Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Card #117: Rawly Eastwick

Who Can It Be Now?
Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III was born on October 24, 1950, in Camden, New Jersey. According to his biography in the recent SABR publication The Great Eight: The 1975 Cincinnati Reds, Rawly (pronounced "Rollie" and not "raw-lee") was raised in Haddonfield, New Jersey, which that book calls an upper-middle-class suburb of Philadelphia. 

Rawly's dad, who was Rawlins Jr., was an engineer for Bell Telephone. Rawly had a twin brother named Ralph, a sister named Nancy, and two older (also twin) brothers named Robert and Richard.  In a later biography, he claimed that he received his father's name because his parents "ran out of names."

In high school, Eastwick was, of course, a star athlete. Like all of his fellow baseball players, however, Rawly was a great high-school-baseball player, earning all-state honors and honorable mention high school All-American status in his senior year. Unlike most baseball players, the other sport in which Rawly excelled was wrestling -- in which he won the district high school championship twice.

Eastwick's talent in baseball got him noticed by scouts, though, oddly enough, not by the nearby Phillies. According to a news article in 1976, the Phillies never spoke to him despite his playing practically in the shadows of Veteran's Stadium.  Instead, the Cincinnati Reds selected Eastwick in the 3rd round of the 1969 June Draft.

The 18-year-old Eastwick started his 1969 professional season in the Florida Instructional League before moving to the Gulf Coast League. His initial returns were unimpressive -- a 4.70 ERA, 60 hits allowed in 46 innings with 17 walks and 22 strikeouts.  Still, the Reds bumped him to Tampa in the Florida State League in 1970, and he pitched better and probably in better luck as well.  

In 1971, he pitched both at Single-A Raleigh and Double-A Trois-Rivieres. His first exposure at age 20 to Double-A may have been a bridge too far -- he was hit pretty hard in 37 innings (5.35 ERA, all runs allowed were earned).  And, the Reds organization turned him into a reliever. Usually, that's a pretty good sign that an organization does not believe in a pitcher; rarely do minor league closers become major league closers.  

In 1972, he returned to Trois-Rivieres as its closer.  This time, Eastwick pitched superbly in 1972, racking up 20 saves and 9 wins (against 89 losses) in 66 appearances and 119 innings. This performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis for 1973. In the early 1970s, teams still had the mentality that your best pitchers should be starters and that the bullpen was merely a place to put guys who couldn't start. So, in 1973 and 1974, the Reds had him start 12 games each year just to make sure that he wasn't a starter.  The effect of this was to increase his innings over 100 for the year in a mix of starting and relieving while also suppressing his strikeout rates.

In any case, Eastwick got his first taste of big league baseball in September of 1974 for a Reds team that finished 98-64 -- 4 games behind the Dodgers for the NL West Crown. Eastwick pitched reasonably well in relief in his 8 appearances, throwing 17-2/3 innings and earning 2 saves while giving up just 4 earned runs. 

Nonetheless, the Reds assigned Eastwick to Indianapolis to start 1975. He tore up Triple-A during that first 6 weeks of the season and was recalled on May 20, 1975. Sparky Anderson had no qualms about inserting him into the role of "closer" immediately on Eastwick's promotion. The Reds lost the first game in which Eastwick appeared in 1975 and dropped to .500 (20-20) with the loss. Of course, the rest of the way, the Reds went 88-34 (a .721 winning percentage). 

Despite not having been called up till May 20, Eastwick made 58 appearances and finished 40 games. He threw 90 innings in that time and led the National League in saves with 22. For his efforts, he finished third in the Rookie of the Year balloting behind John Montefusco and Gary Carter. 

More importantly, the Reds won the World Series with Eastwick closing out 4 games -- saving 1 and winning 2 -- while giving up just 2 earned runs on solo homers. He got the win in Game 2 when the Reds scored twice in the top of the ninth off Dick Drago.  He got the win in Game 3 when the Reds scored the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning off Jim Willoughby and Roger Moret. He earned his save in game 5, then watched as Will McEnaney picked up the save in Game 7 at Fenway.

The 1976 season was similarly successful for both Eastwick and the Reds. Eastwick once again led the National League in saves, this time with 26. He earned the 1976 NL Rolaids Relief Man Award -- a trophy he still has today.  He finished fifth in the voting for the Cy Young Award (the only reliever to receive any votes) and even got 8% of the vote in the MVP Award voting, even though that put him just fifth on his own team behind Morgan, Foster, Rose, and Griffey. The only real downside for Eastwick personally had to be the fact that the Reds really didn't need him at all in the postseason, as they swept through both the Phillies and the Yankees that year. 

When 1977 dawned, however, things had changed in Cincinnati. Gone was Eastwick's running mate Will McEnaney -- literally, as the two worked out together in the offseason. The Reds had traded McEnaney to the Expos with Tony Perez for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray. Eastwick was upset about it. He chose to speak out about the issue -- and his belief that he was underpaid at $29,000 a year in 1976 -- on, of all things, the Cincinnati Reds goodwill caravan through the Midwest. Nice timing.

Yet, once the games started, Eastwick picked up where he left off in many respects. There were chinks in the armor, though -- his strikeout rate declined in the early going from 6.1 K/9 in 1975 to 5.9 in 1976 to a miniscule 3.5 with the Reds. Under free agency rules at the time, Eastwick was in his "option" year and was pitching without a contract while being paid at the same rate from the previous season. Eastwick claimed that the Reds were using him less in the first two months of the season to suppress his earning possibilities.

Yes, more complaining.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in early June the Reds told Eastwick that they were going to try to trade him by the June 15 trade deadline. He almost went to the Mets for Tom Seaver, but the contract situation scared the Mets away. The Cardinals took the chance that they could get him to sign and traded pitcher Doug Capilla -- later Eastwick's teammate on the Cubs -- to the Reds. Other than starting the only game he would start in his career in St. Louis, Eastwick's time in St. Louis was forgettable for all involved.

Eastwick played out his option with the Cardinals. He then became one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. Perhaps oddly, he ended up signing a 5-year, $1.1-million contract (with a $320,000 bonus and a $156,000 salary) with the New York Yankees. That was odd because the Yankees didn't need a closer -- they had the great Sparky Lyle, who had won the Cy Young Award in the American League in 1977. 

Oh, and the Yankees also signed Goose Gossage. 

I mean, that money was good, but if similar money was available elsewhere, Eastwick and his agent should have rethought their position on that deal.

For their massive outlay of funds and guaranteed money, the Yankees got damn close to bupkus -- Eastwick pitched in 8 games, faced 101 batters in 24-2/3 innings, and picked up 2 wins. Then, on June 15, 1978, the Yankees traded Eastwick to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielders Bobby Brown and Jay Johnstone. 

Once traded, Eastwick blamed the problems in New York on Billy Martin. He couldn't have been any blunter about it, either.  As the wire story put it:
"I guess Martin was trying to show up Steinbrenner," said Eastwick, who had been signed by the Yankees without Martin's approval. "Martin is very shallow[;] he has no intelligence."
One wonders how Eastwick really felt.

He pitched okay for the Phillies in 1978. He walked more than he struck out, and his ERA of 4.02 flattered him as his FIP was 4.84. It shouldn't have been a surprise when, in 1979, the wheels fell off for Eastwick. Suddenly, his ERA of 4.90 matched the previous year's FIP -- even if his pitching in 1979 was incredibly unlucky (FIP: 3.80).

Suddenly, at the age of 28, Eastwick's career looked tenuous at best.  It became even more tenuous when, on April 4, 1980, the Phillies released him. He spent two months out of baseball before the Kansas City Royals signed him and put him in Triple-A. They gave him an opportunity in the major leagues, and then realized that Eastwick was not for them and released him at the end of August.

In 1981, the Chicago Cubs gave Eastwick an opportunity to make the team as a minor league free agent. He actually pitched well for the Cubs -- a 2.28 ERA in 43-1/3 innings with a save. On August 19, 1981, though, he hit the 21-day disabled list. He came back after the trip to the DL and pitched reasonably well though he seemed to pitch only in lost causes (the team went 4-23 in his 27 appearances that year) He went to spring training with the Cubs in 1982, after which the Cubs released him on April 1, 1982. 

And, at age 31, that was the end of Eastwick's major league career.

Mustache Check: Rawly makes it three straight for the smooth-faced crew.

Trivial Pursuit
Eastwick did not commit an error in his major league career until 1980 when, on July 2, he committed an error against the Twins. Indeed, counting only his National League appearances, he went 274 consecutive games without committing an error.

My other favorite trivial item is this: Rawly Eastwick was the winning pitcher in an epic game that took place at Wrigley Field on May 17, 1979. In what Larry Bowa called "a howling wind" that was blowing out of Wrigley, the Phillies beat the Cubs by a final score of 23-22. Eastwick and Ray Burris were the only pitchers who did not give up a run in that game and, indeed, Eastwick retired all 6 of the batters he faced. Others who were not as lucky: Randy Lerch, the Phils starter, allowed 5 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning; Dennis Lamp, the Cubs starter, who bested Lerch by allowing 6 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning (game score: 15), Donnie Moore, who allowed 7 earned runs in 2 innings; Willie Hernandez, who gave up 8 runs (6 earned) in 2-2/3 innings; and Tug McGraw, who allowed 7 runs (4 earned) in 2/3 of a inning.

Nanu Nanu
This card was Eastwick's last card as an active player. He also appeared on a Fleer card in 1982. Eastwick missed being on a card in 1981 -- not even getting into the Traded set -- with the circumstances and timing surrounding his release in 1980.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
With his limited exposure in baseball after 1977 -- which is when I first can remember anything from baseball -- I don't have too much of a recollection of Rawly Eastwick other than his unusual name.  

Eastwick's fame as a player was truly from the 1975 World Series. Even though most people remember or know little from that Series other than Carlton Fisk's golfshot home run and that the Reds won, Eastwick played a major part in that Series as I mentioned above. He also played a part in Fisk's home run. 

Back in the 8th inning with the score at 6-3 Reds, the Red Sox got two runners on to start the 8th off Pedro Borbon. Sparky Anderson -- who gained the reputation as "Captain Hook" in 1975 through his frequent use of the bullpen which, today, would look tame and abusive to the relievers -- brought in Eastwick from the bullpen. Eastwick struck out Dwight Evans swinging and induced Rick Burleson to line out to short left field. 

Then, Bernie Carbo stepped up to hit for the pitcher, Roger Moret. Carbo worked the count to 2-2, weakly tapping a 2-strike pitch foul to avoid striking out. Eastwick then served up a meatball which Carbo jacked out to center to tie the game.

These days, Eastwick actually lives in Boston. He had his own story about the Boston Marathon bombings as well, barely missing being present for the bombing itself due to stopping to get a t-shirt for his daughter Haylee.

I guess people don't remember the Carbo home run, or perhaps it helps him get business. He leases commercial real estate for De Normandie Companies in Boston. So, if you need an office in Boston, give Rawly a call. 


  1. Eastwick was right about the McEnaney trade.

    1. Totally agree, even with McEnaney struggling in 1976.

  2. He figures prominently in Sparky Lyle's book "The Bronx Zoo"