Sometimes, it’s the trades that aren’t made that turn out to be the best. In 1979, Dave Righetti was clumped into a group of four players including Chris Chambliss that was nearly dealt to the Minnesota Twins for the legendary Rod Carew. Carew went on to finish his Hall of Fame career with the California Angels while Righetti reached superstardom for the New York Yankees.
Dave “Rags” Righetti was a first-round draft choice out of Bellarmine Prep High School by the Texas Rangers in 1977. Texas moved Righetti as part of a 10-player deal with the Yankees after the 1978 campaign. Righetti made his big league debut in 1979 for the Yanks and reached full-time major league status in 1981 when he posted a league-leading 2.05 ERA in 15 starts, earning him Rookie of the Year honors.
Righetti spent the next nine seasons in Yankee pinstripes and never saw his ERA rise above 3.80. After winning 11 contests in 1982 and 14 in 1983, Righetti was moved to the bullpen where he became an instant hit as the Yankees’ closer, notching 31 saves in 1984.
Righetti became an All-Star for the first time in 1986 and finished fourth in Cy Young voting after saving a league-high 46 ballgames for New York. He also managed to win eight games while working a 2.45 ERA. Righetti reached the All-Star Game again in 1987 while picking up 31 saves and grabbing the AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award for the second straight season.
At age 31, Righetti picked up another 36 saves for the Yankees in 1990 before signing with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent prior to the 1991 campaign. Righetti, a San Jose native, was back in his home state and responded by closing the door in 24 contests for the Giants. He spent two more years in San Francisco before hanging up the cleats after a couple seasons with Oakland, Toronto and the White Sox and subsequently retiring in November 1995 ending his 16-year career.
During Righetti’s 11th year as the pitching coach for the Giants one of his pupils, Jonathan Sanchez, became the first Giant in 33 years to toss a no-hitter in 2009. Righetti has been the pitching coach for the Giants Since 2000. He was a pitching coach with the pitching staff that won the 2010 and 2012 World Series.
Righetti retired with 252 career saves, at the time, the most ever by a lefty. He now resides in Los Altos, California with his wife and triplets.
He was inducted with the 2009-2010 class of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.