Introducing… Bobby Richardson

Richardson played up the middle for the New York Yankees in the days of Mantle and Maris.  A reliable defender, Bobby won five Gold Glove Awards despite never finishing in the Top Three in fielding percentage among his position peers.  He twice led second basemen in putouts and posted six consecutive seasons of turning over 100 double plays.  A table-setter offensively for the Yankees, Bobby was a difficult strikeout victim, adept at the sacrifice and once tallied 200 base hits in a single season.

Signed by the Yankees out of a Sumter, South Carolina high school in 1953, New York called up Bobby in ’55 for a brief trial.  The second baseman received another brief look in ’56 before garnering more playing time in 1957.  He made the first of seven All-Star appearances that season despite the fact that he shared second base with Jerry Coleman.  In that season’s World Series, manager Stengel only used Bobby in two games and not as a starter–he didn’t have a postseason at-bat.  But the Yankees were a dynasty at this time and Richardson would get plenty more opportunities in Fall Classics.

After a down year in 1958 in which the Yankees captured the World Series title, Bobby finally became an everyday player in 1959.  He responded with his first .300 season and was the third most difficult man to strikeout with an average of one whiff every 23.5 at-bats.  The Yankees failed to win the AL flag but when they brought in Roger Maris from Kansas City they won five straight pennants.  Bobby had a down year with the bat in 1960 but nevertheless kicked off his string of six straight seasons with 100 or more twin-killings turned.  Although his bat was MIA during the regular season he had an amazing World Series, driving in a dozen runs against the winning Pittsburgh Pirates.

Richardson won his first Gold Glove in 1961 the year Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record.    He hit .391 in a World Series victory over the Reds and banged out 173 hits during the regular season.  But his best year was right around the corner.  In 1962 Bobby led the league with 209 base hits and 20 sacrifices.  He topped .300 for the second time in his career and set personal highs in runs scored (99), doubles (38), homeruns, RBI, slugging average and total bases.  An All-Star and Gold Glove winner, Bobby was the American League runner-up in MVP voting.  Richardson ended the season with a World Series victory over the Giants.

Bobby finished seventh in the league in stolen bases during the 1963 season and made another All-Star team and won yet another Gold Glove.  From 1962 to 1965, Bobby would both make the All-Star team and be awarded the Gold Glove for his position.  In 1964 he had his second 90 runs scored season and paced the league in sacrifices again, but the Yankees, despite Bobby hitting .406, lost their second straight World Series.  No one knew it at the time but New York was about to enter its darkest days.  They fell to sixth place under skipper Johnny Keane in 1965 as Rich remained the everyday second baseman and turned 121 double plays.  But the South Carolinian would end his career on a sour note, as the Yankees, who had been contenders throughout his tour with them, fell to tenth place in 1966–Richardson’s final season.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,412/R 643/H 1,432/2B 196/3B 37/HR 34/RBI 390/SB 73/BB 262/SO 243/BA .266/OBP .299/SA .335

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