Big pitchers often get the attention of baseball talent evaluators, especially when they have the stuff to match the physique. Ray Rippelmeyer was one of those talented prospects. While his major league playing career was brief, he spent his life ion the game and made quite the imp[act on a number of levels.
Born in 1933, Rippelmeyer went to college at Southeast Missouri State University and Southern Illinois University before signing with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. At 6’3” and 200 pounds, he commanded attention from his perch on the mound. He only caused further commotion by throwing 204 innings and winning 16 games with a 2.91 ERA that year for the Evansville Braves, the Class-B affiliate of Milwaukee.
He proved to be a solid hurler, winning 15 games in 1958, 14 in 1959 and 16 in 1960 (his first year in the system of the Cincinnati Reds who selected him in the minor league draft), yet could not get a call up to the big league club.
His big break came when the Washington Senators plucked him from the Reds during the Rule 5 Draft in 1961. He finally broke with the major league team after eight minor league seasons following spring training in 1962. He was used sparingly, but went 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA in 18 games (one start), striking out 27 and allowing 47 hits in 39.1 innings. His best outing was his first, as he blanked the Cleveland Indians on 6 hits over five innings on April 14th, mopping up for starter Claude Osteen, who was pulled from the game after retiring just one batter.
Interestingly, Rippelmeyer has an impressive, albeit incredibly brief, batting record in the majors. He went to the plate a total of six times, but collected three hits, including a double and also a home run against Bill Monbouquette of the Boston Red Sox.
Unfortunately, a sore arm prevented Rippelmeyer from reaching his full potential and showing the Senators all he could do. Because of his mediocre results, he was returned to the Reds before the end of the 1962 season, as Washington couldn’t afford to keep him on their roster. He went on to pitch effectively as a starter and reliever through the 1964 season. In 1965 he posted a 7.96 ERA in 13 games at Triple-A and his playing career was done at the age of 31.
Unlike some players, he had an immediate bridge to his next life in baseball. He finished out the 1965 season managing a Class-A team for the Baltimore Orioles and then went on to have a lengthy and renowned career as a manager and coach. His greatest work was as the pitching coach of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1970 through 1978, as the team was the National League East Division champions his final three years there.
His work as an instructor spanned many more years. Although his time as a big league ball player was brief, he used it as a springboard to produce a well-rounded and productive career in the game. Keep reading to see what he had to say about his career.
Ray Rippelmeyer Questionnaire:
What was the strangest play you ever saw in baseball?: Our leftfielder in Atlanta, Georgia getting hit on the head with a fly ball that left stitch marks on his forehead. That was Bob Thorpe- a bonus player for the Braves.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Cot Deal and Dick Sisler.
Who was your toughest out?: Stan Musial.
If you could do anything about your playing career differently, what would that be?: I would have spoken up and told them how much my arm was hurting in Washington.
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