Dick Tidrow: Unsung Hero

Sometimes you have to do a little thinking before posting about a player from the past.  Other times, the topic finds you.  In this case, I happened to be glancing through my autographed copy of Ron Guidry‘s 1980 autobiography Guidry.  One of the names that popped out at me was Dick Tidrow, nicknamed “Dirt”, a relief pitcher who enjoyed the finest years of his career with the New York Yankees from 1974 to 1979.   In his book, Guidry recalled how it was Tidrow and Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle that made him one of the dominant pitchers of the late 1970’s through the mid 1980’s.  Lyle taught Guidry how to throw a slider which became one of the most fearsome pitches of the day.  Guidry gives credit to Dirt for teaching him how to pitch.  Tidrow would emphasize to “Louisiana Lightning” the importance of setting up a hitter, to keep them guessing.  Dirt’s philosophy to Guidry was simply “pitch ’em low and bust ’em high”.  Without Tidrow and Lyle, Guidry states, “I wouldn’t be anything”.

Dick Tidrow during his heyday with the Yankees.  Image:  www.dailynews.com

Dick Tidrow during his heyday with the Yankees. Image: http://www.dailynews.com

Dick Tidrow first appeared in the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Indians in 1972.  In his rookie season, he won 14 games while registering a 2.77 ERA, really good numbers for a team that won only 72 times.  On April 26th, 1974 he was part of one of the all-time great Yankee trades as he and first baseman Chris Chambliss went from Cleveland to the Bronx for Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, Steve Kline and Fritz PetersonThis was one of many trades that propelled New York to three pennants and two World Series championships from 1976-1978. During his time with the Yanks, Tidrow was a valuable member of the pitching staff assuming every role on the team.  1977 was perhaps his best season as he won 11 games and saved five more in 49 total games.  He started seven games and finished 26 others, pitching 151 innings on the season with a 3.16 ERA.  The next year, injuries wrecked the starting rotation and Dirt was called on to start 25 games, completing four of them.  On May 22, 1979 during a typical George Steinbrenner panic move (as told in Bill Madden’s book, Steinbrenner), Tidrow allowed a 12-0 game to become 12-8 while pitching in relief.  Steinbrenner ordered Dirt to be traded immediately.  He was dealt the next day to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Ray Burris. He would retire in 1984 with a career record of 100 wins, 94 losses and a 3.68 ERA.

Today, Tidrow is the Director of player personnel for the San Francisco Giants.  He is beginning his 19th year with the organization and has been instrumental in the Giants’ World Series wins in 2010 and 2012.  Their farm system has compiled the highest winning percentage in baseball over the past seven years.  Whether it is on the mound or in the front office, Dick Tidrow has proven to have a tremendous knowledge of the game of baseball.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

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One comment

  1. Jim

    Tidrow seems like one of those pitchers that would have thrived in the more structured pitching system that exists today. He could be dominant, but being thrown out there in all kinds of situations with no set role just used up a lot of good arms back in the day.

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