Friday, February 4, 2011
Vintage Fridays: Dick Hall, 1962 Topps #189
Dick Hall's career trajectory was quite unconventional. A native of St. Louis, he was a graduate of Swarthmore College, a liberal arts institution outside of Philadelphia. At 6'6", he towered over most of his peers on the diamond. The Pirates signed him in 1951 as an outfielder, though he also played some shortstop and second base in the minors. After a few cups of coffee, he played in 112 games with Pittsburgh in 1954, starting 84 of them. The 24-year-old batted .239 with an on-base percentage of .303 and an anemic .311 slugging percentage. He had only 8 doubles, 4 triples, 2 homers, and 27 RBI. Things got worse as the season progressed; his average from August 1 to the end of the year was just .207.
The following season, manager Fred Haney oversaw Dick's conversion to pitcher. He went 6-6 with a 3.91 ERA in 13 starts and 2 relief appearances, but never got a full year to show his stuff in Pittsburgh. From 1955-1959 he totaled 44 games pitched for the Pirates with a pedestrian 4.57 ERA. Before the 1960 season, he found himself heading to Kansas City as one of three players dealt for catcher Hal Smith. Given a chance to start regularly for the cellar-dwelling A's, Hall went 8-13 in 29 games with a league-average 4.05 ERA. He walked a team-low 1.9 batters per 9 innings and completed 9 games, including a 6-hit gem against the Orioles for his first career shutout.
When the 1961 campaign was just a day old, Paul Richards swung a deal to bring Hall to Baltimore along with utility player and future Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams. Something clicked for the righty, as he went 7-5 with 4 saves and a 3.09 ERA in a swing role. He even struck out a career-high 6.8 per 9 innings. He feasted on the Senators, shutting them out twice on a total of six hits with a dozen strikeouts and one walk. A year later, Dick started only six games as he was shifted to a relief role. He proved well-equipped for the job, putting up a 2.28 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while walking only 19 men in 118.1 innings! He also grabbed six saves in support of relief ace Hoyt Wilhelm, and his career was just warming up.
I won't bore you with all of the year-by-year numbers, but there are plenty of stats that stand out. He never led the Orioles in saves, but accumulated 58 in two stints totaling 9 years. His strikeout-to-walk ratio as an Oriole was 3.96:1. He had a 65-40 record and a 2.89 ERA, which includes a 9-1, 1.85 season in 1964. He allowed barely more than one baserunner per inning - 774 in 770 innings, a total that includes 46 intentional walks. Even when you add in his stats from the Pirates, A's, and Phillies, Hall's career WHIP of 1.10 is still 19th-best in major league history. He didn't shy from postseason pressure, either: In five postseason games - all after his 38th birthday - he allowed no earned runs in 8.2 innings with an 0.46 WHIP. He won two ALCS games and saved two World Series contests, and retired after the 1971 season at age 41. Oh, and he finished with a .210 batting average that was buoyed by a .464 mark (13-for-28) with the 1963 O's. Not a bad way to spend two decades of your life.
Dick Hall still calls Baltimore home, and stays busy with accounting work. He celebrated his 80th birthday last September, and looks to be in good shape. When I handed him this 1962 Topps card - his first as an Oriole - I formally introduced myself. When he heard who I was, his face lit up and he shook my hand and restated that he enjoyed the site. Dick even leaned to his right to tell Craig Tatum about it. Frankly, just getting to meet him made the $15 autograph voucher and the morning and afternoon spent at the convention center well worth it.