In the sea of baseball there have been many vessels of varying strengths and weaknesses. Rickey Henderson was like a speedboat: sleek and swift. Manny Ramirez is like a sailboat: lazy and carefree. Babe Ruth was like a Naval Aircraft carrier: possessing an arsenal of firepower. If I were to compare Big Daddy Rick Reuschel with a seafaring vessel, I’d compare him to a tugboat: strong, stout and sturdy.
A third round draft selection by the Chicago Cubs in 1970, Big Daddy made it up to Chitown in 1972, winning 10 games on a 2.93 ERA as a rookie. Four of his ten wins came via the shutout. As a sophomore, Reuschel showed the trait that carried him throughout his career: extreme stamina. Able to toss 240 innings with little effort, Big Daddy threw 237 innings in 1973, topping Cubs pitchers in shutouts. He tossed 240 innings in ’74 and 234 innings in 1975.
Rick was more than a man that logged a lot of innings. He was asked to throw so often because he was an exceptional performer. Big Daddy showcased fine control, issuing an average of 0.246 walks per inning in 1976; better than Hall of Famers Steve Carlton (0.285), Tom Seaver (0.284), Bruce Sutter (0.313) and Don Sutton (0.376). Fine with the lumber, Rick, who was called on to pinch-hit occasionally in his career, hit .229 during the ’76 season.
A 20-game winner for the first time in 1977, Big Daddy made his first All-Star team and finished third in Cy Young Award voting. In fine form all year, Rick tied for second in shutouts, finished eighth in strikeouts and was sixth in ERA with a nifty 2.79 mark. But the Cubs weren’t a strong team in the late 1970s. Their only power source was Dave Kingman. Because of the limited talent on the roster, Rick was the only Cub pitcher to post a double digit win total in 1978.
The Cubs fell to fifth place in 1979 but Big Daddy was in fine form, winning 18 games and fashioning his seventh straight year with 230 or more innings pitched. In 1980, Rick tacked on another year to his string of consecutive seasons of 230 innings picthed, tossing 257 frames. He led the senior circuit in games started that season, stretching out his arm to carry the vast workload.
In the middle of the 1981 season, Big Daddy was dealt to the Yankees for pitcher Doug Bird and a treasure chest full of currency. Rick helped the Yankees reach another World Series in their storied existence, flashing a 2.67 ERA in eleven pinstripe starts. He had an ERA of 3.00 in the Division Series and was handed a no decision in his lone World Series start. Then, the injury bug bit.
Big Daddy was on the shelf the entire 1982 season and rehabbed his way back in 1983, spending most of the year with Quad Cities in the Midwest League. Because of his injured wing, the Yankees released Rick and he caught back on with the Cubbies. Back in Chicago in ’84, Big Daddy struggled to regain his pre-injury form and was granted free agency after the season. The Pirates gambled on Rick, hoping that his arm would bounce back in 1985, and they were rewarded with a fine season.
Recovered from his arm woes, Reuschel went 14-8 for the Buccos in ’85. The large veteran made 26 starts and fashioned a 2.27 ERA. Hall of Famers Steve Carlton (3.33), Nolan Ryan (3.80), Bruce Sutter (4.48), Dennis Eckersley (3.08) and Tom Seaver (3.17) weren’t as stingy with their runs allowed as Big Daddy.
Multi-talented, Rick won his second Gold Glove Award in 1987 while also driving home ten runs on the season – pretty darn good for a pitcher. Rick began the year with the Pittsburgh Pirates, represented the Bucs in the All-Star Game, but was traded at the end of the season to San Francisco for two young pitchers. He led the senior circuit in complete games and shutouts.
As a 39 year-old, Big Daddy won 19 games for the 1988 Giants. Called on to start more games than any other NL pitcher, Big daddy made 36 starts and posted a 3.12 ERA in 245 innings of work. Defying old age, Rick entered his 40s in 1989 and fashioned a 17-8, 2.94 ERA worksheet – making his final All-Star Game and earning a few Cy Young Award votes. His Giants went to the postseason in ’89 and Rick won the deciding Game 5 in the NLCS. His club fell to the powerful Oakland A’s in the World Series.
The injury bug bit again in 1990. In his 40s, it was more difficult for Big Daddy to bounce back from the shelving. He pitched one final season with the Giants in 1991 before ending his career.
W 214/L 191/PCT .528/G 557/CG 102/IP 3,550/H 3,588/BB 935/SO 2,015/SHO 26/ERA 3.37