Saturday, March 19, 2005

A Monstrous Loss - The Passing of Dick Radatz

Red Sox Nation has lost one of its Elder Statesmen. Dick Radatz died this week at the age of 67 after a fall in his home in Easton, MA.

"The Monster," as he was affectionately know by all baseball fans, was a dominant force on the mound for the Red Sox during the mid-60's, when there was not a lot to cheer about at Fenway Park.

Upon learning of Radatz's sudden passing, I wrote a note of condolence to his son, Dick Radatz, Jr., who currently serves as President of The Northwoods League in Minnesota, a Cape Cod League type of summer league for college baseball players. The following excerpt from my note to Dick tells the tale of how I felt about Radatz:

"It was with sadness and a great sense of loss that I learned last night of the sudden passing of your father. My condolences to you and all of the family. You may recall that you and I met at Fenway Park last May when your father was doing one of the things he seemed to love to do - sign Autographs at Autograph Alley. Over the past two seasons, I was privileged to be one of the key volunteers staffing Autograph Alley, so I had lots of opportunitiesto sit and listen to your father spin his yarns of "Old Bastard Baseball." I will forever treasure those memories. I grew up watching "The Monster"dominate batters from the mound at Fenway. To have the opportunity years later to get to know the gentle human being behind the public persona was a rare privilege."

Last summer, in one of those leisurely one-on-one conversations, Radatz shared with me the genesis of his nickname and his signature move of holding both hands in triumph above his head after nailing down the victory and the save in a game.

"In a game against the Yankees, we had a one run lead, and Earl Wilson was pitching a terrific game. In the ninth inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with no one out, and I was called in from the bullpen to try to nail down the victory. If I recall correctly, I struck out Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard in succession on a total of 10 pitches. After the game, Curt Gowdy came up to me in the Club House and said: 'I loved what you did after you got that final out.' I had no idea what he was talking about. "You raised both of your arms above your head like a heavyweight boxing champion. The crowd loved it. I think you should do it more often.' So, Gowdy was responsible for creating that signature image of me celebrating each save.

I guess it was around the same time that Mantle was overheard by someone sitting in front of his locker after I had just struck him out again. Mantle was something like 1 for 67 against me in his career, and he told people I was the toughest pitcher he ever faced. So, on this particular day he is heard mumbling under his breath: 'That Radatz is a monster!' Gowdy heard about it and started using the phrase in his broadcasts. That's how I became known as "The Monster."

Rest in Peace, my friend. Thanks for lots of wonderful memories.

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