Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paul Richards - Ambidextrous Pitcher, Catcher, Manager

Paul Rapier Richards
Born: November 21, 1908 in Waxahachie, Texas

Position: Catcher 
Bats: Right, Throws: Right  
(Ambidextrous pitcher in high school) 
Height: 6' 1", Weight: 180 lb.

High School: Waxahachie HS (Waxahachie, TX)
(pronounced wahks-a- HATCH-ce)

MLB Debut: April 17, 1932 Final Game: September 22, 1946  

Ambidextrous Pitcher

Paul Richards was an ambidextrous high school pitcher, from Waxahachie, TX. Richards' first national notice was in Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" in recognition of pitching his Waxahachie High  School team to victory in both ends of a double-header, winning the first game right-handed, the second left-handed.
"In high school, I was the shortstop, the right-handed relief pitcher and the left-handed relief pitcher." (Richards interview by Red Smith, NY Times)
"He played on the diamond with his Waxahachie High School and had the ability to throw with either his right or left hand. He could play any position on the baseball field and was a pitcher for his high school team. He would throw with his left hand against a left handed batter and right hand if the man at the plate was batting from the right side. Paul was capable of catching, pitching or playing in either the infield or outfield. Eventually by the interest of the Brooklyn manage, Wilbert Robinson, Paul settled for catching as his place on the diamond." (New York World Champions 1933 by Robert Long)

Ambidextrous Pitching in the Minor League

Richards pitched with both hands in Minor League game on July 23, 1928 for the Muskogee Chiefs of the Class C Western Association against the Topeka Jayhawks.

Ambidextrous Pitcher turns to Catching

As far back as I can remember, the only thing I ever wanted to do was play baseball. My father was a schoolteacher, so I was taught pretty early on to read, and my favorite reading was the box scores and accounts of ball game that came down with the Dallas Newspapers.

I started out as a third baseman and  pitcher in high school. Strangely enough, I was an ambidextrous pitcher and actually did some ambidextrous pitching in professional ball at Macon, Georgia, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. At Macon, in 1930, our club had a few of its catchers get hurt, and there was a call for volunteers to go behind the plate. I volunteered and all of a sudden I'm a catcher, and I stayed a catcher for the rest of my career.
(from The Man in the Dugout: Fifteen Big League Managers Speak Their Minds)


Know as a baseball innovator, Richards designed an oversized catcher's mitt for handling Hoyt Wilhelm's knuckleballs. The glove's design is still used today.

Some of his innovations were decades ahead of his peers. He calculated on-base percentages before that statistic had a name (he called it “batting average with bases on balls”), and was the first manager to enforce pitch counts to protect young arms. (Corbett)


Nicknamed “Sleepy” because of his classroom habits, Richards was team captain in his junior year, playing third base and pitching—with both arms.

As a baseball manager, he gained a reputation as a ferocious intimidator of umpires. One year he was ejected fourteen times and sportswriters nicknamed him “Ol’ Rant and Rave.” 

Richards pushed his players to be aggressive on the bases. They led the league in steals and Comiskey Park fans began shouting “Go! Go!” whenever a man reached base. The team was called the “Go-Go Sox” for decades. One sportswriter gave Richards his enduring nickname, “The Wizard of Waxahachie.” (Corbett)


"Switch-Pitcher' Richards Sets Record Straight

Bob Hersom | May 12, 1983
According to baseball legend, Paul Richards once pitched both games of a high school doubleheader, one right-handed and one left-handed. It's a good story, but it isn't true.
It's close to the truth, though.
During a lengthy interview, Richards was asked about the report of his ambidextrous high school hurling.
"That's not exactly right," said Richards. "I did pitch two complete games in two days, but I pitched with both arms in both games.
I'd pitch right-handed against right-handed batters and left-handed against left-handed batters. That was in 1926, when I was a senior at Waxahachie (Texas) High School."
Richards also pitched with both arms in the minor leagues.


Paul Richards Managerial Record (White Sox and Orioles)

Paul Richards - SABR Baseball Biography
by Warren Corbett

Paul Richards, or why you can't repeatedly swap pitchers

The Wizard of Waxahachie: Paul Richards and the End of Baseball as We Knew It (2009)
Warren Corbett chronicles the life and times of the baseball wizard who left an indelible mark on America’s national pastime.


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