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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Rich Gale made seven ML seasons, later coached; Survived 1981 Kansas City hotel walkway collapse

Originally published Jan. 3, 2014
It was his rookie season in 1978 and Rich Gale had just thrown a complete-game shutout, against the Boston Red Sox.

"I was just trying to throw the ball where I had to," Gale told the Associated Press after that July game.

Gale went on to record a 14-8 record for the Royals that year, the first of his seven total major league seasons, and two in Japan.

His playing career over, Gale went on to a long career as a coach in the minors and the majors, trying to show young pitchers how to put the ball where it was needed.

Along the way, Gale also faced tragedy. During the 1981 baseball strike, Gale was tending bar at a downtown Kansas City hotel when two walkways collapsed, killing 114. Gale was uninjured and did what he could in the aftermath.

Gale's career in baseball began in 1975, taken by the Royals in the fifth round of the draft, out of the University of New Hampshire.

Gale debuted in Kansas City in April 1978, making AA Jacksonville and AAA Omaha the previous year.

He ended that rookie season with a 3.09 ERA, along with those 14 wins. He also came in fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting. He then had a slower sophomore season, going 9-10, with a 5.65 ERA.

Going into 1980, Gale told the AP he had been working on getting himself back to his 1978 form, by working in front of a mirror.

"I was going through my windup slowly to see where my hands are and stopping every now and then to check," Gale told the AP that February. "I threw one day in the caravan with John Wathan. He came up afterward and he could see a big difference."

And Gale did return to form. He went 13-9 on the year, with a 3.92 ERA. He also helped the Royals to the 1980 World Series. Gale pitched in Game 3 and the deciding Game 6. Gale's one earned run in Game 6 was enough for him to get the loss in the deciding game.

Gale went on to play in four more seasons, but never pitched that well again. He last played in the majors in 1984, with the Red Sox. He then moved to Japan for two seasons, with the Hanshin Tigers.

Gale's brush with tragedy came in 1981, during the baseball strike. Gale was serving as a bartender at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center when two skywalk bridges inside collapsed during a dance, killing 114. Gale was uninjured, but could do little.

On the 10-year anniversary of the disaster, Gale told the AP how seemed to unfold like a movie, but it wasn't.

"My father's a doctor and my mother's a nurse so I could handle what I was confronted with," Gale told the AP in 1991. "But there was just tons of material. It was probably the most helpless feeling I've ever had, not being able to do anything."

Gale spoke then having gone on to his new career as a coach. By then, he was pitching coach at AAA Pawtucket. By 1992, he was pitching coach in Boston.

Gale stayed in Boston for two seasons, then returned to the minors, coaching at various levels there. He is most recently credited as coaching in 2011 for AAA Nashville.

In 2010, Gale spoke to a Nashville baseball historian on about his, including his time in the majors. In Boston, Gale wasn't simply working with young pitchers, he was working with established major leaguers, including Roger Clemens.

"You try to learn what they are doing when they are going well," Gale told "You might notice that their tempo is a little fast or their leg is stiffing out a little too far. Your hands are breaking a little too late. People say, 'what do you tell Roger Clemens?' I say, 'you are pitching on Sunday, big guy.'"

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