The 76th Greatest Royal is Rich Gale
Rich, seen here before his bartending days
Rich Gale was a terrific right handed rookie pitcher for the Royals 1978 American League West Division winner. Unfortunately he never again achieved the kind of success he experienced that season. He spent seven seasons in the big leagues - four with the Royals - and won fifty six games, fourteen of which came his rookie season.
Rich was taken in the fifth round of the 1975 draft by the Royals out of the University of New Hampshire. In 1976 he won eleven games with a 3.47 ERA at Class A Waterloo, although his walk totals were high. The next season he was promoted to AA Jacksonville where he posted a 3.60 ERA in 80 innings pitched, before being promoted to AAA Omaha where he posted a 3.68 ERA in 71 innings pitched.
Rich began 1978 in Omaha, but by the end of April, he was making his Major League debut - a seven inning shutout victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. By August 6, he was fourth in the league with a 2.59 ERA with a 13-3 record. He would drop five of his last six decisions to finish 14-8, but that still led all AL rookies in wins. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year balloting, and even received two MVP votes.
"When I won my first five, I knew that I wasn't going to have to worry about staying with the team for the rest of the season. And that kind of confidence meant an awful lot."
The Royals faced the hated New York Yankees for the third consecutive season in the American League Championship Series, and for the third year in a row, the Yankees were victorious. Gale did not appear in the four game series.
With such a great rookie campaign, hopes were high for Gale in 1979. Gale gave up six runs in back to back games in early April in Boston and Toronto to get off to a shaky start. He settled down with over twenty-three innings without an unearned run over three starts to start the month of May. Gale struggled much of the rest of the season and by September he was demoted to the pen to work out his problems. He finished the season with an awful 5.65 ERA with 99 walks and just 103 strikeouts in 181 innings.
Gale rebounded in 1980 with a 3.92 ERA, although his strikeout and walk totals remained awful. In 190 innings, he walked 78 while striking out just 97. He won thirteen games for a team that again won the American League Western Division. The Royals would again face the hated Yankees, but this time the Royals would prevail in a sweep, with Gale's services not even needed in the short series.
The Royals did call on Gale in Game Three of the 1980 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Gale would struggle in nearly every inning, but managed to keep the Royals in the ballgame and left in the fifth inning with the game tied at 2-2. The Royals would go on to win the game 4-3, their first win of the series, but ultimately it would not be in the cards for the Royals as they fell to the Phillies in six games.
Gale's strikeout-to-walk numbers would come back to haunt him again in 1981 as his ERA soared to 5.40 with 38 walk and 47 strikeouts in 101 innings. On June 12, the Players Union voted to go on strike. Several players found employment during the two month strike, and Gale found employment as a bartender at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Crown Center. On July 17, a hotel walkway at the Hyatt Regency collapsed, killing 114 people and injuring nearly 200 others. Gale escaped unharmed in what was at the time the worst structural disaster in American history.
After the season, the Royals finally parted ways with Gale and dealt him to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Jerry Martin. He would bounce around from the Giants to the Reds to his hometown Red Sox before going to Japan in 1985 and winning the deciding game of the Japan Series for the Hanshin Tigers.
Gale went on to pitch in the Senior Professional Baseball Association. He became a minor league pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox, before being promoted with the parent ballclub for the 1992-1993 seasons. He spent nearly a decade away from the game before recently getting back into coaching. This past season he was the pitching coach for the top minor league affiliate of the Florida Marlins.
As a kid from northern New Hampshire, the chances of me ever getting to play professional baseball, much less stick in the Major Leagues and experience some success were pretty slim, really. It was a boyhood dream, a Little League dream. So it was great to have that opportunity.