’s biggest fault was his inability to draw many walks. In 320 plate appearances in 1957, Richardson walked just nine times.

He got into two games, no plate appearances, in the 1957 WS.

Richardson was used off the bench as a utility man in 1958, playing 2B, SS and 3B. He hit .247-0-14, OPS+ 62. He was 0 for 5 in the WS.

Richardson took over at 2B in 1959, and was named to the All-Star team while finishing 18th in the MVP voting. He hit .301-2-33 with an OPS+ of 99.

In 1960, Richardson hit .252-1-26. His OPS+ was just 68, but then came the World Series.

Richardson was named the MVP of that Series (nope, not Bill Mazeroski) after going 11 for 30 with 2 doubles, 2 triples, 1 HR (a grand slam) and 12 RBI. In the first inning of Game 3, he came up with the bases loaded and hit one down the LF line (301’ to the pole, then it curved out to 402’ at the bullpen) for a grand slam. In the fourth, he came up with the bases loaded again and hit a two-run single. His 6 RBI in a WS game is a record that still stands. It was later tied by Hideki Matsui and Albert Pujols. Richardson’s 12 RBI in one WS is still a record.

In 1961, Richardson won a Gold Glove and finished 24th for the MVP award. He hit .261-3-49, OPS+ 67. Here is an example of how his lack of drawing walks hurt. Richardson led off all year, batting in front of Maris and Mantle. Despite the 115 HR combined by Maris and Mantle, Richardson scored just 80 runs, partly due to the fact that Richardson drew just 30 walks all season. He did steal nine bases. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was second on the team to Mantle’s twelve. Those 21 SB by Richardson and Mantle were 21 of the team’s total of 28.

Richardson went 9 for 23 in the 1961 WS.

Richardson’s best year was 1962, when he finished runner-up to Mantle for the MVP award. Mantle got 13 first-place votes and 234 points. Richardson had five first-place votes and 152 points. Mantle himself thought of Richardson as the MVP. Richardson was an All-Star, won the Gold Glove, and hit .302-8-59. His OPS+ was 102 and he stole 11 bases. Richardson led the AL in PA, AB and hits (209) and led the majors in sacrifice bunts. He was just 4 for 27 in the World Series, but caught the final out—a screaming liner right at him which was hit by Willie McCovey. The catch preserved a 1-0 Yankees Game Seven win. At the time of the catch, Matty Alou was on third and Willie Mays was on second. If it gets through, the Giants win 2-1.

Richardson was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 1963, and finished 10th in the MVP voting after hitting .265-3-48. He was 15 of 16 in SB. His OPS+ was 75. He led the league in AB (few walks (25), therefore many AB). In the WS, he was 3 for 14.

Richardson once again was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 1964. He finished 17th in the MVP voting that year, hitting .267-4-50, OPS+ 74 and going 11 for 13 in SB. He led the majors in AB, the AL in sac bunts. In the WS, he set a record with 13 hits, going 13 for 32 with 3 RBI. The record of 13 hits in one WS was later tied by Marty Barrett and Lou Brock.

Richardson, however, did make a couple of key errors in Games Four and Five of that WS which hurt the Yanks.

The Yanks collapsed in 1965. Richardson finished 20th in the MVP voting, and once again was an All-Star and Gold Glover. Richardson was known for the D (five straight Gold Gloves, 1961-1965) and not the stick, and when the sticks (Maris, Mantle, Howard) got old and/or injured, others, like Richardson, didn’t have that “cover.” Richardson hit .247-6-47 with an OPS+ of 74.

By this time, Richardson wanted to spend more time with his family. He was thinking of retiring after the 1965 season, but Tony Kubek was forced to retire due to back problems after 1965. Richardson decided to play another year, so that the Yankees wouldn’t be forced to replace both their starting 2B and their starting SS in the same offseason.

Richardson finished his career in 1966 with a .251-7-42 year. He was named an All-Star for the seventh and final time. His OPS+ was 79.

In the WS (all there was then), Richardson hit .305 with 1 HR (that 1960 grand slam) and 15 RBI (12 in that 1960 WS). He played in seven WS, winning three.

Richardson hit .266 in his career with an OPS+ of 77. He had a 162 g. average of .266-4-45, 8 for 14 in SB. He would average just 30 walks over a 162 g. season. Although Richardson rarely walked, he also was tough to strike out, averaging just 28 strikeouts per 162 games in his career.

Sandy Koufax struck out Bobby three times in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series, when Koufax set a then record of 15 K in a WS game (later broken by Bob Gibson with 17). (Koufax got Kubek, Tresh and Mantle twice each). It was the only time Richardson ever struck out three times in one game.

Richardson was just 31 when he played his last game on October 2, 1966. He was famous for wearing #1, but early in his career did wear #17 and #29.

From 1970-1976, Richardson served as baseball coach for the University of South Carolina, and he led them to a second-place finish in the 1975 College World Series. In the 1980s he coached at Liberty University and Coastal Carolina University.

A deeply religious man, Richardson officiated at Mickey Mantle’s funeral and is a national leader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has done invocations at Yankee Stadium.

Richardson ran for the U.S. Congress in 1976 as a Republican from S.C., but was narrowly defeated, 51.4% to 48.3%.

Richardson is now 76 years old.

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