December 4, 2023

Williams Failed to Work His Magic with Rick Reichardt

June 4, 2023 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: Rick Reichardt is one of 16 players featured in Barry Sparks’ book, The Search for the Next Mickey Mantle: From Tom Tresh to Bryce Harper, published by Sunbury Press.

Rick Reichardt batting stanceRick Reichardt was coming off a disappointing 1969 season. The 6-3, 210-pound outfielder for the California Angels batted .254 with 13 homers and 68 RBI.

Signed for a record-setting $200,000 bonus in 1965, Reichardt had been touted as “the next Mickey Mantle.”

After he signed a contract, the Angels whisked him away to Dodger Stadium, where he took batting practice. Afterward, Angels’ manager Bill Rigney said, “His hitting display was impressive. The only other time I’ve been so impressed by a youngster was when Willie Mays joined the New York Giants in 1951.”

Yet, in parts of six seasons, including three full seasons (1967-69), the 26-year-old produced just 68 homers and 260 RBI in 554 games. The Angels had been patient with their potential superstar, but they believed they had been significantly short-changed.

Reichardt frustrated the Angels, who thought he was capable of slugging 40 homers a season. “He has everything (Harmon) Killebrew has, plus blazing speed,” said Rigney. Yet, the Angels feared Reichardt, who was batting cleanup, had become a singles hitter. He wasn’t waiting on pitches, swung at too many bad pitches, hadn’t developed a power swing and often failed to deliver in the clutch.

It was clear Rick’s future was not with the California Angels. He requested to be traded.

On April 27, the Angels traded Reichardt, 27, and third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez, 22, to the Washington Senators for third baseman Ken McMullen, 27. Senators manager Ted Williams was convinced he could straighten him out at the plate. “He’s got a lot of potential and he’s going to play,” he declared.

Williams saw Reichardt as another reclamation project. The Hall of Famer had great success with Senator hitters in 1969. Players who improved their batting averages included Eddie Brinkman (79 points), Del Unser (56 points), Mike Epstein (44 points), Ken McMullen (24 points) and Frank Howard (22 points). Williams likened Reichardt to Howard. The 6-foot-7 outfielder needed a couple of seasons in the minors and part-time duty with the Dodgers before he became a star.

Rick was happy to get out of Southern California and away from manager Lefty Phillips. “Ever since I came up to the big leagues, I’ve been getting advice on how to hit. Nothing has worked the way I would have liked. Ted Williams is my last hope,” he said.

Rick was convinced he was coming into his prime. He refused to believe he was a utility player. “Being traded to the Senators is the best thing that has happened in years,” he said. “It’s a blessing. I’ve always wanted to work with Ted Williams.”

Leaving the Angels lessened the palpable pressure and sky-high expectations he had dealt with since 1964. The signing bonus was an albatross, and he wanted to shed the superstar expectations.

He didn’t play as much as he wanted in 1970. He never started more than six games in a row. The Senators had a crowded outfield and Williams, for most part, platooned him. Rick hated the idea, but he kept quiet because he didn’t think Williams would change his mind.

Reichardt played all three outfield positions and was used as a pinch-hitter in 50 games.

He started 13 games in May, slugged six homers and drove in 13 runs. Although he was limited to eight starts in August, he went 12-for-36 (.333).

Season highlights for Reichardt included a pair of two-homer games. They occurred on June 26 in a 12-2 loss against the Baltimore Orioles at RFK Stadium and on July 6 in a 6-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Municipal Stadium.

He had 12 homers at the All-Star break, but had only 109 plate appearances after July 31. The Senators faltered down the stretch, going 7-22 in September, including an 14-game losing streak. Reichardt started 18 games the final month of the season (his highest monthly total), but batted only .206.

The platoon numbers, however, didn’t work out. The right-handed Reichardt batted eight points higher against right-handers than left-handers (.258 to .250). In his part-time role, he swatted 15 homers, drove in 46 runs and batted .253 in 277 at-bats. Williams failed to work his magic as Rick’s batting average was the lowest of his career.

Frank Howard had a monster season–44 homers, 126 RBI and 132 walks. But the Senators didn’t get enough offensive help from the rest of the lineup. Much of the blame fell on Reichardt’s shoulders.

Reflecting on his season under Williams, he said, “I enjoyed playing for him. He surprised me in that he didn’t try to change my stance or mechanics. He stressed the mental and psychological sides of hitting. He emphasized studying pitchers, knowing what they throw and concentrating on the possibilities. He said to wait on your pitch, and look for your pitch, middle in. He stressed you can’t make a living hitting the outside pitch.”

Rick was unhappy with his part-time status and that the Senators wanted to cut his salary the maximum 20 percent. He requested a trade. On Feb. 9, 1971, the Senators traded Reichardt to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jerry Janeski, a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher who won 10 games in 1970, his rookie season.

Paul Corcoran of the Copley News Service wrote, “Reichardt, 27, highly touted in the past, is no more than a journeyman, traded to Chicago for a relatively unknown rookie pitcher. Reasons he hasn’t reached his potential include kidney surgery, and a basic handicap, he couldn’t throw and was an average fielder. He lacks confidence and has a basic flaw in his swing. So far, he has been unteachable in an effort to correct it.”

Reichardt spent two full seasons with the Chicago White Sox before the club released him on June 28, 1973.

The Kansas City Royals signed him as a free agent two weeks later, but released him after one at-bat in 1974.

Reflecting on his career, Reichardt said, “It was very tough to try to live up to be the next Mickey Mantle.” He believes, however, that he made the most of the talent he had. “I thought I had good physical skills, maybe not as good as others thought, and I was a good player.”

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