In the modern era of Major League Baseball, it’s not uncommon to see guys 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds take the field. But in the early 1960s, Dick Radatz was a rarity at that size, hence the nickname he was not overly fond of, “The Monster.”
Radatz went to Michigan State University to play basketball and a little baseball, but soon turned his attention to the diamond. The Red Sox signed him after his senior year in 1959 and made it to the majors in 1962, where he was used strictly in relief.
He had made the conversion to the ‘pen with the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Rainiers in 1961, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, opposing the move at first until he was told by manager Johnny Pesky it would get him to the big leagues faster.
He made the club in spring training in 1962 and set the American League on its collective ear with his power stuff in relief.
Radatz finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting after going 9-6 with a 2.24 ERA and 1.083 WHIP, leading the AL with 62 appearances, 53 games finished and would have led the league with 24 saves, striking out 144 in just 124.2 innings with an ERA+ of 185.
He was an All-Star the next two seasons, racking up 31 wins and 52 saves and set a major league record in 1964 that still stands with 181 strikeouts as a reliever. Radatz also finished fifth in the MVP voting in 1963.
But Radatz worked in 207 games for 414 innings and faced almost 1,700 hitters in those three seasons — a huge workload for a guy making multiple appearances a week — and his effectiveness quickly waned.
His ERA shot up to 3.91 in 1965 and in June 1966 he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Don McMahon and Lee Stange after surrendering 10 runs in 19 innings over 10 appearances.
In parts of five seasons with Boston, Radatz was 49-34 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.136 WHIP in 286 appearances, with 102 saves (unofficially) and 627 strikeouts in 557.1 innings.
By 1968, he was out of the majors, spending the entire season at Triple-A Toledo, before getting a shot with the Detroit Tigers and expansion Montreal Expos in 1969. Released by the Expos in August 1969, his career was over.
Radatz worked a number of jobs after baseball, including as a weekly radio host, before moving back to the Boston area in the mid-1980s. He remained there, working at a packaging company, before returning to baseball as a pitching coach for an independent league team in Lynn, Massachusetts.
He had that job for two seasons and was expected to return in 2005, but he died after he fell down a flight of stairs at home and hit his head on a concrete floor. He was 67 at the time of his March 16, 2005 death.