Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jeff Richardson, Family Man - 382

Originally published Jan. 27, 2011
As March closed in 1995, Jeff Richardson told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he never told anyone to participate or not to participate in replacement ball. He also wasn't one to judge.

"As for me," Richardson told The Post-Gazette after making the Pirates' replacement roster, "without a doubt, the No. 1 thing in my life is my family. This is the right thing to do for my family. They're most important, so that made it kind of an easy decision."

Also helping Richardson in his decision was that he knew he was at the close of his 10-year professional career, a career where he saw time in three major league seasons.

A Nebraska native, Richardson's career began in 1986, signed by the Reds in the seventh round of the draft. He signed after playing college ball at the University of Arkansas and Louisiana Tech.

He started that year at rookie league Billings, hitting .315 for the Mustangs. He made single-A Tampa and then AA Vermont in 1987. He made AAA Nashville and then Cincinnati in 1989.

He made his major league debut in July 1989, after Reds shortstop Barry Larkin went down with an elbow injury. Larkin was among a string of Reds injuries, requiring multiple AAA call-ups that summer.

"I know a lot of people, at least," Richardson told The Associated Press of his fellow call-ups. "That's one good thing about it."

Richardson went on to play in 53 games for the Reds that season, hitting two home runs but his batting average was just .168.

The next April, Richardson was traded to the Pirates. He spent the full season at AAA Buffalo, hitting .207 in just 66 games. He returned to the majors in 1991, playing six games that May for Pittsburgh.

Richardson was also looking forward to 1993, and the expanded playing opportunities that came with expansion.

"I think everyone at this level has to at least think about it," Richardson told The Beaver County Times in August 1991. "No one would be here if they didn't have at least some hope of making the major leagues. It's given a lot of guys in our situation hope that we can be one of the 50 extra guys they're going to need in 1993."

Richardson was still looking at expansion in spring 1992. Pittsburgh was set on its infield. Richardson was just working to be ready if the call came.

"If you're playing well (in the minor leagues), there's a chance you'll get called up," Richardson told The Post-Gazette that March. "My goal this year was to come to camp, take advantage of all the coaches and just improve."

Richardson's chance that year never came. He spent it back at AAA Buffalo. Traded to the Red Sox for 1993, did get back to the majors in the expansion year. Richardson's last chance came that April and May. He played 15 games for the Red Sox, going 5 for 24.

His last game came before he was put on the disabled list for back pain. He'd had the back pain for a while, but it had worsened, he told The Hartford Courant. He got nine games in at AAA Pawtucket, but his year and major league career were done.

Richardson returned for 1994, playing AAA ball with the Cardinals. He then returned for replacement ball with the Pirates. He played seven games that year at AAA for Pittsburgh, ending his playing career.

Richardson went on to a coaching career, managing 1997 at single-A Augusta. He then went to coach at the school he once played for, Louisiana Tech. He has since returned home to Grand Island, Neb., owning two sports bars.

At Louisiana Tech, Richardson, known as Whitey, served as head coach for four years, The AP wrote. He left the school then because he had a desire to return home to Nebraska.

"It's family, 100 percent family," Richardson told The AP. "That's the bottom line. My wife, her brothers, aunts, uncles, my parents all live in Grand Island, Nebraska."

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