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One great honors another

Bobby Richardson has fond memories of his old friend and colleague, Larry Doby

Posted: July 27, 2012 11:34 a.m.
Updated: July 30, 2012 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

BOBBY RICHARDSON LISTENS to a talk being given by Larry Doby’s daughter, Kimberly Doby, at Thursday’s Larry Doby Foreveer stamp unveiling at the Camden Archives and Museum. Seated on the former New York Yankees’ second baseman right is Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

While the doors to Cooperstown may never swing open to him for his vast exploits on the baseball diamond, no one will argue with Bobby Richardson’s credentials for his being inducted into a humanitarian hall of fame.
As a member of the New York Yankees for 12 seasons (1955-66), the Sumter native and resident posted a career .266 batting average with 34 home runs and 390 RBI. He remains the only player from a losing team to win the most valuable player award in the World Series, having done so in the 1960 fall classic when the Yankees lost to Pittsburgh when Bill Mazeroski hit a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth in game seven to give the Pirates the 10-9 win and the world championship
In the 1960 World Series, Richardson went 11-for-30 (.367 average), hit one home run with two doubles, two triples, eight runs scored while driving in a dozen runs. The 12 RBI is still a World Series record and stands one ahead of teammate and longtime friend Mickey Mantle, who plated 11 runners in 1960, a series in which the Bronx Bombers outscored the Pirates by a combined 55-27 count.
Richardson’s numbers only scratch the surface on the man who, following his retirement from baseball, went into college coaching. He served as the head baseball coach at three schools, starting with the University of South Carolina before stops at Coastal Carolina University and Liberty University.
Through his journeys, Richardson never lost sight of what he believed to be the most important thing in his life; his being a Christian. To this day, he is a highly sought-after speaker by churches, Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles and other faith-based organizations throughout the country. On more than one occasion, he has come to Camden to address worship services at various churches and delivered the eulogy for his former American Legion coach in Sumter and then, Camden resident and legendary figure, H.N. “Coach Hutch” Hutchinson.
Thursday, Richardson found himself back in Camden to say a few words about his former on-field adversary and longtime friend, Larry Doby, on the occasion of the Camden native’s being honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a Forever stamp. Doby’s depiction was part of a Hall of Fame quartet issued by the USPS which includes Joe DiMaggio, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams.
As Richardson left the lectern following his delivery of a poem (seen on Page 1 of today’s Chronicle-Independent), he would later make a quick U-turn to inform the packed Camden Archives and Museum with one last bit of information.
“Camden never should have let Larry leave,” he said with a smile. “He was all-state (in New Jersey) in three sports.”
Shortly after Richardson arrived inside the museum, he was surrounded by fans and friends, both old and new. Included among those was Camden City Manager Kevin Bronson, who served the master of ceremonies for the morning event. While introducing himself to Richardson, Bronson pointed out that he was a Clemson graduate, while joking that he would not let that interfere with his introduction of the former Gamecock baseball coach.
“I had three sons who all graduated from Clemson,” Richardson said with a laugh. “Do you know that Clemson also has the best FAC chapter in the country?”
A few seconds later, he was asked if he missed coaching college baseball. With that, he flashed a smile and said that with the rules and regulations which have been instituted by the NCAA as they pertain to what coaches and schools can do and provide to their student-athletes, the climate would not be right for him.
Richardson then recalled a time when as a college coach, he took his team skeet shooting, thinking he would be the best shot in the group. Only trouble was, he had a player on that squad from his hometown of Sumter who was a better shot than he was and would out-score his head coach on that day of team bonding. Today, the NCAA would frown on that type of off-campus activity.
One thing which the born-again Christian made clear, however, was that he was honored to be asked to talk about Doby, whom he played against in the major leagues and then with in old timers’ games following their playing days.
“When he came on board, it didn’t take him very long to make his mark,” Richardson said of Doby before reciting a list of Doby’s accomplishments in the game, ending with his 1998 induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I remember him, very well, as a wonderful player but even more than that, in a tough situation, he had the clarity and the dignity to shine.”
While Doby made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, it was not until three years later that the New York Yankees signed their first group of African-American. Included in the Yankees’ first signing of black ballplayers was Elston Howard.
Howard’s entry to the major leagues was delayed by a two-year hitch in the military. When he returned from the service, he spent four seasons in the Yankees’ minor league system before being promoted to the parent club in 1955. His first game with New York came on April 14, 1955, nearly eight years to the day on which Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Another rookie on the  1955 Yankees was Richardson. By seeing what Howard went through, he got a bit of a glimpse as to the hills which Doby had to climb in the grand old game. In the same breath, though, he said he could not imagine what Doby had to endure when he arrived in Cleveland.
“I can’t (imagine what Doby went through),” Richardson said. “But I do because of Elston Howard, which was (eight) years later and, it was still a problem. It wasn’t as tough on Elston, though, because of Larry. And he was such a great ballplayer; that makes a difference when you earn that respect in a quick way.”
Richardson said that unlike in Doby’s early days, Howard was well-liked and respected by his teammates and fans alike. He also had a good sense of humor and could dish out as well as take some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
“I remember Mickey Mantle, who was quite the jokester, saying one time when Elston was getting on the (team) bus,” Richardson said. “Mickey said, ‘Elston, go to the back of the bus.’ Elston said, ‘No, I’m going to sit by you.’ When (Howard) did that, everybody laughed. Elston was just a wonderful guy, just like Larry.
“You never heard much about Larry. He was quiet, dignified and was a wonderful man.”
By the time Richardson and Doby played in old timers’ games, there was very little conversation as what Doby went through in his career. “That was all in the past,” Richardson said. Instead, talk was about various games and what players were doing following their playing days.
Richardson’s role in baseball history is prominent in the fact that he was a World Series most valuable player despite his team not winning the crown, a fact which he does not relish. “I’m not sure it’s an honor when you are the most valuable player on a losing team,” he said.
Following the seventh game loss in Pittsburgh, it was widely reported that Mantle was so upset by losing the series that he cried not only in the clubhouse but on the plane ride back to New York as well. Many years after that loss, Mantle told Richardson that he still felt the sting of that series.
“He and I had a little place together in Boone, N.C., at Grandfather Mountain,” Richardson said of Mantle. “I’ve heard him say the saddest moment he had was the 1960 World Series because he felt like we had a better ballclub and we lost it. But we came back the next two years and were world champions.”
In the 1962 series, the Yankees nearly lost the championship in another game seven against the San Francisco Giants. Leading the series finale, 1-0, heading into the bottom of the ninth at Candlestick Park, the Giants received a leadoff bunt single from Matty Alou. With two outs, Willie Mays lined an opposite field double to right, which was fielded by Roger Maris as the hosts had men at second and third with Willie McCovey coming to the plate.
McCovey ripped a shot to second on which Richardson bounced to his left and made a two-handed grab of the liner to give the Yankees their 20th world championship and fourth for Richardson, who said his hand still stings when he thinks about that play.
“For 45 years,” Richardson said of that now famous highlight, “I didn’t see Willie McCovey. Then, I went out to San Francisco for an old timers’ game and his first remark to me was, ‘I bet your hand is still hurting.’ I said, ‘You hit it hard.’”
Richardson said of his professional career that he came along at the perfect time and was surrounded by an all-star cast in the Bronx.
“I played at the right time,” he said. “In nine of my first 10 years, the Yankees won the pennant. Just playing with such good players like Mantle, Yogi (Berra), Whitey (Ford) and (Phil) Scooter Rizzuto ... they’re all in the Hall of Fame.”
Just like he was on the field, Richardson was successful in the dugout. In 1970, he was named as the head baseball coach at the University of South Carolina, leading the Gamecocks to a 51-6 record in 1975 and into the program’s first College World Series that season which ended with a loss to Texas in the championship game.
After making a run for a Congressional seat in 1976, losing by less than 3,000 votes, Richardson returned to coaching at Coastal Carolina, from 1984-86. He led the Chanticleers to the Big South title in his final season in Conway. He then moved on to Liberty as head coach in 1987 and stayed there until retiring in 1990.
Richardson has been called by more than one person as the father of USC baseball. He traced the beginning of the program’s rise to prominence and popularity to his first season in Columbia when he sought out a little help from friends in the Big Apple to give the Gamecock baseball program some needed momentum.
“I remember when I was introduced to the (USC) team in 1970 and we didn’t do very well,” he said of that first 14-20 campaign.
“I think one of the keys was some three years later when the Yankees came down to play our ballclub and so did the Mets; Yogi was their manager of the Mets. We played three against the Yankees and three against the Mets. Then, they played each other under the lights. A lot of people in Columbia were exposed to college baseball and then, it took off.”
Following Richardson’s departure, June Raines kept the wins coming for the Gamecocks, leading them back into the College World Series. The program would then take its place among college baseball’s elite under Ray Tanner, who guided USC to the 2010 and2011 national titles and to a runner-up finish this past season, his last as the coach before being promoted to the school’s director of athletics earlier this month.
Richardson said even he could not have predicted how big the program would eventually become.
“Ray Tanner’s phenomenal. What a great coach,” Richardson. “I’m just so glad. The timing was perfect for him to move up to athletic director and that Chad (Holbrook) is ready to take over in the same manner as Ray.
“I’m so pleased with Carolina athletics. One thing they have now that they didn’t have when I was there is the president (Dr. Harris Pastides) who loves baseball.”


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