From 1962: Now Pitching (and Hitting), Ray Rippelmeyer!

Nearly 50 years later, what would you remember most: the great day at the lake, or “the one that got away”?

Pitcher Ray Rippelmeyer debuted April 14, 1962. His visiting Senators faced disaster. The Indians teed off on starter Claude Osteen. While toiling for just one out, Osteen surrendered five hits, a walk and six earned runs.

Newcomer Rippelmeyer responded with 5.2 innings of scoreless relief. Washington’s rally wasn’t enough, resulting in a 6-4 outcome.

Yes, first-ever games can yield fun memories. I pored over box scores and found a more intriguing game to investigate: May 3, 1962, at D.C. Stadium versus the Boston Red Sox. Here’s Rippelmeyer’s recap:

“That day in early May was one I’ll never forget. It was an afternoon game and I didn’t even think I would pitch as I had warmed up seven times the night before and never got in the game. My arm was weary. In the second inning, Claude Osteen got into trouble and I was called in the game with the bases loaded and two outs to face the “Yaz.” I got him on a ground ball to short to keep the score at 3-0 Boston.

I hit my home run my first at bat and then held them scoreless until I batted again and hit a line drive to left field off of Mombo’s (Bill Monbouquette)curveball.

I couldn’t believe George Case gave me the steal sign. I took off and Jim King hit a line drive over my head into right center and I went to third and Case is waving me home. I ended up scoring on a IBH to right with a big slide at the plate.

I shouldn’t have even been hitting as I was dead tired and I got in trouble the next inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, Eddie Bressoud, shortstop, hit a ball off the end of the bat between first and second that hardly made the outfield grass. Two runs scored and I was so angry I overthrew the next couple pitches to get Pete Runnels out, but had hurt my arm and I wasn’t the same the rest of the year.

I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to play in the major league. Even if it was only a short time. I had a good playing career and won over 100 games in AA and AAA ball in a period of 10 years. I stayed in the game and coached for a long time. I just finally retired after the 2007 season for good. I spent the last 14 years with the Mets.

For a farm boy that went to a small high school of 125 in Valmeyer, Illinois and never played in any organized games until I got into high school, I got farther than I even had hoped. I’m 77 now and I still relive my games in the majors and many big day I had in the minors.”

Thanks to SportsCardDatabase for the card image. Every collector should know about this invaluable resource.

Phils Coach Ray Rippelmeyer’s Pet Project: Pitcher Steve Carlton

Ray Rippelmeyer impresses me. I wrote to him asking about his legendary work as a 1970s Phillies pitching coach. Also, I quizzed the former pitcher on his only career homer.

The pride of Valmeyer, Illinois, the 77-year-old baseball scholar shared how he transformed Steve Carlton from thrower to pitcher, writing:

“Steve Carlton was my pet project. I had seen him pitch in Tulsa when I was a pitching coach in the minors for the Phillies. I had seen him throw a hard breaking ball besides his big 12-6 overland curveball. The Cardinals wouldn’t let him throw it, as he told me the first day he threw for me after the trade. He said they told him he would lose his curveball if he threw a slider. I told him they didn’t know what they were talking about and we were going to throw it. The rest is HISTORY.”

Another prize pupil of Phils coach R.R.?

“I was with Bob Boone (as roving instructor) when we made him into a catcher from a third baseman. he had the arm and good hands and was willing to work. I got him down low and we talked a lot about calling games.”

Tomorrow: It’s April 14, 1962. Take the mound with Ray in his major league debut.

Learn why he says, “That day in early May was one I’ll never forget.”

I just found an example of Rippelmeyer’s autograph online. Those 1970s Topps cards, fitting the floating heads of an entire coaching staff onto one card? Ray squeezed his name onto the 1974, saving room for other Phils. Learn more about the card at this link!

Cheers for a Father-Son Hobby Team

One of my favorite hobby stops is the Autograph Addict.

This site is the collaboration of father-and-son collectors Kyle and Tyler Smego. You might spot them at Camden Yards as many as 30 games a year.

Through the mail, they’re collecting memories.

In January, the Smegos posted 40 questionnaire responses, saying they had a couple hundred more. What’s the current count?

“I try to get these online as quickly as I receive them, but it’s hard to keep up,” Kyle said. “I still have, at least, a couple hundred more that are waiting to be posted. It seems like we get around 10-15 back every month though. In the past we have tried to send the same questionnaire out to all the players (Tyler made up the questions. We try to keep it questions that the players can quickly jot down an answer.”

These “autograph addicts” are gleaning great insights from baseball history makers. Pitching coach Ray Rippelmeyer talked about teaching Steve Carlton the slider. We all know how that experiment turned out.

“Ray was one of the longest letters we have received, but not the longest,” Kyle said. “We have received many responses where the player filled out our questionnaire and wrote a letter. Some of the longer responses include: Rippelmeyer, Duane Pillette, Bobby Shantz, Jake Gibbs, Ernie Broglio, Don Ferrarese, etc….even Phil Niekro and Tony Kubek. All of those guys wrote a page or two or three.”

The Smegos’ best-ever response?

“Our longest correspondence however has been with Ken Retzer,” Kyle said. “I saw that you blogged about him this week. He really is a great guy. He likes to tell stories about his playing days with the Senators, catching JFK, his family, and his business ventures. Over the past year he has sent several letters and included some neat items each time. One time he sent a copy of an old menu from his diner that he used to own (Home Plate), a couple of pictures of his family, some additional pictures of him with JFK, copies of all his baseball cards, etc. He plans on coming out to the DC area sometime soon and I look forward to taking him out to dinner.”

Kyle and Tyler are making the hobby their own. They’ve asked for suggestions for other fun questions they can be asking. Ask someone about what they think of when they see the photo on a certain baseball card.

More than 30 years ago, Twins infielder rolled his eyes and grinned while signing his SSPC “Pure” card. I asked him if he liked that card.

“I think they took photos on the hottest day of spring training right after wind sprints,” I seem to remember Terrell saying. “Look at how sweaty we look. Look at the other Twins cards, and you’ll see what I mean.”

What fun questions do you ask when you write a former player?