The 1995 Philadelphia Phillies finished in second place in the National League East Division. This was just two years after their magical NL pennant-winning campaign and the season following baseball’s bitter, season-shortening and World Series-canceling strike.
Although the ’95 Phillies finished in second place they were not a very good ball club. The team finished with a losing 69-75 record in a season that began late after the strike was finally resolved.
This Phillies team had many of the same familiar faces still on board as those 1993 National League champions except in one key area, the pitching staff. It was that mostly lousy pitching combined with little power that would doom them to a losing record.
One pitcher who was not at all lousy for those 1995 Phillies was a right-hander who I had absolutely no recollection of, and whom I bet the vast majority of you would say the same. That would be a guy by the name of Chuck Ricci.
In that 1995 season Ricci would appear in the only seven big-league games of his career. And with the success that he enjoyed you would wonder why that was so.
Ricci is a native of the Philly area. Born in Abington, Pennsylvania he had been a fourth round choice of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1987 MLB Draft out of Shawnee High School in Medford, New Jersey.
Offered a full scholarship to play at the University of Hawaii, Ricci decided instead to sign and begin his professional career. That career would ultimately last 11 seasons, but only one month of that was spent in Major League Baseball.
Ricci languished in the Orioles farm system for seven long years where he would ultimately reach Triple-A but never get a taste of the big-league life. Following the 1993 season he became a free agent and in April of 1994 signed with the team he had followed as a kid growing up, the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies used him at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in that 1994 season. Then in 1995 he would enjoy his best year as a pro with the Red Barons. That success led to his promotion when rosters were expanded in September.
On September 8, 1995, manager Jim Fregosi decided to give Ricci his first opportunity in Major League Baseball. With the Phillies already getting blown out by an 11-1 score after just four innings at Veterans Stadium by the visiting Houston Astros, Fregosi sent the 26-year-old to the mound.
Ricci ate up three innings that Friday night, allowing one run on two hits while striking out one and walking two batters. He recorded his first career strikeout in the top of the 5th inning by getting future Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell swinging on three pitches. Ricci was finally lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 7th inning, a 23-year-old rookie named Mike Lieberthal.
On September 23 at The Vet against the visiting Cincinnati Reds, Ricci would pitch one shutout frame and was credited with the win in a 3-2 Phillies victory. It would be his lone big-league decision.
Overall he pitched in the seven games, allowing nine hits over 10 innings with a 9/3 K:BB ratio. He finished with a 1-0 record, 1.80 ERA, and 1.200 WHIP mark.
He once again became a free agent that off-season, and this time decided to try his luck with the Boston Red Sox, signing there as a free agent on the day after Christmas in 1995. He pitched in their minors system during the 1996 season, but despite pitching well at Triple-A was never given a shot in Boston.
After one final 1997 season split unsuccessfully between the farm systems of the Montreal Expos and Oakland A’s at age 28, Ricci finally decided to hang up his spikes.
Ricci was hired as a scout by the Cleveland Indians, working in that role from 2000-03. While working as a national cross-checker with the Tribe in 2012, Baseball America named him at #5 on their Top 10 future scouting directors list.
“His evaluation skills are very, very good. His work ethic is extremely good and he has the ability to manage people,” Indians scouting director Brad Grant said per Conor Glassey of Baseball America.
“So he’s put himself in that position to be able to take that next step. He’s really learned that it’s more than just the evaluation side of it. He now has the understanding and the ability to incorporate a lot of different information and apply it into a decision. He’s always got the big picture in mind and he brings a lot of information into his decisions.”
Ricci has remained working in the scouting business ever since. He is currently a national cross-checker with the Tampa Bay Rays. Oh, and he jumps out of airplanes too…