Some of the Top Cards of 1976

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1976 Topps #445 - Rico Petrocelli

  • Rico Petrocelli was a popular shortstop and third baseman with the Boston Red Sox. He was one of those rare players who spent every year of a long career with the same club. Rico had the famous "Fenway Stroke" which yielded lots of home runs over the years. Petrocelli was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1961. After playing in the minors from 1962-1964 Rico became the starting shortstop in 1965. Rico had throwing problems because of a chronic right elbow problem and he played in only 103 games, batting .232 with 13 home runs.
  • Petrocelli wasn't a favorite of Red Sox manager Billy Herman. Things came to a head when Rico left in the middle of a game to take care of a family emergency. Herman wanted Rico suspended, but he was fined instead. Petrocelli spent some time on the disabled list because of his elbow, but he still batted .238 with 18 HR in 139 games in 1966.
  • New Red Sox manager Dick Williams had more success in working with Petrocelli. Rico was insecure until Williams and coach Eddie Popowski came along and gave him confidence. A turning point in the Red Sox' "Impossible Dream" season came on June 21 when the Red Sox and Yankees had a benches-clearing brawl. Petrocelli and the Yankees' Joe Pepitone really went at it and it took several security guards to get them apart. The Red Sox went 60-39 in the remainder of the season. Rico batted .259 with 17 HR and 66 RBI. Petrocelli was also the starting shortstop in the All Star Game (he went 0 for 1). He struggled in the World Series (.200 in 20 AB), but he hit two home runs in game 6. Red Sox Balance Wheel - September 1967 Baseball Digest.
  • Rico's right elbow problem came back in 1968 and he missed 39 games. Petrocelli batted only .234 with 12 HR in 123 games. A Look at Rico - August 1968 Baseball Digest.  Rico gave up ice cream to prevent calcium deposits from forming on his elbow and exercised his arms and wrists during the offseason. He felt much better at the beginning of the 1969 season and he had his best year. Rico batted .297, hit 40 home runs (an AL record for shortstops at the time), and had 97 RBI. He was the starting shortstop in the 1969 All Star Game and went 1 for 3 with a double. Rico Petrocelli, Newest Minibrute in the Majors - September 1969 Baseball Digest
  • Petrocelli batted .261, hit 29 homers and had 103 RBI in 1970. After the season he was asked to move to third base in order for the Red Sox to acquire shortstop Luis Aparico. Rico agreed and put in extra work during spring training before the 1971 season. He set a record for third basemen with 77 consecutive errorless games and led AL third basemen with a .976 fielding percentage. Rico batted .251 with 28 HR and 89 RBI in 1971.
  • Rico's power started to fall off in 1972. He batted .240 with 15 HR and 75 RBI. It was his last injury-free season. In 1973 Petrocelli didn't play after August 11 because of his bad elbow. The Red Sox were 2 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles when Rico went down but they fell out of the race and finished 8 games behind. Rico batted .244 with 13 HR and 45 RBI.
  • Petrocelli had elbow surgery in the offseason. His elbow healed well, but Rico had hamstring problems that slowed him down early in 1974. He batted .267 with 15 HR and 76 RBI. Petrocelli was beaned by a Jim Slaton pitch on September 15 and missed the rest of the 1974 season.
  • Rico came back in 1975 but had problems with his equilibrium. His leadership was still important for the young Red Sox club. Petrocelli batted .239 with 7 HR and 39 RBI in 115 games. He batted .167 in the ALCS and .308 in the World Series.
  • Petrocelli had problems with side-effects from the inner-ear medication he was taking. He had to stop taking the medication. This affected his abilities at the plate and he eventually lost his 3B job to Butch Hobson. He was tried at second base but that move was unsuccessful. Rico batted .213 with 3 HR in 85 games in 1976.
  • Petrocelli was cut by the Red Sox during spring training in 1977. Rico wrote a column for the Boston Herald following the progress of the Red Sox. He also did a talk radio show. Rico spent some time in broadcasting and then went into business for a few years in the early 1980s. Petrocelli had two stints as a minor league manager (1986-1988 and 1992) and was a roving instructor for the Red Sox in the 1990s. Rico now runs Petrocelli Marketing Group based in Nausha, NH.
  • Liked to face: Al Fitzmorris (.414 in 29 AB); Casey Cox (.395 in 45 AB); John Hiller (.409 in 22 AB)
  • Hated to face: Dave LaRoche (.000 in 10 AB); Nolan Ryan (.057 with 21 strikeouts in 35 AB); Jim Slaton (.081 in 37 AB) 

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