Days of Yankees Past: Dave Righetti


Here at Yanks Go Yard, we are always looking for new and fresh ways to bring you, our loyal reading audience, content you enjoy. It doesn’t always have to be the latest rumors or news, nor editorial rantings of a crazy person, but sometimes, we love reading about players we enjoyed from another era and time. For a guy like me, having grown up in the 1980s and early part of the 1990s, I have my personal favorites, and today’s debut in our Days Of Yankees Past-yes, a play on the recent X-Men film, is none other than this weekend’s birthday boy, former Yankees’ closer, Dave Righetti. Rags recently won his third World Series as pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants, so it seemed only natural to celebrate his birthday, and recognize his recent accomplishments. Be sure to check back throughout the month of December, as all of us at Yanks Go Yard will take our crack at profiling our favorite past Yankees! 

More from Yankees News

Righetti started his professional career in the Texas Rangers’ organization, along with his older brother Steve. George Steinbrenner and Rangers’ owner Brad Corbett swung a deal in late 1978 that sent former Cy Young winning reliever Sparky Lyle to Texas in exchange for several minor leaguers, Righetti being the focus of the deal. Rags almost didn’t even make it to the Bronx, as a deal the following year would’ve sent him to Minnesota in exchange for Hall of Fame second baseman and hitting machine, Rod Carew. Righetti had previously made his big league debut during the 1979 season, pitching 5 innings against the Detroit Tigers.

After struggling with his control during spring training, 1980, Rags spent most of the season in Columbus with the Clippers. He was brought back up for good in 1981, but not before starting the season once again in Columbus. After starting out 5-0, the Yankees promoted the rookie left-hander back up to the big club in May. Righetti was impressive, finishing his season with an 8-4 record and a 2.01 ERA. Rags was voted the 1981 American League Rookie of the Year, and it seemed the Bombers had their next “Ron Guidry.”

Righetti had a putrid spring training in 1982, recording an ERA of over 8.50. The Boss, George Steinbrenner thought it best to send him back to Columbus to work out the kinks, but as he later stated, he was “outvoted.” Rags wasn’t able to duplicate his ROY outing, going only 5-5 with an ERA of 4.23. A disappointing season for everyone involved. The following season, was the highlight of Righetti’s career as a starting pitching. On the Boss’ birthday in 1983, Righetti tossed a no-hitter against the bitter rival Boston Red Sox. He struck out future Hall of Famer and Yankees’ third baseman, Wade Boggs to end the contest.

In 1984, with Rich Gossage jumping ship for San Diego to join the Padres, the Yankees made the decision to move Righetti to the bullpen, where he earned the closer’s job in spring training. The move turned out to be a stealth one for the Bombers, as Righetti became one of the most durable and effective closers in all of baseball, averaging over 30+ saves in each of his next seven years anchoring the Bombers’ bullpen. In 1986, Righetti set the Major League record for saves in a single-season with 46. The record has since been broken by the likes of Bobby Thigpen and later Francisco Rodriguez.

Righetti, along with many of the core of the Yankees’ teams of the 1980s, began to wonder where the team was heading, as several young prospects were dealt for over the hill, well past their prime veterans, and the team began to go backwards. Righetti was in the middle of a three-year deal that would end after the 1990 season. With the Yankees dismantling the core that saw the earlier departures of Willie Randolph and Rickey Henderson, and the trades of both Dave Winfield and Jack Clark, all that remained were he and Captain Don Mattingly. When all was said and done, only Mattingly withstood the tearing apart of the team that won more games in the decade of the 1980s than any other franchise.

By the time Righetti became a free agent, everyone he knew as a teammate was now gone, and he felt it was time for him to move on as well. He signed with his current employer, the San Francisco Giants for the next three seasons. By the time that contract was over, so was Rags’ dominance as a closer. He even made a spot start for the Giants during the 1993 season. After leaving San Francisco, Righetti bounced around from the Oakland A’s to the Toronto Blue Jays and finally with the Chicago White Sox. Righetti briefly held the big league record for most saves by a left-handed closer, until John Franco surpassed him in 1994. Rags called it a career in 1995 after being released by the ChiSox.

Five years after his retirement, he took his current role with the Giants as their pitching coach. He has led his pitching staff to four World Series appearances, with three titles. Righetti continues to be considered one of the top pitching coaches in the game today, but his legend as one of the Yankees’ all-time great closers has never diminished. This weekend, Rags turned 56 years old. We here at Yanks Go Yard want to send Rags, belated birthday wishes!