SABR

Dick Starr

This article was written by James Lincoln Ray.

Right-handed pitcher Dick Starr, a September call-up from the Newark Bears, recorded a complete-game victory in his only start with the 1947 New York Yankees. He was back with Newark for most of the 1948 season, and then traded to the St. Louis Browns in 1949.

Dick was born Richard Eugene Starr to John and Emma Starr in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, on March 2, 1921. Tall and slender, at six feet three and 190 pounds, he was a natural athlete who became a local standout throughout his teenage years. While playing local semipro ball, Starr drew the attention of professional scouts. The Yankees signed him before the 1941 season and assigned him to a Class D affiliate, the Butler Yankees of the Pennsylvania State Association. Starr spent most of the season with Butler before being moved to another Class D team, the Findlay Browns of the Ohio State League. The twenty-year-old youngster proved he was a competent starter with both teams, posting a combined record of 15-9 with an ERA of 3.40.

Starr’s excellent season did not earn him a promotion. The Yankees kept him at Class D Butler in 1942, where he was even better than the previous year, winning eighteen games and losing five.

After this promising start to his professional career, Starr enlisted in the Army on October 19, 1942. Stateside, he was assigned to camps in Alabama, California, and Arizona, and he later served in Hawaii, Guadalcanal, Palau Island, New Caledonia, the Philippines, and Japan. Starr earned three Bronze Stars in addition to the Good Conduct Medal and numerous campaign ribbons. He attained the rank of Sergeant and was discharged on December 11, 1945.

After three years away from professional baseball, Starr returned to the Yankees organization in 1946. The Yanks sent him to the Augusta (Georgia) Tigers of the Class A South Atlantic League, where he led the league in wins (19), strikeouts (233), and earned run average (2.07).

In 1947 the Yankees promoted Starr to their top farm team, the Newark Bears of the Class Triple-A International League. He proved capable of competing at the highest Minor League level, going 9-6 with a 4.01 ERA. When the Bears’ season ended, the Yankees called him to the majors. Starr made his debut on September 5, 1947, against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium. He entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with the Yankees trailing, 2–0. He pitched one inning, gave up two hits and a walk, and allowed one earned run.

After two more relief appearances, Starr made his first start on September 16, in the first game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium against the St. Louis Browns. The season was winding down, the Yankees had clinched the American League pennant the day before, and the Browns were in the cellar, thirty-five games behind the Yankees. Starr struggled throughout the game, giving up eight hits (seven singles and a home run to Walt Judnich) and walking seven, but managed to hold the Browns to three runs (one earned) in a complete-game victory. It was his last game of the season. He finished with a 1-0 record and a 1.46 ERA. Starr did not appear in the World Series against Brooklyn, but the Yankees voted him $750 of their Series winnings.

Starr was back with Newark for the 1948 season. He won fourteen games, lost nine, and posted a 4.21 ERA. He again was called up to the Yankees late in the season and appeared in one game, a two-inning relief effort against the Boston Red Sox in which he surrendered one earned run in two innings.

On December 13, 1948, the Yankees traded Starr, along with pitcher Red Embree, catcher Sherm Lollar, and $100,000, to the St. Louis Browns for catcher Roy Partee and pitcher Fred Sanford. Starr began the 1949 season as a starter for the Browns, but he lost his first five starts and was sent to the bullpen, where he mostly remained for the rest of the season. He was 1-6 with an ERA of 4.98 in eight starts, and 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in twenty-two relief appearances. Starr’s only win of the season came on June 9, when he pitched the first of his two Major League shutouts, an 11–0 win over the Red Sox.

On October 2, 1949, Starr was part of a pitching stunt concocted by the Browns. In the first game of a double header on the last day of the season, the Browns used nine pitchers, one per inning, setting a Major League record for most pitchers used by one team. Starr pitched the ninth in the 4–3 loss to the White Sox at Sportsman’s Park

Starr’s 1950 season began with great promise. In the second game of the season, he pitched a complete game and defeated the White Sox, 6–1. He didn’t fare so well in his next few starts, and again was relegated to the bullpen. Starr spent the rest of the season rotating between starting and relieving. Of his thirty-two appearances, sixteen were starts and sixteen were in relief. Overall he was 7-5 with a 5.02 ERA. On September 7 he pitched his second and last career shutout, 6–0 over the White Sox.

Starr spent the first four months of the 1951 season with the Browns. After compiling a 2-5 record and a 7.40 ERA, he was traded to the Senators. Again, he was traded for Fred Sanford, who had been the key player in his 1948 trade to the Browns. Washington turned out to be no better for Starr than St. Louis had been. In eleven games, all starts, he was 1-7 with an ERA of 5.58. His final Major League appearance came on September 29, a loss to the Philadelphia Athletics. His overall record for the season was 3-12 with a 6.49 ERA.

Starr spent the rest of his professional career in Class Triple-A. In 1952 and 1953 he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, a Philadelphia Phillies farm team. In two seasons, Starr was 21-21. At the conclusion of both seasons he pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League with the Caracas Lions and Magellan's Navigators; in 1953 he appeared with the Navigators in the Caribbean Series.

From 1954 through 1956 Starr worked as a starter and reliever for the Richmond Virginians of the International League, where over the three seasons he was 12-12. After the 1956 season, Starr retired from professional baseball.

In his Minor League career, Starr had a 108-72 record with a 3.57 ERA. In the Major Leagues, he posted a 12-24 record and a 5.25 ERA in ninety-three appearances.

After baseball Starr lived with his wife Bonnie (the former Bonnie Leach), whom he married in 1942, in his hometown of Kittanning and worked for the Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation until he retired. The Starrs had three children, Carol, Richard Jr., and William. As of early 2012, Dick and Bonnie Starr are still living in Kittanning.

 

This biography is included in the book "Bridging Two Dynasties: The 1947 New York Yankees" (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), edited by Lyle Spatz. For more information, or to purchase the book from University of Nebraska Press, click here.

 

Sources

Young American Patriots: The Youth of Pennsylvania in World War II. Richmond, VA: National Publishing, 1947, p. 121.

Drebinger, John, “Bombers Beaten by Senators, 3–2.” New York Times, September 6, 1947.

Drebinger, John, “Yankees Turn Back Browns, 8–3. Then Drop 8–2 Contest to Zoldak.” New York Times, September 17, 1947.

McGowen, Roscoe “Yanks Sign Shea for $16,000.” New York Times, February 27, 1948.

“Senators Trade Sanford.” New York Times, July 13, 1951.

“Starr’s 7-Hitter Trips Boston.” New York Times, August 11, 1951.

“Starr Hurls His 2nd Shutout in Beating White Sox.” New York Times, September 8, 1950.

 

Dick Starr telephone conversation with Thomas Bourke on July 16, 2011.

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