by Mark Tomasik, a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, dedicated to providing insights into Cardinals history.
After six seasons in the minors, Chris Richard got called up to the Cardinals and, on the first pitch he saw, showed he belonged in the major leagues.
Twenty years ago, on July 17, 2000, at Minneapolis, Richard hit a home run in his first plate appearance in the big leagues. It came on the first pitch of the second inning from Twins starter Mike Lincoln.
A left-handed batter who played first base and the outfield, Richard, 26, lasted two weeks with the Cardinals, but went on to play in the majors for five seasons.
Prospect with power
Richard was at Oklahoma State University when he was chosen by the Cardinals in the 19th round of the June 1995 amateur baseball draft. Multiple injuries, including a left shoulder tear requiring rotator cuff surgery, slowed his progress in the Cardinals’ system.
In 1999, Richard was injury-free for the first time in nearly two years and produced a successful season. At Arkansas, he led the club in home runs (29) and RBI (94) and batted .294.
With Memphis in 2000, Richard had 16 home runs and 75 RBI before he was called up to the Cardinals in July to fill in for outfielder J.D. Drew, who went on the disabled list because of a severely sprained left ankle.
On the day Richard joined the Cardinals at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, manager Tony La Russa put him in the starting lineup as the left fielder, batting seventh.
After the Cardinals sent six batters to the plate in the first inning, Richard got his first chance to bat as the leadoff man in the second.
The first pitch to him was a fastball in the middle of the strike zone and Richard drove it to right-center. Twins center fielder Jacque Jones raced back in pursuit and reached over the short fence.
“I thought he was going to get it,” Richard told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Instead, the ball cleared the fence just before Jones tried to grab it with his glove. As the umpires signaled a home run, “I think I was just floating,” Richard said. “It was just unreal.” Video
Retired Twins outfielder Kirby Puckett later approached Richard and needled him. “If I had been playing center field, you’d have been 0-for-1,” Puckett said.
Dream come true
Richard became the fourth Cardinals player, and the second in two weeks, to hit a home run in his first plate appearance in the majors. Catcher Keith McDonald achieved the feat on July, 4, 2000.
Since then, several others have done it for the Cardinals. The complete list:
_ Eddie Morgan, pinch-hitter, April 14, 1936, vs. Cubs.
_ Wally Moon, center fielder, April 13, 1954, vs. Cubs.
_ Keith McDonald, pinch-hitter, July 4, 2000, vs. Reds.
_ Chris Richard, left fielder, July 17, 2000, vs. Twins.
_ Gene Stechschulte, pinch-hitter, April 17, 2001, vs. Diamondbacks.
_ Hector Luna, second baseman, April 8, 2004, vs. Brewers.
_ Adam Wainwright, pitcher, May 24, 2006, vs. Giants.
_ Mark Worrell, pitcher, June 5, 2008, vs. Nationals.
_ Paul DeJong, pinch-hitter, May 28, 2017, vs. Rockies.
_ Lane Thomas, pinch-hitter, April 19, 2019, vs. Mets.
“You dream about that kind of stuff, but for it to happen, it’s unbelievable,” Richard said.
Richard had two hits and two walks in 18 plate appearances for the Cardinals before Drew came off the disabled list. Richard was assigned to Memphis when on July 29, 2000, the Cardinals traded him and pitcher Mark Nussbeck to the Orioles for reliever Mike Timlin.
The Orioles projected Richard as a player to help them rebuild. “We really hate to give him up,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the Post-Dispatch.
Viewing the trade as an opportunity to stick in the majors, Richard said to the Baltimore Sun, “I’ll have the chance to get some at-bats and get into some games. This team is going through a transition and it’s an atmosphere where we can kind of grow as a team.”
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove welcomed Richard, but told the Sun he was struggling to remember the newcomer’s name: “I told him, ‘I’m going to keep calling you Keith Richards for a while. Don’t get upset when it happens. I’m not even a fan of the Rolling Stones.”
Richard soon made a name for himself with the Orioles, hitting 13 home runs and batting .276 in 56 games in 2000. The next year, he led the Orioles in doubles (31) and tied for the club lead in home runs (15).
Besides the Cardinals and Orioles, Richard also played for the Rockies and Rays.
The full article may be found at RetroSimba.com. A big thanks to him for celebrating an exciting day in Chris' career!