Rick Dempsey

John Rikard Dempsey (born September 13, 1949) is an American former professional baseball player.[1] He played for 24 seasons as a catcher in Major League Baseball from 1969 to 1992, most prominently for the Baltimore Orioles where he played for 10 years and was a member of the 1983 World Series winning team.[1] Dempsey was known for being one of the best defensive catchers of his era.[2] In 1997, he was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.[3]

Rick Dempsey
Born: (1949-09-13) September 13, 1949
Fayetteville, Tennessee, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 23, 1969, for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1992, for the Baltimore Orioles
MLB statistics
Batting average.233
Home runs96
Runs batted in471
Career highlights and awards

Major League career

1973 New York Yankees #46 Rick Dempsey Game Worn Home Jersey

Dempsey was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 15th round of the 1967 Major League Baseball draft out of Crespi Carmelite High School.[4] After two seasons in the minor leagues, he made his major league debut late in the 1969 season for the division winning Twins managed by Billy Martin, however he didn't qualify for the postseason roster.[1] Dempsey spent a few more seasons shuttling between the Twins and their minor league teams, before being traded to the New York Yankees for Danny Walton on October 31, 1972.[5] During his tenure with the Yankees, he served as a reserve catcher to Thurman Munson, and received tutoring from Yankees coach and former catching standout Jim Hegan.[2] After three and a half seasons with the Yankees, he was acquired along with Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez, Rudy May and Dave Pagan by the Orioles for Ken Holtzman, Doyle Alexander, Elrod Hendricks, Grant Jackson and Jimmy Freeman at the trade deadline on June 15, 1976. He, McGregor and Martinez became part of a nucleus that kept the Orioles as perennial contender for the next decade.[6]

For the next ten and a half seasons, Dempsey would remain as the Orioles' starting catcher.[7] He became known for his exceptional ability to handle pitching staffs, his strong throwing arm, and for his agility behind home plate.[2] In 1979, the Orioles defeated the California Angels in the 1979 American League Championship Series to reach the World Series.[8] In the 1979 World Series, the Orioles won three of the first four games against the Pittsburgh Pirates and seemed to be on the verge of winning the championship, when the Pirates, led by Willie Stargell, rebounded to win the final three games.[9] It was one of Dempsey's greatest disappointments of his playing career.[10]

The highlight of his career came in 1983, when the Orioles won the American League Eastern Division pennant, then defeated the Chicago White Sox in the 1983 American League Championship Series, before winning the 1983 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.[11][12] Dempsey posted a .385 batting average along with a .923 slugging percentage in the five-game series, and won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, one of six catchers to have won the award.[7][13][14][15]

In 1987, Dempsey became a free agent and signed a contract to play for the Cleveland Indians.[16] After only one season with the Indians, he became a free agent once again and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he would be a member of another World Series-winning team in 1988, this time as a backup catcher to Mike Scioscia.[1] When Scioscia was injured during Game 4 of the World Series, Dempsey took over behind the plate for the remainder of the Series, collecting an RBI double in Game 5. While playing for the Dodgers in 1990, he became involved in a brawl with Phillies' center fielder Lenny Dykstra, who took exception to Dempsey's fraternization with the home plate umpire.[17] After three seasons with the Dodgers, he played one season with the Milwaukee Brewers, before returning to the Baltimore Orioles for his final season in 1992.[16]

His sense of humor during his playing career was renowned, and he was famous for his "rain delay theatre" performances, in which he emerged from the dugout in stockinged feet onto the tarpaulin covering the infield during a rain delay and pantomimed hitting an inside-the-park home run, climaxed by his sliding into home plate on his belly on the wet tarp, all to the raucous delight of the soggy fans.[7] He sometimes did this while wearing a pair of underpants over his uniform, making fun of teammate Jim Palmer's famous advertisements for Jockey brand briefs.

Career statistics

In a 24-year career, Dempsey played in 1,765 games, accumulating 1,093 hits in 4,692 at bats for a .233 career batting average along with 96 home runs and 471 runs batted in.[1] He ended his career with a .988 fielding percentage.[1] Dempsey led American League catchers twice in fielding percentage, twice in baserunners caught stealing and once in assists.[1] He played more games as a catcher than any other player in Orioles history (1230).[18] During his career, Dempsey caught ten different 20-game winning pitchers.[7] He was a durable player, only going on the disabled list twice in his career.[19] Dempsey fared well offensively in postseason play. In 14 World Series and 11 playoff games, he batted .303 (20-for-66) with 11 runs, 11 doubles, 1 home run, 7 RBI, 1 stolen base and 7 bases on balls.[1]

While he was a light-hitting player, Dempsey's lengthy major league career was due in part to his excellent defensive skills, despite the fact that he never won a Gold Glove.[2] He usually did not make a large contribution offensively. During his season with the Brewers, Dempsey made two relief pitching appearances, giving up three hits and one run in two innings pitched.[20] Dempsey also won a Little League World Series in 1963 with the team from Canoga Park-Woodland Hills, California.[19] He is the uncle of former major league catcher Gregg Zaun.[1] Dempsey is one of only 29 players to play in four different calendar decades.

Coaching and broadcasting career

After his playing career ended, Dempsey became a minor league manager in the Los Angeles Dodgers organisation, winning the 1994 Pacific Coast League championship with the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes.[21] He then joined the New York Mets organisation, managing the Norfolk Tides in 1997 and 1998. Dempsey also served as first base coach for the Orioles for several seasons, first as a third base coach in the 2005 season after bench coach Sam Perlozzo was promoted to interim manager. He assumed the bullpen coach position in the 2006 season, replacing Elrod Hendricks who the team intended to reassign to another position in the organization before his death. Later in 2006, he became the first base coach again when the team reassigned Dave Cash.

Dempsey has been a candidate for managerial openings with the Orioles in the past, as recently as 2003 when the Orioles interviewed him for the spot that eventually went to Lee Mazzilli. He was mentioned again as a possible candidate for the Baltimore manager's job in 2010, after the firing of Dave Trembley.

Dempsey also served as an Oriole color commentator in 2000 and began another stint in 2007, as the studio analyst for O's Xtra on MASN, the cable channel that carries Orioles games. In addition, he serves as a game analyst for occasional games on MASN. In 1985, Dick Enberg was in Toronto for Games 1 and 7 of the 1985 ALCS on NBC. Enberg hosted the pregame show alongside Dempsey (who was still active with Baltimore at the time). In 1995, Dempsey worked as a field reporter for ABC's coverage of the All-Star Game from Texas.'

Dempsey was let go in 2021 as part of the massive layoffs by MASN.

See also


  1. Rick Dempsey at Baseball Reference
  2. "For Catchers, The Name of the Game is Defense", by George Vass, Baseball Digest, May 2005, Vol. 64, No. 3, ISSN 0005-609X
  3. "Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame at MLB.com". mlb.com. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  4. Orfalea, Gregory. "Rick Dempsey found success in baseball, but his boyhood friend and teammate struggled," Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, October 9, 2019. Retrieved November 1, 2019
  5. "Twins Obtain Danny Walton" Archived 2020-01-24 at the Wayback Machine The Milwaukee Journal, Tuesday, October 31, 1972
  6. Chass, Murray. "Players Swap Memories of Yankees-Orioles 10-Player Trade", The New York Times, Sunday, June 15, 1986. Retrieved December 24, 2022.
  7. "Rick Dempsey Looks Back on his 24 Seasons as a Big League Catcher", by Ed Lucas and Paul Post, Baseball Digest May 2006, Vol. 65, No. 3, ISSN 0005-609X
  8. 1979 American League Championship Series at Baseball Reference
  9. 1979 World Series at Baseball Reference
  10. "The Game I'll Never Forget", by Rick Dempsey, Baseball Digest, November 1987, Vol. 46, No. 11, ISSN 0005-609X
  11. 1983 American League Championship Series at Baseball Reference
  12. 1983 World Series at Baseball Reference
  13. Rick Dempsey post-season batting statistics at Baseball Reference
  14. Post-season Awards at Baseball Reference
  15. Fimrite, Ron (October 24, 1983). "He Was Moe Than Philly Could Handle". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  16. Rick Dempsey Trades and Transactions at Baseball Almanac
  17. "Dempsey Disciplined". The Day. Associated Press. 22 August 1990. p. 4. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  18. Most Games Caught For Team at The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers
  19. "Rick Dempsey: His Career Survives Fires of Combat", by Wayne Coffey, Baseball Digest, February 1998, Vol. 57, No. 2, ISSN 0005-609X
  20. Rick Dempsey Pitching statistics at Baseball Reference
  21. Rick Dempsey minor league manager record at Baseball Reference
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Tom Beyers
Bakersfield Dodgers Manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Bill Russell
Albuquerque Dukes Manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Bruce Benedict
Norfolk Tides Manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Glenn Hoffman
Los Angeles Dodgers Bullpen Coach
Succeeded by
Jim Lett
Preceded by Baltimore Orioles First Base Coach
Succeeded by
Dave Cash
Preceded by
Tom Trebelhorn
Baltimore Orioles Third Base Coach
Succeeded by
Tom Trebelhorn
Preceded by Baltimore Orioles Bullpen Coach
Succeeded by
Larry McCall
Preceded by
Dave Cash
Baltimore Orioles First Base Coach
Succeeded by
Sam Mejías
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