Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Dick about, you guessed it...baseball, mustaches and Jim Rice.
HOVG: Dick…your career has pretty much run the gamut. You were a successful starter in Kansas City, then, after making the move to Boston, became a successful closer. But your success started BEFORE you made the bigs. When you were with Double-A Rocky Mount, you threw a no-hitter in the first game of a double-header. In the nightcap, your roommate Darrell Clark threw a no-no of his own. Did that make it more special…or do you feel it diminished your accomplishment?
DICK: No…I was on the bench rooting for Darrell to pitch one also. It was more special because I don't think it had ever been done before or since.
HOVG: Your next stop was with your hometown Toledo Mudhens. What was it like playing in the city that you grew up in, in front of friends and family every night?
DICK: It was a big thrill to pitch in my hometown and to share my success with a huge family. It was great to have all the support.
HOVG: Not to get off topic, but I mentioned your transition from starter to closer. Since that walk to the mound is so much part of the show now…what song would you have blaring throughout the stadium if you were closing today?
DICK: Tough one! Toss up between “Eli's Coming” by Three Dog Night and “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. Close behind are “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar and “Celebrate” by Kool and The Gang. (Laughs)
HOVG: A high point in any player’s career would have to be playing in the World Series. You had the opportunity to play in one of the best in 1975. Let’s do some word association. I’ll mention some players (both teammates and opponents) and you give me your thoughts.
HOVG: Joe Morgan.
DICK: Consummate professional player.
HOVG: Johnny Bench.
HOVG: Dave Concepcion.
DICK: Perfect compliment to all that talent on the Reds.
HOVG: Luis Tiant…Hall of Famer or no?
DICK: Best teammate ever! Hall of Fame…yes.
HOVG: Carlton Fisk.
DICK: Best catcher I ever pitched to…serious about his job and hard worker.
HOVG: And of course, the latest player to call Cooperstown home...Jim Rice.
DICK: Tremendous hitter with the strongest wrists I've ever seen. Put some unbelievable numbers up for several years in a row and should have been elected to the Hall much sooner in my opinion.
HOVG: What is it like taking the bump knowing that you have an all-world outfield of Jim Rice, Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn behind you?
DICK: Having that outfield made it much easier to pitch. I always challenged hitters anyhow so seeing these three behind me gave me much more confidence on the mound.
HOVG: Following the 2007 season, Rice was asked if any of the 2007 Red Sox could replace anyone on that 1975 team. His response was an odd one. He said…“the only one that would’ve made it, maybe (Jonathan) Papelbon because we had Dick Drago out there, Papelbon has a little more velocity than him.” What do you think he meant by that?
DICK: (Laughs) I would pick Papelbon over me also because he throws harder than me. The only thing different is I had to pitch more than one inning most of the time to get a save like most of the closers back then like (Rollie) Fingers and (Goose) Gossage.
HOVG: Alright…enough Jim Rice. Of the players that are out there today, who is one guy that you would like to battle against?
DICK: Alex Rodriguez would be a great challenge along with Albert Pujols.
HOVG: Of the guys you faced off against, who was the toughest out?
DICK: The toughest hitter I faced was Tony Oliva
HOVG: Who was a surprisingly easy out?
DICK: I was most success against Gorman Thomas and Cecil Cooper in their prime in Milwaukee.
HOVG: Hank Aaron had 3 hits in 4 plate appearances. Sure, you struck him out, but it is the home run (number 755) that you gave up that people remember. What was it like to be joined arm in arm in the history books with the home run champ for 30 years?
DICK: At the time it didn't mean much as it happened in July, but being linked forever with one of the greatest hitters of all-time is an honor.
HOVG: Lastly, pictures of you in Kansas City show you relatively clean shaven whereas, it seems, once you hit Boston…out came the ‘stache. Was it peer pressure, a sign of the times or were you taking advantage of the game’s ultimate performance enhancer…the mustache?
DICK: I started the mustache in 1973 along with the longer hair while still with KC. It was just the trend started by the Oakland A's and the fad at the time throughout the 70's.
Dick Drago is a native of Toldeo, Ohio and currently calls Tampa home. During his playing career, he found himself suiting up five teams...Kansas City, Boston (twice), California, Baltimore and Seattle. Earlier this year, Royals Review named Drago one of the 100 Greatest Royals All-Time.
Lastly, Drago has teamed up with Bob Salomon to help spread the word of "A Glove of Their Own". Anyone interested in learning more about the book can contact Salomon by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.