I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Wise on Sept. 18th, 2004. Rick Wise played for 5 major league teams in 18 seasons. He won a total of 188 games. He threw a no-hitter in 1971 and in the same game hit 2 home runs. He was the winning pitcher for the Red Sox in the memorable game 6 of the 1975 world series. He was a 2 time all star.
In this interview Rick compliments Red Sox nation, he talks about facing Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey. He talks about his father, former managers, and he explains why he considers himself a Philadelphia Phillie first.
Paul- When did you start playing baseball?
R.W.: (Laughed for a few seconds) Probably as soon as I could walk and run. When I was 5 or 6 years old, playing catch with my father.
Paul- Were you always a pitcher?
R.W.: I was a shortstop. When I wasn’t pitching I was a shortstop.
Paul- What was the biggest challenge of getting into the majors?
R.W.: Being signed. I mean you gotta be signed before you turn pro. That’s a challenge and I signed out of high school when I was 17.
Paul- Did you have any mentors or heroes growing up in baseball?
R.W.: Not really. I grew up in a town, Portland Oregon, that didn’t have a major league franchise. So I mean we had AAA there and I used to love to go and see the Beavers play, the Portland Beavers, the AAA team. But, I followed Detroit. Only because I was born in Michigan and my dad went to the University of Michigan. I felt allegiance to the state of Michigan and Detroit even though we left there in the late 40’s after the war. My dad took a teaching job in Oregon. So I followed the Detroit teams at that time with Al Kaline. The great rivalry they had at that time was with the New York Yankees. So those were the teams that I followed.
Paul- Who was your favorite manager or coach to play under or play for?
R.W.: I had a number of them, but the one that made the lasting impression on me was my first manager Gene Mauch. Of course I was only 18 years old in 1964, but he was on top of the game. He knew the rules inside/out. He knew strategies. He was tough, determined and I think he always got the most out of the talent given to him. I thought he was a great field manager.
I liked Red Schoendienst too. He was kind of a 180 opposite of Mauch, low key, but let the players play. He was a good players manager. I had a lot of fun with Red in St. Louis in the 2 years there.
Paul- What was the most challenging aspect of being a pitcher?
R.W.: Well, the mental and physical challenge of pitching every 5 days. The strength and endurance it takes to pitch 7,8,9 innings or more, which is the way starting pitchers did back in my era, the 60’s and 70’s. We didn’t have 6 inning pitchers with set-up people and a closer back then. When we started a game we expected to finish it, unless we were knocked out or until the manager came out took the ball from us.
The challenge of pitching at the major league level; I cut my teeth on the likes of Aaron, Mays, McCovey, Banks, Williams, Matthews, just to name a few. Those were the great ones to. I was only 18 years old when I faced those guys. I faced them with a fast ball. I pitched, basically, 95 to 98, 99 miles an hour, but that’s all I had. That’s nothing to a good major league hitter.
You have to be able to locate your stuff. You have to able to throw offspeed pitches. You have to offset their timing and when you get behind you have to be able to throw more than a fast ball over the plate for a strike. That’s the challenge. Facing the best hitters in the world on a daily basis, where basically 6-7 of them in the lineup, hit around or above .300 with a couple of them underneath. Having a good idea of where the strike zone is and how to operate against major league pitching. That’s the challenge of being a major league pitcher. It’s the greatest challenge in the world because that’s what pitching is all about at the highest level.
Paul- What team did you enjoy most playing for and why?
R.W.: I enjoyed playing with all of them. I’m proud of all my teams I played with. I’ll always consider myself a Philadelphia Phillie first, because that’s the team I signed with, that’s the team I played longest with. My rookie season was there. Individually, I probably had my greatest games with the Phillies, including the no-hitter with 2 homeruns. As a matter a fact, on this date, Sept. 18th, it’s the anniversary of the game in which I retired 32 straight Cubs. Then I drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 12th to win the game. That was 2nd only to Harvey Haddix, who retired 36 straight and lost. But I won that game, and I don’t think a lot of people know much about that game that year. But, because I had the no hitter with 2 home runs and I also hit 2 home runs in another game that year tying a National League record. So ’71 was a very special year, my last year with the Phillies, regretfully. But that was baseball, you get traded and your allegiance changes and so you go on in life and you go on with your profession and your professional career.
Paul- What was it like to play in Boston, and what’s the difference playing in Boston compared to other cities you played in?
R.W.: Boston’s passionate and it’s not only Boston it’s New England. They could be the New England Red Sox, just like the New England Patriots. That’s how people are consumed in the New England area, particularly Boston with their beloved Red Sox. I was very fortunate to have played there 4 years and enjoyed my only shot at post-season play and the world series. And to be involved in one the greatest game ever, with Carlton Fisk and Game 6 and to be the winning pitcher in that game and the memorable and dramatic home run in the 12 inning to tie that series. That was a wonderful experience. The passion and love that the people have for baseball in Boston and New England should be experienced by all major leaguers. I know they can’t. It was a great experience and certainly one I’ll never forget.