Dick Bartell, ol’ Rowdy Richard himself, was the type of fiery team leader that every club needs. Not only was he a sensational shortstop, but his never-say-die mentality rubbed off on his mates. Many a time did Dick’s all-out style ignite a rally for his club. Once, while playing for the Giants, Rowdy Richard was in such poor physical condition that doctors told him to stay off the field for the rest of the season. Needed for the stretch drive, Dick’s manager Bill Terry told him that his being on the field was imperative for the Giants success. Dick, the gamer that he was, ignored the doctor’s warnings and played, leading the Giants to a pennant with his selfless style.
After two years of waiting in the wings, the Pirates gave Rowdy Richard the shortstop post in 1929 and the fiery 21-year old responded by leading all Major League shortstops with 184 hits, 40 doubles and 13 triples. Bartell hit .320 in 1930 and then paced NL shortstops in doubles in 1931. In 1932, Dick paced the NL in games played and also led the way for shortstops. Rowdy Richard was the torch-bearer for shortstops in runs scored, hits and doubles.
Rowdy Richard was the NL’s top theft among shortstops in ’33 and then paced shortstops in hits and steals in ’34. The Phillies sent their scrappy little shortstop to the Giants in 1935 for four players (the most notable being Johnny Vergez). His first year in New York, Rowdy Richard more than tripled his previous career high in homeruns – finishing second among shortstops with 14.
Instilling his pep into the Giants lineup, his gritty demeanor was what the Giants needed to get back on top. Rowdy Richard led them to a pennant in 1936 – leading NL shortstops in doubles as usual – and to a showdown with the city rival New York Yankees. Although the Yankees won the series, Bartell was at his best, hitting Yankee pitchers to the tune of a .381 batting average. He led the Giants to another pennant the following year, pacing NL shortstops with 91 runs, 158 hits, 38 doubles and 14 homers (he was the only SS with a double digit homerun total). The 1937 World Series had the same result: Yankees winners, Giants losers. For Bartell’s fiery efforts, he finished sixth in MVP voting.
Dick was sent to the American League for the first time in 1940 and helped carry the Tigers to a World Series. During the Series, Rowdy Richard hit .269 and played his usual brand of all-out ball, but he was again part of the losing club. The Reds beat the Tigers, but it took a full seven games to do it. In need of a shot-in-the-arm, the Giants reacquired Rowdy Richard in 1941 and he was the only .300 hitting regular on the club.
Bartell hit .270 in 1943 but even at his advanced age he was taken by the military for duty during World War II. stationed at Treasure Island, Bartell told reporters that he doubted he’d make a return trip to the Majors after the war because he would be nearing 40 years of age upon his discharge. He missed the ’44 and ’45 seasons to the war but tried a comeback when the war ended. He appeared in five games for the 1946 Giants without collecting a hit.
A selfless ballplayer – the type any manager would love to have – Rowdy Richard was a chatterbox who livened up the club by just being himself. He was a ballplayer’s ballplayer – doing all the little things right. He was often among the leader board in sacrifices and eclipsed 20 sacrifices in six separate seasons.
Dick Bartell’s career stats: G 2,016/R 1,130/H 2,165/2B 442/HR 79/RBI 710/BB 748/SO 627/SB 109/BA .284/SA .391