Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Card # 8: Rich Dauer

Who Can It Be Now?
Richard Fremont Dauer played his entire 10-year career from 1976 through 1985 with the Baltimore Orioles.  Dauer was a mainstay for the Orioles on their very successful teams from 1978 until 1984, playing over 100 games in every season except during the strike-shortened year of 1981.  In his collegiate career, Dauer started first at San Bernardino Valley College and then transferred to the University of Southern California, where he joined the talent conveyor belt created by the great Rod Dedeaux in the midst of Dedeaux's five consecutive College World Series titles.  

In college, Dauer had a reputation as a good-hitting, adequate-fielding third baseman.  With the Orioles, his reputation was of an adequate-hitting, excellent-fielding second baseman. Dauer was drafted four times:
(1) in the fifth round of the January regular draft in 1971 by the Oakland Athletics 
(2) in the ninth round of the January regular draft in 1972, again by the Oakland Athletics;
(3) in the first round of the June Supplemental draft in 1972 (2nd pick overall) by the Cleveland Indians, and finally, 
(4) in the first round of the June regular Draft in 1974 (24th overall pick) by the Baltimore Orioles.

After his playing career ended, Dauer served first as manager of the San Bernardino Spirit in the Class A California League in 1987 and then as the player-manager of the San Bernardino Pride of the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1990.  

After that, Dauer served as third-base coach for the Cleveland Indians (1990-1991), the Kansas City Royals (1997-2002), and as bench coach for the Milwaukee Brewers (2003-2005).  After his time with the Brewers ended, Dauer served as the Colorado Rockies minor-league-infield coordinator (2006-2008) and then worked as the Rockies third-base coach from 2009 to 2012.  In 2013, Dauer became the manager of the Class AA San Antonio Missions, the Texas League affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and is entering his second season in that role.

I don't know how many players from the 1982 set have movie credits on IMDB, but I'm sure that there are a few.  Since the J. Geils Band song "Freeze-Frame" was number 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the year, this will be the category of movie stars, flashy cars, and TV cameos.

One of the most surprising things I learned about Rich Dauer in researching him for the blog is that he had a movie cameo.  Dauer was not the guy on the 1981/1982 Baltimore Orioles whose profile yelled, "Movie Star" -- I mean, he wasn't Jim Palmer posing in his Jockeys after all.  But Dauer did appear in one movie a couple of years after his playing days ended. The movie was called "Stealing Home," and it featured a number of actors who today would be seen as A-Listers: Jodie Foster, Harold Ramis, Jonathan Silverman, Patrick McDade (of Silver Linings Playbook fame) and Helen Hunt were all in this film.  Mark Harmon starred. Dauer is credited near the end of the credits roll as "Spirits' Coach."

The late Roger Ebert hated the film.  His website has the following quote:
The problem is possibly with me. I detested "Stealing Home" so much, from beginning to end, that I left the screening wondering if any movie could possibly be that bad. Never mind the hoots and catcalls from others in the preview audience; they had their own problems. I resolved to sit in a quiet place and run through the movie once again in my mind, trying to see through its paralyzing sincerity to the intelligence, if any, inside.
I was not successful. "Stealing Home" is a real squirmer, a movie so earnest and sincere and pathetic and dripping with pathos that it cries out to be satirized. The only way to save this movie would be a new soundtrack with savagely cynical dialogue over the sappy images.
And that may be why I never knew Rich Dauer was in a movie until today.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
In 1982, Dauer was one of those guys that teams kept around because they played good defense, didn't stir up trouble, and worked hard to give everything they had every day to help their team win.  

He was never an all-star, never got any votes for the Hall of Fame, and never really deserved to do either.  That doesn't make him a bad baseball player -- to the contrary, that makes him worth knowing about to see how a guy who did not have anywhere near as much talent as the guy next to him at shortstop starting in 1982 stayed in the league as long as he did.  

So, how did he do it? 

Dauer rarely struck out. He finished 1980 and 1981 as the American League's toughest player to strike out.  He finished second in 1982 and third in 1983 in the same category.  He was also an excellent fielder, rarely making errors.  Indeed, he holds the 18th best fielding percentage as a second baseman of all time.

The problem with a guy like Dauer is that teams are always on the lookout for an upgrade as soon as any sign of decline hits.  That's exactly what happened to Dauer in 1985 -- the Orioles traded for Alan Wiggins, and Dauer's career was effectively over.

Nonetheless, while he wasn't a star, he was solid.

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