Thursday, June 12, 2014

Card #59: Rich Gedman

Who Can It Be Now?
Richard Leo Gedman Jr. was born on September 26, 1959, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Baseball Reference says that he attended Worcester High School, but Wikipedia and the BR-Bullpen both say he attended St. Peter-Marian High School.  The Sons of Sam Horn Wiki claims that he and future Toronto Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi attended high school together, and Ricciardi also attended St. Peter-Marian.  I am going to go with SPMHS as his alma mater, and I will note that, as a result, Ricciardi and Gedman would have been two years behind comedian Denis Leary in high school as a result.

Gedman was not drafted by anyone coming out of high school in 1977 and was signed as an amateur free agent.  Gedman was assigned to Winter Haven in the Florida State League and probably surprised the Red Sox and everyone else by hitting very well -- .300/.393/.407 in 348 plate appearances.  As a result, at the age of 19, the Red Sox pushed Gedman up to Double-A Bristol in the Eastern League in 1978.  Gedman was not overmatched and showed good defensive skills behind the plate.  As a result, the Red Sox moved him up again to Triple-A Pawtucket in 1980 and gave him a September call-up to the big leagues that year.  

Between he and Gary Allenson, the Red Sox felt confident enough in their catching situation such that they did not re-sign the 32-year-old future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk after the 1980 season.  Gedman started 1981 in Triple-A and received his call-up to the major leagues on May 16.  He picked up his first major league hit off Dennis Leonard on May 17 with a single, and by the end of the season he had hit .288/.317/.434 with 5 home runs and 26 RBI. It was a season that did not feature any incredible rookie performances in the American League, meaning Gedman finished a solid second behind Yankee starter Dave Righetti in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Gedman's 1982 season was less successful -- 4 homers and a .249/.279/.363 slash line.  His defenses was not great either -- he threw out 27% of base runners attempting to steal against him (league average: 36%), committed 10 passed balls and, in addition, committed 10 errors (bad enough for third in the league).  He did all that in just 86 games behind the plate (74 starts).

It would get better for Gedman after that, however.  He found an ability to hit the ball with power in 1984 at the age of 24.  It's probably just the maturation process, but eyebrows would probably be raised these days when a guy goes from 2 homers in 223 plate appearances in year one to 24 homers in 486 plate appearances in year two.  For Gedman, that meant that years three and four -- here, 1985 and 1986 -- were his two seasons as an American League All-Star.

The 1986 season was both a wonderful and painful year for Red Sox fans.  It was wonderful for the amazing comeback versus California in the American League Championship Series -- in which Gedman hit .357/.379/.500 -- and painful for the collapse in the World Series against the New York Mets -- in which Gedman hit .200/.200/.333 and struck out 10 times in 30 at-bats without a walk.  Gedman was behind the plate for that fateful tenth inning in Game 6 in which the Red Sox blew their lead.  The coup de grâce, of course, was the Bill Buckner error on Mookie Wilson's dribbler.  

However, some people forget that Ray Knight got to second base to be able to score the winning run -- and that the tying run in the form of Kevin Mitchell -- scored on a passed ball (go to the 3:28:57 point in the game to see the set up and the play as called by the great Vin Scully):

Not to pile on, but considering that Gedman had 14 passed balls in 1986 and allowed his pitchers to throw 40 wild pitches (wild pitches reflect on the catcher to an extent, as this book points out, and the only pitcher on staff not to have a wild pitch was Wes Gardner, who faced 4 batters all season), perhaps Gedman should have been removed?  It's tough to say that for sure, though, since Gedman's backup was Marc Sullivan (allowed 15 wild pitches in just 41 games behind the plate), who may or may not have been on the team because his dad owned the club.  

After the 1986 season, Gedman was a free agent.  Unfortunately for him, he was caught up in the owners' collusion not to sign free agents.  He and the Red Sox could not agree to terms before January 8, he could not re-sign with the Red Sox until after May 1. Due to the collusion, he found no other suitors for his services at an equivalent amount contractually. Later that same year, he tore ligaments in his left thumb in a collision at home plate and was replaced on the roster by John Marzano.  He missed the rest of that season and never again played more than 95 games in any one season.

In 1990, he was re-signed again by the Red Sox to a one-year contract to serve as Tony Pena's backup.  He appeared just 10 times in the first two months for the Red Sox before they sent him to the Houston Astros.  In Houston, he backed up young catching star Craig Biggio and appeared in 40 games.  He closed out his career with two years in the majors for the Cardinals, a contract with Oakland that went nowhere, and 89 games in Triple-A for the Yankees affiliate in Columbus.

Family Ties
Gedman and his wife Sherry produced quite the athletic family.  That should be expected in so far as athletic ability has some genetics involved and some nurturing involved.  One would expect a baseball player's family to emphasize sports at least somewhat.  Genetics for the Gedmans, though, were strong.  In addition to Rich, his wife Sherry played softball and basketball at the University of Connecticut.  From Sherry's Facebook page, it appears that she and Rich met in high school at St. Peter-Marian. 

They had three children.  The oldest two children were sons Mike Gedman, who is the new head baseball coach at Framingham State University after having played at UMass and coaching at Bryant University and Matt Gedman, who played hockey and baseball at UMass before being drafted by the Red Sox in 2011 in the 45th round of the June Draft.  He currently is playing in the Carolina League for Salem.

Not to be left out is their youngest child, daughter Marissa.  Marissa is a hockey player at Harvard who missed one season due to a torn Achilles' tendon.  She was Harvard's captain for the 2013-2014 season as well -- the only captain for that season who did not miss the year due to injuries.  Apparently, even women's hockey is bad for your dental health though -- just look at Marissa's Twitter feed (@GEDyewsum).  

Trivial Pursuit
Rich Gedman shares the major league record for most putouts by a catcher in a game with 20.  He shares this record with Dan Wilson, Jerry Grote, and Sandy Martinez.  Gedman performed the feat on April 29, 1986 when he was the catcher for Roger Clemens's first 20-strikeout game.  The catcher gets the credit for a putout on a strikeout.  In Clemens's second 20-strikeout game, catcher Bill Hasselman had to throw out Travis Fryman at first base in the bottom of the second inning, so he only had 19 putouts.  Grote got his 20 putouts by catching a Tom Seaver 19-K performance and catching a pop-up too.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
I never liked seeing Rich Gedman step to the plate for the Red Sox when they played against the Brewers.  He always seemed to hit well against Milwaukee -- a career .274/.328/.437 slash line and 7 home runs, a total which is behind only the Indians and the Tigers for most home runs against any particular team for Gedman.

I remember this card well, also.  It was one of the first rookie cards about which I was cognizant.  I mean, I was chasing Cal Ripken Jr. cards like everyone else was that year -- after all, everyone pretty much knew Ripken was good -- but Gedman's 1982 Topps was, strangely enough, one of the cards I know I was looking for.

After Gedman left baseball, he served as an assistant coach at Belmont Hill School just outside Boston.  He was an assistant so he would not have to be a teacher.  He left Belmont Hill to become the third-base coach for the North Shore Spirit of the independent Northeast League in 2003.  In the "where are they now" story from the Red Sox website, Gedman said at that time that he did not want to be a manager: "I would see myself more as a coach.  I'm not the leader of the band, I'm part of the puzzle.  The leader of the band has to be too organized and is watching out for 25 guys."

Despite those protestations, two years later, Gedman took the position of manager with the independent Worcester Tornadoes in the Can-Am Association.  He leveraged that into a position as hitting coach for the Lowell Spinners in the Red Sox organization in 2011.  He then moved up the chain to the Salem Red Sox in 2012.  Since 2013, he has served as the hitting coach for the Double-A Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs.  So, despite staying away for a while, he's turned into a "Baseball Man".  


  1. Yikes. With all those passed balls he probably wouldn't have caught very much in todays game.

    1. Maybe. Maybe not. I made the rookie mistake of not looking at league totals...Boston was distinctly at league average overall in terms of both Passed Balls (16 for Boston, League Avg. 15) and Wild PItches (Boston at 55, League Avg. at 54) in 1986.