The Wizard of Waxahachie
Paul Richards and the End of Baseball as We Knew It
by Warren Corbett
A Baseball Book Review
Paul Richards was a Texas-born baseball man, a life-long resident of Waxahachie. In a career that spanned most of the 20th Century, Richards held almost all the baseball jobs to be had on the field and in the front office.
On the field, he was what we’d today call a “AAAA player” – enjoying much more success in the minors than in the majors. He did play for the Dodgers, Giants and A’s in the early to mid-1930s; and he got a second chance as a wartime replacement with the Tigers in the 1940s (he was a member of the 1945 World Champion Detroit team).
But he was best known as a manager and executive both in the minors (Atlanta and Buffalo) and with struggling or new franchises in the majors (early ‘50s White Sox, late ‘50s Orioles, and expansion Houston). This book delves into his successes and problems as a manager and GM. Richards was one of the first to calculate and utilize the statistic that we now call on-base-percentage. He was an early adopter of pitch-counts and an early proponent of the five-man pitching rotation. He is credited with the invention of the jumbo catcher’s mitt for handling the knuckleball. Conversely, he clung to some outdated methods (such as advocating pulling teeth and removing tonsils to improve pitchers’ performance). His poor communication skills, coupled with a cold, stand-offish nature, were often criticized.
Richards’ interactions with baseball legends such as Connie Mack, Bill Veeck, and Judge Hofheinz make for interesting reading. The book delivers a balanced portrait of an innovative baseball man that was respected by many, despised by some, and loved by few. It’s a book that a Texas SABR member should enjoy.
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Book: The Wizard of Waxahachie
Author: Warren Corbett
Author’s Credentials: Corbett’s work appears in SABR’s biography project and National Pastime. He has also contributed to the Diamond; Go-Go to Glory: the 1959 Chicago White Sox; and Lefty, Double-X, and the Kid: The 1939 Red Sox.
Published: 2009, SMU Press; ISBN: 978-0-87074-556-0
Length: 430 pages
Price: Retail list – $35.00; Online – from $13.50 (used) + shipping.