Bobby Richardson nearing 60 years of living the Yankees traditionRichardson debuted in 1955 and is still a fixture at Old-Timers' Day
A seven-time All-Star, Richardson played 12 seasons for the Yankees and won five Gold Gloves while manning second base from 1955-66, a period that saw the Bombers win nine American League pennants and four of their 27 World Series titles.
He played with some heavy hitters in that era – the 1955 team alone featured five Hall of Famers, and that’s not including Don Larsen and Elston Howard – but Richardson also played under some of the most revered skippers in Major League history as well.
“The first few years under Casey Stengel, I’m not sure he ever learned my name. He said ‘kid, do this’ or ‘kid, do that’ and I listened,” Richardson laughed. “But they were wonderful years with five pennants, and then Ralph Houk, who was with me my whole career, took over; he was my manager in the Minors, my manager in the Big Leagues, and then general manager. I don’t know of any man I respect more than Ralph Houk, who went in the Green Berets as a Private and came out a Major.”
After six years with Stengel and three with Houk, Richardson’s tenth season saw him enjoy a scenario that guys like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter enjoy today; he got to play for a former teammate and ex-MLB catcher, and that year gave him one last chance to see that truly, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
“In 1964, Yogi Berra was our manager, and we won the pennant on the next to last day of the season,” Richardson recalled. “So, I went to Yogi and asked him if he’d do me a favor and let me play shortstop in the last game; he said ‘okay Boo-Boo, you can play shortstop,’ and I did.”
That would be Richardson’s 21st and final career appearance at shortstop, as he was fortunate enough to play next to Tony Kubek almost his entire career – and when it comes to Kubek, Richardson recalled a memory from the final moments of the 1962 World Series that summed up the strong relationship the pair had, not just as a keystone combo but also as great friends.
“Tony and I had roomed together my whole career; so, with two outs, Willie Mays on second, and Alou on third, Ralph Houk went out to talk to Ralph Terry and I went over to second base to talk to Tony,” Richardson recalled. “He says to me, ‘I sure hope McCovey doesn’t hit the ball to you, you’ve already made one error and I’d hate to see you blow it now!’ I laughed and went back, and right before the final pitch, the umpire said to me ‘hey Rich, can I have your hat for my little cousin?’ Terry made the pitch, and I caught the ball, flipped the hat, and ran to the mound to give the ball to Ralph.”
That catch would give Richardson his last of four World Series titles, but it also gave his pitcher some redemption. Terry was the one who gave up the walk-off home run to Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, and according to Richardson – who was the MVP of that 1960 World Series and to this day remains the only player from a losing team to be World Series MVP – that moment in 1962 summed up the resilience that made the Yankees a true dynasty for the two decades following World War II.
“I think the fact that I caught the ball meant a lot to Ralph Terry,” he laughed, “but talk about a redemption, to come back after two years (after allowing the World Series-winning homer to Bill Mazeroski in 1960) in a somewhat similar situation and get the final out and be the MVP.”
All that was five decades ago now, but at 77 years young, Richardson still makes a pilgrimage to the Bronx every year, continuing to the part in an exhibition he first saw the alumni side of immediately following his final official season in pinstripes.
“I played my first Old-Timers’ game in 1967 when I was 31 years old,” he said, “and I’m 77 now, will be 78 in August, and it’s still a thrill to come back. Even in the new Stadium, the tradition and everything is still here.”
Richardson goes back to when Yankees Old-Timers’ Day brought in more than just legendary pinstripers, and he said those are some of his favorite moments in life.
“I’ve had a lot of memories, but I really go back to when Tris Speaker and Ty Cobb would come in and dress in our clubhouse,” he said. “That was a thrill for us as active players.”
Nowadays it’s all in the Yankees family, but Richardson says that makes it even better – and he’s even in the habit of doing a little scouting for his future trips, too.
“It’s changed now, but we as Old Timers get to come in and have the thrill of meeting the current players,” he said. “I feel like I’ve seen Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera a lot…man, I can’t wait until they’re on my team soon!”