The Royals lost two members of their family this month, with former outfielder Richie Scheinblum and pitcher Joe Beckwith both passing away in the month of May. Scheinblum played for the Royals in 1972 and 1974, earning an All-Star nod in his first year with the club. Beckwith was a versatile right-handed reliever who was part of division-winning clubs in 1984 and 1985, earning a championship ring with the team in 1985.
Richard Alan Scheinblum was born in New York City and attended Long Island University where he played baseball, basketball, and track and field. The Cleveland Indians signed him in 1964 at the age of 21 as a switch-hitting outfielder, and by the end of ‘65 he was in the big leagues for a cup of coffee.
“My first season in the minors [in Burlington, N.C.], my roommate said, ‘Would you mind if I touch you?’ Then he phones his parents and said, ‘They don’t have hair all over their body.’ He’d never seen a Jew before,” Scheinblum said.
Scheinblum shuttled between Cleveland and the minors over the next few seasons, surviving a harrowing experience in winter ball in Nicaragua. He stuck in the big leagues in 1969, spending a year as a fourth outfielder for the Indians. The Washington Senators purchased him in 1970, and he was back in the minors, hitting .388 with 25 home runs for Triple-A Denver. There was a knock on him that he was a slow starter. Later, it was discovered that he was unusually sensitive to cold weather, perhaps the cause of his poor hitting in the early months.
Really, all Scheinblum needed was an opportunity. The Royals gave him that opportunity when they purchased him after the 1971 season.
“We know that Richie did not hit too well in previous major league trials, but he is coming off a phenomenal year and we feel this is a good gamble. He may be maturing as a hitter and we’ll give him every opportunity to win a job. His arm is strong enough for right field, a position that right now certainly is up for grabs.”
-Royals General Manager Cedric Tallis
Scheinblum had a bench role the first month, but in May, the Royals shipped outfielder Bob Oliver to the Angels and made Scheinblum the starter. Once the weather warmed up, Scheinblum turned it on, hitting .386 in the month of June. By mid-season, he was leading the American League in batting average and was one of five Royals named to the All-Star team.
Scheinblum did not have big-time power, but this was an era where his eight home runs were good enough for fifth on the club. Although he had a strong arm, Scheinblum was considered a bit of a defensive liability.
“Amos [Otis] covered everything. I was told to stand on the right field line and don’t move. Lou [Piniella] was told to stand on the left-field line and don’t move. What our job was, when the ball was hit, we’d point.”
What he did provide was a high-contact approach that led to a high batting average. He had a chance to win a batting title, going into late August virtually tied with A’s outfielder Joe Rudi, an amazing turn of events for a guy that was grinding as a journeyman in Triple-A the previous season.
“Anybody would like to win it, but it does not matter if you hit .395 and your club doesn’t win ball games.”
A September swoon due to a foot injury would put him at exactly .300, good for sixth-best in the league. His .383 on-base percentage was fifth-best in the league and he struck out just 40 times in 520 plate appearances.
The Royals were moving into a new artificial turf field for 1973, and needed more speed in their outfield. Despite his breakout season, Scheinblum was traded with pitcher Roger Nelson to the Reds for pitcher Wayne Simpson and an oft-injured reserve outfielder named Hal McRae. McRae would become one of the greatest designated hitters of all-time and a clubhouse leader for several Royals post-season clubs.
Scheinblum would spend just 29 games with the Reds before they traded him to the Angels. In 1974, the Royals re-acquired him in exchange for veteran third baseman Paul Schaal, to make room for young star George Brett. Scheinblum would spend 36 games with the Royals that year, hitting .181. They sold him to St. Louis the next year, where he played in just six games. The journeyman continued his journey to the east - Far East. He spent the next two seasons playing for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, winning a title.
In 1976, Scheinblum tore his Achilles, effectively ending his career at age 33. He ran a successful jewelry business in California and his son Monty became a golf pro.
On May 13, his family announced he had died this month at the age of 78.
It is with extreme sadness that we share that our brother Richie Scheinblum passed away peacefully on May 10, 2021 after a long illness. Richie is survived by two brothers and two sisters, a son and daughter in law, two grand children, and many nieces, nephews and cousins, and more friends than one could imagine. The consummate story teller with a great sense of humor, Richie will be missed by family, friends, and fans. Please keep Richie in your thoughts and prayers. If you are inclined to want to do more, please consider a memorial contribution to MLB B.A.T. The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization that confidentially supports members of the Baseball Family in need of financial, medical and psychological assistance. Contributions may be made at: https://www.mlb.com/baseball-assistance-team Sincerely, Randi, Rafe, Robin and Robert
Thomas Joseph Beckwith was born in Opelika, Alabama, and was a standout at Auburn High School. He tossed a perfect game in the playoffs and led his team to the state championship series.
He attended nearby Auburn University and became one of the most acclaimed pitchers in school history. He tossed a no-hitter his junior year and helped lead the Tigers to a College World Series in 1976. He turned down the Cleveland Indians to return to Auburn for his senior year, and became a second-round pick by the Dodgers in 1977.
The right-hander skipped A ball and went straight to Double-A, posting a 3.35 ERA in 12 starts for San Antonio. By 1979, he was in the big leagues with the Dodgers at age 24. In 1980, he posted a career-best 1.96 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. But his career was derailed in the spring training of 1981. When tossing batting practice without a screen, Beckwith jerked his head to avoid a line drive. He began experiencing double vision after that, a condition that caused him to miss the entire season.
After two surgeries, Beckwith returned to serve as an effective reliever for the Dodgers the next two seasons, getting his first taste of post-season action in 1983 against the Phillies in the NLCS. The Royals liked his arm, and sent three minor leaguers to the Dodgers in exchange for Beckwith after the 1983 season. The Royals were hoping to convert him back to a starter, but when they had a crop of young starters emerge in 1984, Beckwith was back in the pen as a trusted reliever.
Beckwith pitched in 100 2⁄3 innings in 1984 with a 3.40 ERA and his 1.4 WAR were in the top 20 of all American League relievers that year. He made 98 relief appearances between 1984 and 1985 with the Royals, second on the club only to Dan Quisenberry. In the 1985 World Series, the Royals used only two relievers the entire series - Quiz and Beckwith. He pitched two shutout innings with three strikeouts in Game Four, and won his only title with the Royals that year.
The Royals let him go after the season and after he failed to make the Toronto Blue Jays’ roster in spring training, he signed on with the Dodgers for 18 1⁄3 innings before ending his career. He continued to coach youth baseball back in his home state of Alabama and was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. Auburn celebrated Joe Beckwith Day this spring, with the Auburn pitching great returning despite battling colon cancer. Sadly, he finally succumbed to cancer over the weekend at the age of 66.
Rest in peace, Richie and Joe.