SABR

Rich Dubee

This article was written by Charlie Bevis.

Selected in the third round of the June 1976 amateur draft, 18-year-old pitcher Rich Dubee, the 66th overall draft pick, looked forward to a successful career with the Kansas City Royals following his brilliant high-school career. However, after six years in the Royals’ minor-league system, Dubee washed out as a professional pitcher at the age of 24.

Undaunted by the experience, Dubee turned to developing pitchers as a pitching coach for the next 30 years. After apprenticing in his craft in the minor leagues, Dubee progressed up to the National League, where, most famously, he was the pitching coach for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 2008.

Richard Peter Dubee Jr. grew up in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, a town 30 miles south of Boston. Dubee was born on October 19, 1957, in a hospital in nearby Brockton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Dubee, Sr., a policeman, and his wife, Ruth. “I loved that it was a small town. People knew each other,” Dubee recalled of his youth in Bridgewater during a 2006 interview. “We played baseball all the time. I had a great dad, who, though we didn’t always get what we wanted, always made sure I had a baseball glove to play with.”1 According to his mother, “Rich loved to play sports. He’d go down to the field in the morning and not come home until late. When he was here, he’d play baseball in the yard. He broke more than his share of windows.”2

Dubee was a master at organizing pickup baseball games in Bridgewater when he wasn’t playing in a league contest. The author, three years older than Dubee, remembers Dubee riding his bicycle around the neighborhoods near the town’s Legion Field sports complex with a bat over his shoulder, glove hanging from the end of the bat, with a baseball in his pocket, recruiting boys for a ballgame. The author participated in a number of those pickup games, as an outfielder who chased down fly balls swatted by Dubee, who would often circle the basepaths before the ball reached home plate.

As a Little Leaguer, Dubee was already a better ballplayer than most of the boys who were two or three years older than he was. “I was fortunate to grow up there and play baseball there,” Dubee later recalled about his days in Bridgewater. “[My success] is a credit to the history of baseball in the town. It’s a credit to the Little League system, high-school and Legion system.”3

As a 12-year-old, Dubee completely dominated competition in the Bridgewater Little League during the 1970 season, as a shortstop and pitcher for the Bridgewater Tool team. The author, then 15 years old, was the official scorer and statistician for the league that season. Dubee rarely made an out as a hitter in 1970, compiling a .684 batting average at midseason to lead the league.4 In most of his at-bats that didn’t result in a base hit, Dubee reached base on either an error or a fielder’s choice. Illustrating his competitive nature, he often badgered the official scorer to change those scoring decisions to be a base hit in order to increase his batting average, even though no other player was remotely close to him in the batting-average standings.

While Dubee was a terror as a batter in Little League in 1970, he was also virtually unhittable as a pitcher, with an overpowering fastball. He was a thinking pitcher as a 12-year-old, not just a thrower, as he would mix in an occasional curveball, which made his fastball that much more intimidating. In his last two regular-season outings as a Little League pitcher, Dubee hurled consecutive no-hitters. The first no-hitter was a perfect game in which he struck out 16 of the 18 batters; he followed that up with an 18-strikeout performance in which a solitary walk spoiled a perfect game.5 The author recalls that after the game was over Dubee, ever the competitor, complained loudly to the umpire about that base on the balls call that eliminated his chance to pitch two consecutive perfect games.

He easily made the transition from the 46-foot pitching distance in Little League to the 60-foot 6-inch distance of the standard baseball diamond at Bridgewater’s Legion Field, as he focused on pitching and left the hitting to other players. In 1973 the 15-year-old Dubee played on the varsity baseball team at Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, bypassing both the freshman and junior-varsity teams. Many times that spring there would be a circus atmosphere at Legion Field as major-league scouts flocked to watch teammate Glenn Tufts, who would be a first-round draft choice later in the spring in the 1973 amateur draft. Dubee became the phenom-in-waiting.

As a freshman Dubee compiled an 8-0 record as a pitcher for the undefeated B-R Trojans, who were champions of the Old Colony League. In the 1973 Eastern Massachusetts Class B high-school baseball tournament, he turned the scouts’ attention away from Tufts when he pitched a three-hit shutout in the semifinal round. “Dubee may be only a freshman, but he pitched like a seasoned senior to lead B-R into the EMass Class B final against South Boston,” one writer noted of Dubee’s poise under pressure.”6 As Dubee later recalled: “Until that game I was getting away with throwing fastballs 85 percent of the time. In that one, I mixed my pitches with a combination of fastballs, curves, and changeups. I was pleased with the way things turned out, and I gained more confidence.”7

After B-R lost in the Class B finals, a Boston Globe columnist concluded his remarks about first-round-draft-choice Tufts by writing, “In Bridgewater, they’re already talking about a new phenom. ‘See that kid,’ said [Al] Warren. ‘Richard Dubee. Only a freshman. He’s gonna be some pitcher. You wait, two or three years, the scouts will be back.’ ”8 The scouts returned just one year later. As a sophomore in 1974, Dubee threw two no-hitters for B-R as he seemed destined to be a first-round choice as a senior in the June 1976 amateur draft. However, before his junior year on the mound for B-R, his affinity for pickup games caught up with him. Dubee hurt his right leg during a pickup basketball game, missed the first two weeks of the baseball season, and struggled with his pitching delivery since he was out of shape.9 His stock dropped a bit in the scouting community.

Dubee rebounded during his senior year at B-R in 1976, producing an 8-1 record with 115 strikeouts in 65 innings, while walking just 18 and yielding only 23 hits, to finish his four-year high-school career with a 28-6 pitching mark.10 “The pro scouts are very much impressed with Dubee’s good overhand arm motion,” B-R coach John “Hank” Pearson commented about the 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander at the time of the draft. “He gets good rotation on his breaking pitch. He’s also fast, though not overpowering. He knows how to pitch.”11

The Kansas City Royals selected Dubee in the third round of the June 1976 amateur draft.12 After considering a baseball scholarship to the University of North Carolina, he opted to play professional baseball. “I wanted to play pro ball and to try and make a career of it,” Dubee recalled later. “It seemed like a great opportunity.”13

Dubee had a stellar first season in minor-league baseball during the summer of 1976. The Royals assigned him to their rookie-league team in Sarasota, Florida, in the Gulf Coast League, where he compiled a 4-1 record in eight starts, before he was promoted to Waterloo in the Class A Midwest League, where he won both of his starts.14 After that auspicious beginning, though, Dubee struggled in 1977 while pitching for Daytona Beach in the Class A Florida State League, posting a 3-14 record and a 4.66 ERA in 27 games.

Despite that rough year at Daytona Beach, Kansas City promoted Dubee to its Jacksonville, Florida, team in the Double-A Southern League for the 1978 season. There, he had his best full minor-league season, finishing with a 12-9 record and a 3.44 ERA in 24 games. Still at Jacksonville in 1979, he declined to 8-13 and 4.84 ERA in 28 games. However, in his third season at Jacksonville, 1980, he rocketed to a 6-2 record in 12 games to earn a midseason promotion to the Royals’ Triple-A team in Omaha in the American Association. However, in nine starts at Triple-A, he posted a mediocre 2-4 record and 4.91 ERA; he also made six relief appearances for Omaha.

For the 1981 season, it was back to Jacksonville, where Kansas City converted Dubee into a reliever and spot starter. While he lacked the speed to be a starting-pitcher prospect for the major leagues, he did have the guile to possibly be a reliever. He compiled an 8-6 record in 33 games, 26 in relief (with 5 saves) and 7 as a starter. However, with Dan Quisenberry as an all-star closer with the Royals, Dubee did not fit into the Royals’ major-league plans. Kansas City released Dubee at the end of spring training in 1982.

“It was a frustrating time, for sure,” Dubee has said about his release that ended his dream to play in the major leagues.15 The Royals, though, saw some leadership ability in Dubee, beyond his pitching skills (career 45-49 minor-league record), and offered him a coaching position with Jacksonville for the 1982 season. He could have sought a minor-league pitching job with another team, but he accepted the coaching job.

“I knew I wanted to stay in the game. I had to accept that I didn’t have what it took to pitch to the best baseball players in the world,” Dubee recalled in 2006.16 “I thought I could probably pitch Triple-A baseball, but I’d have a real tough time getting a job in the big leagues,” he told another sportswriter.17 “Baseball has always been in my blood, that’s for sure. I wanted to stay involved in the game and I thought I had the ability to help people on the mound, between having knowledge of deliveries and being able to communicate.”18

With some stability with a baseball coaching career, Dubee was able to start a family. Dubee had married his high-school sweetheart, Maureen Carroll, in 1979. Their first child, daughter Megan, was born in 1983 and their son Michael was born in 1986.19 They grew up in the Dubee household in Sarasota, Florida, when their parents soon transplanted from Massachusetts.

After his initial year of coaching at Jacksonville in 1982, Dubee became a roving instructor before serving as pitching coach at Memphis (Double-A) in 1986 and 1987 and then Omaha (Triple-A) from 1988 to 1990.20 During those nine years, Dubee was most famous for throwing batting practice in Memphis to highly touted prospect Bo Jackson. “It’s kind of scary, the way the ball jumps off his bat,” Dubee told an Associated Press writer for a nationally syndicated article. “They say he’s awesome, and he is.”21 When longtime Kansas City general manager John Schuerholz resigned after the 1990 season to join the Atlanta Braves, Dubee also left the Royals when the new GM hired Pat Dobson to be the Royals pitching coach for the 1991 season rather than promote Dubee.

After Dubee was a pitching coach in the Montreal Expos farm system from 1991 to 1993, he left to joined the expansion Florida Marlins organization for the 1994 season as the pitching coach for their Edmonton, Alberta, team in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Following three years as the team’s minor-league pitching coordinator, an opening at the major-league level developed after the Marlins won the 1997 World Series, when pitching coach Larry Rothschild left to be the manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

It had taken 22 years since 18-year-old Dubee was a third-round draft choice as a high-school pitcher, but in 1998 the 40-year-old Dubee finally reached the major leagues as the pitching coach for Marlins manager Jim Leyland. “I like to look at it as a reward for 16 years as a minor-league coach,” Dubee said upon his appointment with the Marlins. “This is the ultimate goal. This is why people work so hard in the minor leagues, to get an opportunity in the majors.”22

In his first stint as a major-league pitching coach, Dubee became renowned for putting in 12-hour days, seven days a week, to do whatever it took to improve the pitching staff of his team. That included not only countless hours watching video and combing through reams of statistics, but also being bluntly honest with his pitchers. “Not that I’ve never butted heads with people. I have,” Dubee once described his management style. “Sometimes honesty is tough to absorb. But I think, once they get around you and who you are and how you act, I’m pretty much the same person every day.”23

By 2001, though, the Marlins’ competitive situation had deteriorated and at the end of the season they fired interim manager Tony Perez and all but one of the coaches. Dubee didn’t go quietly, as he displayed some of his renowned bluntness to sportswriters by ranting, “Whoever comes in to be the [next] manager, I wish him a lot of luck, because there’s a Benedict Arnold in the forces.”24

Dubee then joined the Philadelphia Phillies organization, first serving as the pitching coach for its Clearwater team in the Class A Florida State League for two years and at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Triple-A International League in 2004, before getting the call back to the big leagues. For the 2005 season, new Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tapped Dubee to be his pitching coach.

In his second tour of duty as a major-league pitching coach, Dubee continued to leverage his background and enhance the honesty of communications. “Having failed as a player helped me,” he said during spring training in 2005. “I could understand what guys go through when they’re scuffling, the ups and downs of the game. I think I can relate to guys who have problems, and we all have problems throughout the course of the season. Nobody goes through 162 games hitting on all cylinders.”25 Dubee also wanted his pitchers to embrace his own trademark honesty. “When we work on the side and I make suggestions, I know I’m not going to be right all the time. But I want them to be honest with me, and if something doesn’t feel good, then we’ll look for another solution. They won’t hurt my feelings.”26

Dubee helped Manuel bring a World Series championship to Philadelphia in 2008. “It was an underrated staff,” Dubee admitted. “They might have overachieved a little bit but they were underrated. [Jamie] Moyer won 16 games for us and was a leader in the clubhouse. [Cole] Hamels could be the premier left-hander in the National League for a number of years.”27 By 2009 Dubee was also the spring-training coordinator for the Phillies, organizing and planning the schedule for drills and practice sessions, as essentially Manuel’s right-hand man. “Rich Dubee is a big part of what we do here,” Manuel said in 2010. “I lean on Dubee more than people even realize.”28

Forty years after first impressing scouts as a high-school pitcher, with dreams of playing in the major leagues, Dubee was still at Manuel’s side as the Phillies pitching coach for the 2013 season, his ninth season in that role. Not many people get to have such a lengthy career in professional baseball. As Dubee has said many times during his career, “This is a great way to make a living. I have fun every day I come to the ballpark. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.”29

 

Sources

Peter Abraham, “Latest Chapter Written in Pen; Dubee Has Found Home in Philly,” Boston Globe, October 31, 2009.

Robert Carroll, “Dubee Pitching in as Phillies’ Coach,” Boston Globe, July 9, 2006.

Ray Fitzgerald, “Today a Phenom, Tomorrow …” Boston Globe, June 6, 1973.

Dan Graziano, “Patience Pays Off as Dubee Named Marlins Pitching Coach,” Palm Beach Post, November 9, 1997.

Dan Graziano, “Teacher Dubee Is Learning With His Students,” Palm Beach Post, May 8, 1998.

Andy Martino, “Phils’ Pitching Coach Is Manager’s Right-Hand Man,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 4, 2010.

David O’Brien, “Dubee Upset Over Taylor,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 8, 2001.

Bob Richards, “Dubee Is Royals’ Third Pick,” Brockton Enterprise, June 9, 1976.

Neil Singelais, “Rich Dubee: Ready for Major League Draft; He Keeps Bridgewater on Map,” Boston Globe, June 3, 1976.

Bob Stern, “Rich Dubee Relishes World Series Victory,” Brockton Enterprise, November 4, 2008.

Frank Stoddard, “Dubee’s Breaking Ball Helps B-R Get Straight to the Point,” Brockton Enterprise, June 8, 1973.

Todd Zolecki, “For Dubee, the Future Was Then; The Phillies’ New Pitching Coach Was Just 24 When He Made a Major Career Decision,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 20, 2005.

 

Notes

1 Robert Carroll, “Dubee Pitching in as Phillies’ Coach,” Boston Globe, July 9, 2006.

2 Carroll, “Dubee Pitching.”

3 Bob Stern, “Rich Dubee Relishes World Series Victory,” Brockton Enterprise, November 4, 2008.

4 “Li’l League Baseball,” Brockton Enterprise, June 1, 1970. The final league statistics were never published in this local newspaper.

5 “Li’l League Baseball,” Brockton Enterprise, June 18 and 24, 1970.

6 Frank Stoddard, “Dubee’s Breaking Ball Helps B-R Get Straight to the Point,” Brockton Enterprise, June 8, 1973.

7 Neil Singelais, “Rich Dubee: Ready for Major League Draft; He Keeps Bridgewater on Map,” Boston Globe, June 3, 1976.

8 Ray Fitzgerald, “Today a Phenom, Tomorrow…,” Boston Globe, June 6, 1973.

9 Singelais, “Rich Dubee.”

10 Bob Richards, “Dubee Is Royals’ Third Pick,” Brockton Enterprise, June 9, 1976.

11 Singelais, “Rich Dubee.”

12 Richards, “Dubee Is Royals’ Third Pick.”

13 Peter Abraham, “Latest Chapter Written in Pen; Dubee Has Found Home in Philly,” Boston Globe, October 31, 2009.

14 Rich Dubee’s playing record at the Baseball Reference website. All of his minor-league statistics are from this source.

15 Carroll, “Dubee Pitching.”

16 Carroll, “Dubee Pitching.”

17 Todd Zolecki, “For Dubee, the Future Was Then; The Phillies’ New Pitching Coach Was Just 24 When He Made a Major Career Decision,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 20, 2005.

18 Zolecki, “For Dubee, the Future Was Then.”

19 “Rich Dubee #30,” Philadelphia Phillies website.

20 “Rich Dubee #30,” Philadelphia Phillies website. All of his coaching positions are from this source.

21 “Jackson Has a Big Blast in Minor-League Practice,” Boston Globe, June 28, 1986.

22 Dan Graziano, “Patience Pays Off as Dubee Named Marlins Pitching Coach,” Palm Beach Post, November 9, 1997.

23 Zolecki, “For Dubee, the Future Was Then.”

24 David O’Brien, “Dubee Upset Over Taylor,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, October 8, 2001.

25 Zolecki, “For Dubee, the Future Was Then.”

26 Zolecki, “For Dubee, the Future Was Then.”

27 Stern, “Rich Dubee.”

28 Andy Martino, “Phils’ Pitching Coach Is Manager’s Right-Hand Man,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 4, 2010.

29 Dan Graziano, “Teacher Dubee Is Learning With His Students,” Palm Beach Post, May 8, 1998.

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