Dave Righetti pitched in the World Series in his first full season of a stellar 16-year career. He didn’t make it out of the third inning for the Yankees in a start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981. That was it. Just two innings and then two more batters in the third and Righetti was done. That outing proved to be forgettable and unforgettable.
After that debacle of a start and a six-game loss to the Dodgers, Righetti kept trying to get back to the World Series with the Yankees, the Giants and in cameo appearances with three other teams. He made it there as a 22-year old. Surely, there would be another chance, he thought. But that next chance never came. Righetti retired with a 13.50 earned run average in his lone appearance in the World Series.
“If you ask me if I remember it, I remember everything,” he said two years ago. “You don’t forget those things.”
When Righetti told me that in San Francisco, he was wistful about that one and only start in the World Series. He recited specific pitches and recalled his deep disappointment. The Giants were three victories away from snaring a championship as we spoke, but Righetti, their pitching coach, flashed back to 1981 and what had gone awry for him as a pitcher. There was a void in his career and empty fingers on his hand.
“I remember,” he said, in describing the game, “I wasn’t very good.”
I wonder what Righetti’s World Series memories are like now. I wonder if Righetti can stomach those two innings with the Yankees much easier now that his club has won two of the last three World Series. The Giants edged the Tigers, 4-3, to sweep the series in four games on Sunday night, a series that was dominated by Righetti’s pitchers. San Francisco had two shutouts in the series and compiled a 1.46 ERA across 37 superb innings.
While Righetti hasn’t tossed a pitch for the Giants across the last three seasons, he has played a part in virtually every pitch the team has thrown. When FOX’s Ken Rosenthal interviewed Buster Posey after the game, the catcher quickly mentioned how Righetti deserved praise for devising the game plans that silenced Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the toothless Tigers. But Righetti deflected the praise.
“I didn’t do it; they did it,” Righetti told The New York Daily News. “For the last four or five years, they’ve been pretty darn good and, when they put their minds to a series or they have a couple of weeks to get through, they’ve been pretty good with that challenge.”
As I watched Righetti hug manager Bruce Bochy in the dugout on Sunday, I thought about his journey. He pitched for the Yankees for 11 seasons, winning 74 games, saving 224 and twirling a no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983. He has been with the Giants for 13 seasons, making him the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues. He has reminded his pitchers that being aggressive and letting your adrenaline push you is a positive approach in the postseason, something he forgot in 1981.
Every player longs to win a championship. Righetti came close to doing it as a kid pitcher with the Yankees, but never returned to that same precious position. Now Righetti has won it all twice as a coach. Righetti didn’t throw a pitch for the Giants, but he still had an impact. Those are unforgettable baseball memories, too.
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