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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #461, Dick Tidrow (Article 84)

by Paul Semendinger

(Continuing a series…)



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***

Dirt.

That was his nickname.

“Dirt”

You’ve got to love it.

***

I remember watching a Yankees game, very early in my fandom, and hearing the announcers (it had to be Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer, and Bill White) (Oh, how I loved them!) talking about how great Dick Tidrow was. He was filling in as a spot starter and doing a great job, but the specifics are fuzzy and we’re talking about a time probably about 44 years ago, so I my memory could be wrong.

With that as my memory, I decided to see how many times Dick Tidrow came out of the bullpen and started a game for the Yankees in 1977 and 1978. It had to be one of those years, of that I’m certain.

What I found was remarkable…

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I’m pretty certain that if you were to ask most Yankees fans who watched the Yankees of the late 1970s if Dick Tidrow was a primarily a starter or a relief pitcher, that they would say he was a relief pitcher. That’s how I remember him.

Yet, in 1978, he was primarily a starting pitcher. That’s something I don’t remember at all.

I remember a spot start or two, not Tidrow being a regular part of the rotation. But he was a regular member of the starting staff.

***

Games Started 1978 – New York Yankees

Ed Figueroa and Ron Guidry – 35

Dick Tidrow – 25

Jim Beattie – 22

Catfish Hunter – 20

Don Gullett – 8

No other Yankee had more than 6 starts

***

Dick Tidrow had a fascinating career as a Yankee. His role continually changed:

1974 – He was a starting pitcher (primarily). He made 25 starts and 8 relief appearances and totaled 190.2 innings

1975 – He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He had 37 appearances and totaled 69.1 innings

1976 – He pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen. He appeared in 47 games, just two of them being starts. He totaled 92.1 innings pitched.

1977 – He started and relieved. He came out of the bullpen 42 times. He started 7 times. He pitched 151 innings.

1978 – He was a starting pitcher (primarily). He made 25 starts and had 6 relief appearances and totaled 185.1 innings.

Then, in 1979, the Yankees traded Dick Tidrow early in the season. I didn’t understand it.

The guy did it all for the Yankees.

***

The Yankees acquired Dick Tidrow from the Cleveland Indians in the trade that also brought them Chris Chambliss in April 1974. In order to get these two players (and Cecil Upshaw), the Yankees traded Fritz Peterson, Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, and Steve Kline. The trade was panned at the time, but it was one of the deals that established the base of the championship teams of the late 1970s.

As noted, Dick Tidrow pitched for the Yankees until 1979 when he was traded to the Cubs in late May, for Ray Burris.

“Ray who?” I remember wondering.

***

In his Yankees career, Dick Tidrow pitched in 211 games. He made 59 starts. He finished 88 games. He totaled 711.1 innings.

As a Yankee, went 41-33, 3.61. He had 23 saves.

When I think of Dick Tidrow I remember his big mustache, I remember his high sideways leg kick as he pitched, but most of all, I remember a guy who just battled on the mound.

I never thought Tidrow was the best pitcher, or even a great pitcher, but he always seemed to do a pretty good job.

***

22.2

What have you done for me lately?

But in 1979, after his first 22.2 innings, Dick Tidrow looked finished, at least to some. His ERA was 7.94. He allowed 38 hits in those 22.2 innings. Yikes. That bought Tidrow a ticket to Chicago where… he turned it around.

1979 (Cubs only) : 11-5, 2.72 (63 games, no starts)

1980 – 6-5, 2.79, he led the National League with 84 games pitched

By 1981, Tidrow wasn’t the same pitcher. He sported an ERA of 5.06 that year, but he battled back again in 1982 (8-3, 3.39).

In 1983, he pitched for the White Sox making 50 appearances and one start. That one start was the only game he started in the rest of his career after the 1978 season. (That game was on August 8 against the Detroit Tigers. Tidrow pitched three innings and allowed three runs (one earned) in a game the White Sox won 5-4.)

Tidrow pitched in 11 games for the Mets in 1984. His 9.19 ERA tells the story there.

***

The 1979 Yankees suffered through a tough year. Goose Gossage got hurt in a locker room fight. Thurman Munson died tragically. Still the team won 89 games. They finished in fourth place 13.5 games out. They were never really in it, but maybe, just maybe, if Tidrow had been around, he could have helped close the gap.

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Ray Burris didn’t last long with the Yankees. In 15 games, he had a 6.18 ERA for the Yankees. On August 20, he was claimed off waivers by the Mets.

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Dick Tidrow is a rare player who played for the White Sox and Cubs and the Yankees and the Mets. This is a select group of only four players. (There’s no way anyone can name them… no way. Try. And then see below.)

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Dick Tidrow was one of those guys that left an imprint. It’s not necessarily about raw ability, it’s about guts and giving it your all.

I enjoyed rooting for Dick Tidrow.

I liked rooting for a guy named “Dirt.”

It’s all about getting your hands dirty and grinding it out.

***

Players Who Played For the White Sox, Cubs, Yankees, and Mets

David Aardsma

Lance Johnson

Charley Smith

Dick Tidrow

***

The last batter Dick Tidrow ever faced was Dan Driessen of the Reds. Driessen lined out to shortstop.

#1977ToppsBiographies

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