The name that keeps cropping up most from readers of my post on the hardest throwers in baseball history is Dick Radatz. I definitely should have included “The Monster,” as he was known, as a candidate. Radatz was a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander who closed for the Red Sox in the 1960s (back when closers were something of a novelty). Radatz definitely threw smoke, striking out 162 in 132 innings in 1963, and 181 in 157 innings in 1964. Radatz has a local connection, pitching 54 games for the Seattle Rainiers in 1961 when they were affiliated with the Red Sox. He also pitched 15 games for Tacoma in 1967 when they were affiliated with the Cubs.
Writes “Jacksonville Jon”: Hardest thrower I ever saw was Dick Radatz (Seattle Rainers), he had a short but spectacular career for the Red Sox in the early 60’s. He was as intimidating as Randy Johnson physically and easily threw as hard. Big man – aspirin tablet fastball. I was very impressed by his size & velocity as a child. My dad always got seats behind home plate at Sick’s Stadium and I was very intimidated when he threw a slightly wild one that hit the screen right in front of me. Wish I’d had a chance to see him in the majors.”
Here’s a good story about Radatz upon his death in 2005. It tells the story of him striking out Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard, three MVPs, on 10 pitches in a 1963 game, earning the “Monster” nickname.
Another omission was Tim Lincecum, who has touched triple-digits on the gun, an amazing achievement considering that he’s not exactly Dick Radatz-esque in stature. Lincecum actually reminds me of Koufax in his arm action.
When it comes to intimidation, I was definitely remiss in not mentioning Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale, two masters of the art. (Interestingly, Dodger teammates of Drysdale, including Ron Fairly, always said that the meanest and most intimidating pitcher on the team was actually Stan Williams, who had a stint as Lou Piniella’s pitching coach with the Mariners in the late 1990s). The stories about Williams are legendary. One that Fairly told me: He noticed Williams tossing a ball at a picture of Hank Aaron that was posted at his locker. Fairly asked him what he was doing. “Practicing,” replied Williams.
Williams is reputed to have had a black book with the name of every player in the league. When a player did something to cross Williams, and they all did eventually, he’d put down a star. After five stars, he’d draw a skull and crossbones.
“That meant he’d throw one at you,” Fairly told me for a story I wrote in 1998. “You could get a star for anything. You might be out for a cocktail and never buy a round. That would get you a star. You could hit a home run and stand up there and look at it, like guys do today. Stan might give you two stars for that. He didn’t tolerate that stuff.”
Mound intimidation could be a whole separate post. Roger Clemens was pretty good himself. That playoff game at Safeco in 2000 in which he dusted A-Rod early in the game and then threw the most dominating one-hitter you’ll ever see was a thesis on the art of intimidation. The stories about Gibson, of course, are legendary. Many of the great ones — Ryan, Johnson — had a bit of a mean streak that served them well.
Here are a few other stories that caught my eye today:
–-Milton Bradley (shown above with Corey Patterson) gave a searing interview to ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez in which he had many (more) harsh things to say about his time in Chicago.
“It was pretty bad,” Bradley told ESPN. “I would have rather tore my knee up and gone through rehab all over again then have to deal with that.”
Cubs GM Jim Hendry lashed back, saying “I think it’s time maybe Milton looked at himself in the mirror.”
Filling in on Geoff’s blog from Peoria, Bob Condotta got some reaction from Don Wakamatsu, who said: “I think that’s got to go through that a little bit for his own sake. But I think he is happy here. We are extremely pleased with his progress and he’s fitting in well.”
He also said he wasn’t unhappy that Bradley would give such an interview now.
“We talk about giving guys the freedom to feel welcome here and be themselves,” he said. “This is something that will pass. What I care about most is Milton coming in and being in good shape and playing the game and helping us win.”
Bradley’s comments are getting a lot of play in Chicago, understandably, but I agree that this will all pass as long as Bradley doesn’t have any eruptions in Seattle like he did in Chicago. With Bradley’s volatile history, of course, that’s no guarantee. My feeling is that if Bradley can’t succeed here, it’s going to be hard for him anywhere. He has an understanding manager in Wakamatsu, a nurturing clubhouse, a relatively low-key media to deal with, and a fan base that is understated compared to the Bleacher Bums and the rest of Cubs Nation. That was a successful combination in San Diego and Texas, for the most part. The pressure of living up to a big contract shouldn’t be as intense, since the Mariners didn’t give him the contract, and he’s replacing a big bust (Carlos Silva) on the payroll.
—Chipper Jones says the Braves “need” Jason Heyward on their Opening Day roster. I think it’s going to happen, although as David O’Brien points out, doing so has ramifications for when Heyward is eligible for both arbitration and free agency. I don’t think that Bobby Cox, in his last season as Braves’ manager, cares about that.
—Nomar Garciaparra signed a minor-league deal with Boston and promptly retired as a Red Sox. Garciaparra will join ESPN as a commentator. He had a great career, but he sure looked like he was heading for the Hall of Fame at one point, and now I don’t see him getting there.
–Bad news for the Orioles: Brian Roberts has a bad back and might not be ready for Opening Day.
—Scary incident in Florida today as Rays pitcher David Price was hit with a piece of shattered bat (from Adrian Beltre of the Red Sox). Price had an abrasion on his right (non-pitching) palm and won’t need stitches, but had to leave the game. My understanding is that it was a maple bat, further evidence to me that MLB needs to go further in regulating maple bats before something truly tragic happens.
(Photo by Associated Press)