loss of Ricketts
PITTSBURGH With an inexhaustible passion for teaching and the people he taught, Dave Ricketts molded several generations of catchers for the Cardinals, friends and pupils said Sunday after learning the longtime coach had died early that morning. He had turned 73 on Saturday.
Some called him Dave, most called him Mr. Ricketts, and Yadier Molina, sitting at his locker after the Cardinals' victory Sunday, said he "was like my dad."
because of him," Molina said. "He made me into a catcher.
I wasn't a catcher when I got here. I learned a lot from him. He was
like my dad, there for me since I was 17. He meant so much to me."
A catcher himself, Ricketts played for the Cardinals in the 1960s, winning a World Series with the club in 1967, and he finished his career in 1970 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He became a coach for the Pirates soon after and then rejoined the Cardinals in 1974. He served several seasons as a coach in the major leagues before becoming a minor-league catching instructor in 1991.
He was at spring training this year, working with catchers alongside one of his proteges, Mike Matheny, and with his current star, Molina.
"He could jump your butt if you weren't giving it all but pick you up all in the same sentence," said bullpen catcher Jeff Murphy, who met Ricketts as a just-drafted catcher in 1992. "Mr. Ricketts made you feel like you could do anything on that field if you were a catcher."
Born in Pennsylvania, Ricketts and his brother, Dick, starred at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. They both were on the 1955 NIT championship basketball team. Ricketts signed as a free agent with the Cardinals in 1957. After his debut in 1963, he settled into the role of backup or third-string catcher and then made his mark as a coach. In 1972, he was with Pittsburgh and played a part in pitcher Steve Blass' superstition.
Blass, now a Pirates broadcaster, would throw his warmup with Ricketts. Then Ricketts would report that he "had nothing, no chance, the ballclub was doomed if he goes out there."
Blass went 19-8.
"I've never seen a coach who has worked harder for whatever team he's involved with than Dave Ricketts. Ever," Blass said. "Totally dedicated. ... He had a zest for life that was part of his personal life, and, thank goodness, we are better because it spilled over into his professional life.
"He was a bright light in our game."
Blass and former teammate Mike Shannon described him as an influential, unyielding clubhouse presence. Several of the Cardinals' current coaches said they learned how to coach from watching Ricketts. Third-base coach Jose Oquendo called Ricketts a mentor and a "passionate teacher" who "didn't quit on anybody."
In the Cardinals organization, a Mount Rushmore of influential coaches includes George Kissell, the keeper of the Cardinal way to play, and Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst. Ricketts belongs in that category, many said Sunday. It was the young catchers who worked mostly with Ricketts, but the entire organization benefited from his zeal.
"Sometimes the word 'great' gets overused, and it's a shame," manager Tony La Russa said. "There have been some truly great Cardinals who have come through the organization, but I don't know anyone greater or more beloved than Dave Ricketts."
Added Shannon: "Typical Cardinal for life."