The Ever Popular Rico Petrocelli
Posted by athomeatfenway on December 19, 2012
Rico Petrocelli, the Brooklyn boy who became an all-time fan favorite in Beantown spent the evening of Dec. 17 with 180 rabid fans at the World Series Club dinner in West Hartford. http://www.worldseriesclub.com/
Rico was a multi-sport star athlete in High School. NC State, Cal & Wisconsin all offered the young quarterback a full scholarship. But he was too smart to bite on a football career. He was also a power pitcher in High School. 8 MLB clubs were after him until he snapped a ligament in his throwing arm. The interested teams dwindled to 4. The Sox signed him as an amateur free agent on June 2, 1961.
Rico’s talk at the WSC was frequently related to the tale of 2 teams: the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox.
Rico roomed with Dalton Jones when the Sox were a young and undisciplined team. They formed a keystone combination that was mostly in place from 1964 to 1969.
When Rico & DJ came up to Boston, the Sox led the league in batting average but committed the most errors with 330. They finished 8th. 3 years later they made 142 errors and approached the summit of baseball.
In 1967, the team was coming off 190 losses in two years. According to Rico, they could not field, throw or run. Dick Stuart (’63-’64) was a prime example of fielding incompetence. “For every 3 RBI he got, he allowed 4 unearned runs to score.”, said Rico.
In 1966, when the Twins were top-top, the Sox beat them only once, and they needed an error and an unearned run to make that happen.
The 1967 Sox hated Dick Williams because he was a stickler. Williams stressed fundamentals right from spring training. He had a conniption when Conigliaro air mailed a throw over 3rd into the 15th row of the grandstand. He roared. He laid down the law.
And things started to change in Boston. After 8 consecutive losing seasons some magic took hold. O’Connell, the new General Manager swung some deals. The discipline-oriented Williams established order. A young batting champ and slugger named Yaz reported in fantastic shape from an off season of heavy conditioning.
The pitchers were pitching, the hitters were hitting and the fielders slowed their rate of making errors.
Rico pointed out, “We came out of the All Star break and went on a 10 game winning streak. That’s when it happened. We never looked back.”
That streak was July 14 to 23, 1967. The morning it started, the team stood at 42 – 40. They went 50 – 30 the rest of the way, a .625 clip.
The big difference between the 1967 and 1975 Red Sox was the tension level.
The ‘75 Sox were laid back. When Manager Darrell Johnson wandered out to the mound to pull the pitcher, they’d tell him to get back in the dugout…and he did !
One of the closest friendships that Rico continues to keep with a ’75 teammate is with Luis Tiant. “Luis Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame. He belongs.”
Tiant was Mr. Laid Back himself, speaking in a calm, high pitched voice. He enjoyed creating special nicknames for his mates. Petrocelli was Salami for obvious reasons. Bob Montgomery was Mr. Ed because he had a head the size of a horse’s. Carlton Fisk, due to his imposing & squarish build, was tabbed Frankenstein, and Tiant delighted in doing the Frankenstein walk with extended arms when he teased Pudge about it.
–When asked about how it was to face Koufax, Rico said, “The ball whistled when it went past. You had no chance.”
–When asked what moundsman he hated to face, Rico said, “Well, there was this guy named Nolan Ryan who threw 98, but when he needed to crank it up he threw 102. Sure, when Nolan was pitching and I got in the on deck circle, he just used to get this little smile on his face.” A contented smile, to be sure.
–Rico has 4 sons: Michael, James, Bill and Danny, and improbably, one of them is 6 foot 7 inches tall.
–On John Lackey: “If he had been on one of our Sox teams and had stared down his teammates like he did (in 2011), we’d have freaking choked him right there on the mound.”
–On Ted Williams: “Ted came to spring training. I talked to him many times about hitting. I should say HE talked to ME about hitting. You didn’t talk to him about it, he did the talking. And he was always loud. Ted was a loud person. It was like he had 3 lungs.”
Gotta love Rico.