Rick Reuschel had been the ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff for almost a decade when the Yankees acquired him in exchange for a pretty decent reliever named Doug Bird on June 12, 1981. What was especially weird about the deal was the timing. The Yankees’ 1981 season had been halted after the team’s game on June 11th due to a player strike. Although the season would resume a couple of months later, at the time the Reuschel deal was made, few expected Major League Baseball to be played again that year.
Although Reuschel had had several very good seasons with the Cubs, his pre-strike performance during the ’81 season had not been good. When the work stoppage occurred, the record of the right-hander known as “Big Daddy” was just 4-7. Still, he had won 125 games for Chicago during his first nine seasons with the team and to be able to get him for Bird seemed at the time to be a steal for New York. That’s not how it turned out, unfortunately.
Reuschel did get to pitch in pinstripes the year of the trade, when play resumed in August of ’81. He went 4-4 with a very good ERA of 2.67. He then appeared in three more games during the Yankees 1981 postseason, which included a decently pitched loss against the Brewers in the ALDS and two less than impressive appearances against the Dodgers in that year’s World Series. Yankee fans never again got to see him pitch in a Yankee uniform.
When pitchers reported to the Yankees’ 1982 spring training camp, Reuschel was not one of them. The Yankee front office had discovered that the pitcher’s contract with the Cubs had a deferred payment clause that stretched payments to Reuschel all the way out to the year 2020. Citing the Yankee team owners’ partnership agreement expiration date of 2002, lawyers for the club claimed the organization could not agree to make those payments and needed to restructure the deal. Reuschel protested by not showing up to spring training and eventually the matter was worked out with a two-year contract extension at $280,000 per year. It was the worst $560,000 investment the team ever made.
That’s because when Reuschel did finally show up at spring training, he tore or had already torn his rotator cuff. The injury and the surgery to repair it, kept him from pitching the entire 1982 season and limited his performance in 1983 to just 16 innings of pitching with New York’s Columbus Clippers farm team. The Yankees released him in June of 1984. He worked his way back into shape and once again became a very good big league starter with both the Pirates and Giants.
|CHC (12 yrs)||135||127||.515||3.50||358||343||9||65||17||3||2290.0||2365||1007||891||140||640||1367||1.312|
|SFG (5 yrs)||44||30||.595||3.29||96||90||2||12||3||1||601.0||600||236||220||38||141||283||1.233|
|PIT (3 yrs)||31||30||.508||3.04||91||85||4||22||6||1||586.2||548||227||198||39||144||343||1.180|
|NYY (1 yr)||4||4||.500||2.67||12||11||1||3||0||0||70.2||75||24||21||4||10||22||1.203|