Al Raffo

This article was written by Brian Engelhardt

Al RaffoOn April 26, 1969, pitcher Al Raffo of the Triple-A Eugene Emeralds received the good news from his manager, Frank Lucchesi, that he was moving up to the parent Philadelphia Phillies. In his eighth season and eighth team in the Phillies organization, Raffo was asked shortly before he was called up if he thought he was ready for the big leagues, to which he replied, “If I’m not ready, I’m very close. I know it has to be soon because I’m 27.”1 Raffo was eager to breathe the rarefied air of the major leagues.

Explaining how he maintained his perspective during the seven-year odyssey through the Phillies farm system before finally moving to the major leagues, Raffo said, “I was always very conscious of the fact that a lot of other people who wanted to play the game were never getting the chance that I was having. I really appreciated this when I finally got to the major leagues.”2

With the Phillies in 1969 Raffo appeared in 45 games – all in relief. While modestly describing his role in the bullpen that season as “mop-up work,” Raffo emphasized its importance to the team, adding, “It’s my job to get the rally stopped.”3 In a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field on July 2 that Raffo referred to as “the highlight of my season,” he took “mop-up work” to its highest level in the course of earning what amounted to a career trifecta with his performance that night both on the mound as well at bat.

“Long, lean and articulate Al Raffo”4 entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the first inning in relief of starting pitcher Billy Champion with the Phillies down 2-0 and the bases loaded. After getting Pirates shortstop Fred Patek to ground out, Raffo held the Pirates to two runs over the next 5⅔ innings. Relieved by John Boozer in the seventh inning of the 14-4 Phillies win, Raffo earned his only major-league pitching victory – the first leg of the career trifecta.

In the top of the second inning the Phillies had already rallied for two runs when Raffo came to bat with Mike Ryan on third base and Ron Stone on second. Raffo got his bat on what he described as a “big roundhouse curve” thrown by future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning,5 driving in both runners when the ball glanced off the glove of another future Hall of Famer, first baseman Willie Stargell, then rolled to the outfield grass. Although Raffo was thrown out at second base by catcher Manny Sanguillen when he tried to advance on Stargell’s throw to the plate, he still had given the Phillies a 4-2 lead with his only major-league base hit – the second leg of the trifecta. On returning to the dugout, Raffo said to manager Bob Skinner, “Hey Skip. How about that?” Skinner, described by Raffo as being sparse with compliments, replied, “Your butt was all the way in the dugout when you hit that.”

In the sixth inning Raffo’s suicide squeeze bunt drove Ryan in from third base to give the Phillies a 7-3 lead.6 This and the two runs Raffo drove in with his single were his only major-league RBIs, completing the trifecta.

Born on November 27, 1941, in San Francisco, Albert Martin Raffo was the only child of Angelo and Mathylia (Draper) Raffo. When Raffo was 5 his parents divorced and he moved with his mother to Laguna Beach, California, then again moved with her to Los Angeles when he was 13.

Graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1959, Raffo in his senior year was named the third baseman on the Los Angeles High School All-City Team, with his .451 batting average the highest on the team.7 He played at Los Angeles City College, which he attended for two years.

While playing in a Los Angeles winter league, Raffo was prompted by his coach to try pitching – not only because of his strong arm, but also because he didn’t hit with the power usually expected from corner infielders. Raffo’s pitching drew the attention of Phillies scout Paul Owens and he signed for a $1,500 bonus, most of which went to pay for much-needed dental work for his mother.

Assigned to the Miami Marlins in the Class-D Florida State League, Raffo immediately learned the meaning of “hard luck”: In nine starts and one relief appearance he was 0-9 despite a 2.81 ERA. Sympathetic about Raffo’s losses (his last a 1-0 complete-game loss to St. Petersburg in which he surrendered only three hits), Marlins manager Andy Seminick8 noted that the team had not scored a run over the last 34 innings he had pitched and declared, “Raffo’s not that bad a pitcher.”9

Despite the 0-9 record, on June 23 Raffo was promoted to the Bakersfield Bears of the Class-C California league, which he described as “not really a move up but more like a move across the country to save expenses when they would release me.” Although happy to be closer to home, Raffo was unhappy with his role at Bakersfield, which he described as being “limited to pitching in relief in games that were lopsided by the time I got in.” Appearing in only six games with nine innings pitched, Raffo posted a record of 1-0 and an ERA of 4.00.

Raffo’s biggest problem at that level was with his pivoting in his pitching delivery, which resulted in his surrendering walks at a rate of 5.5 per nine innings. Describing Bakersfield manager Bob Wellman as being “very supportive” in trying to address the problem, Raffo even received a visit from Paul Owens to try to work with him. The problem was resolved in the offseason when Wally Kincaid, then the baseball coach at Cerritos Community College in Norwalk, California, showed him a pivot technique that as Raffo related, “stopped me from sliding around on the rubber” and “really changed my game.” At Bakersfield, Raffo developed a friendship with Mike Marshall, the team’s starting shortstop who later converted to a relief pitcher. The two roomed together on the road that year as well in later seasons when they were teammates.


In 1963 the Phillies assigned Raffo to the Magic Valley (Twin Falls, Idaho) Cowboys of the Class-A Pioneer League. Managed by Wilber “Moose” Johnson, the Cowboys won the regular season pennant.10 A highlight of for Raffo was pitching a 7-2 complete-game victory against Boise on August 1 while slashing out four hits himself.11 In 22 starts Raffo posted a record of 11-7, with an ERA of 3.84. Referring to his teammates as “a cast of characters,” Raffo indicated that the chemistry of the group combined with the colorful personality of Johnson made that season the most memorable in off-field antics in his career. Raffo’s favorite story concerned a breakdown of the team bus in the middle of Yosemite National Park while traveling to Montana. With the team stranded for the night until a substitute bus arrived, outfielder Alex Johnson would periodically shout, “I’m going to shoot a moose.”

In 1964 Raffo was assigned to the Eugene (Oregon) Emeralds of the Class-A Northwest League. Again managed by Bob Wellman. As a starter, he was 14-10 with an ERA of 3.67.

Pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Double-A Southern League and manager Andy Seminick in 1965, Raffo posted a 5-14 record with an ERA of 4.67.12 With the 60-80 Lookouts’ attendance a league-low 25,767, the franchise moved to Macon, Georgia, for 1966. Over the offseason a Chattanooga sportswriter sought Raffo out for an interview. Raffo recalled with a chuckle, “The article he wrote had a headline that I helped kill baseball in Chattanooga. I felt kind of guilty.”

Although the 1965 season lacked many on-field highlights for Raffo, an off-the-field highlight was meeting Nancy Holloway on a double date arranged by a teammate, Phil Krous. They dated throughout the summer and were married on March 5, 1966.

The next season Raffo played for Macon, again under Seminick, Raffo had a brand-new role, pitching in 41 games in relief and posting an 8-5 record and a 2.44 ERA.13

In 1967 Raffo joined the Reading (Pennsylvania) Phillies of the Eastern League, the Phillies’ new Double-A affiliate. Under manager Frank Lucchesi, he returned to a starting role after a few relief appearances. On June 30 Raffo pitched a 5-4 complete-game win over the Pittsfield Red Sox in which he led a charmed life, surrendering 14 hits and walking six, but stranding 14 runners.14 After posting a record of 5-1 in August, during which he threw three consecutive shutouts Raffo was named Reading’s August Player of the Month.

The final shutout of Raffo’s streak, a 2-0 victory in 11 innings over the Waterbury Giants on August 19, involved a near-brawl after Raffo argued over an umpire’s call. The batter, Giants catcher Jose Morales, called out to Raffo to “stop complaining and pitch.” This, according to Raffo, “broke an unwritten rule of baseball that you don’t talk to the pitcher from the batter’s box.”

When the next pitch grazed Morales’ cheek, he charged the mound with bat in hand.15 Raffo did not retreat, recalling, “I didn’t want to give (Morales) the satisfaction.” Quickly tackled by Raffo’s teammates, Morales was ejected from the game. (Eastern League President Rankin Johnson, who was at the game, did not issue any punishments.)16

Finishing the season with a 12-6 record and a career-best 2.22 ERA, Raffo was named Reading’s Most Valuable Player.

Among Raffo’s teammates in Reading was future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, who at age 40 had signed a minor-league contract with Philadelphia. Under a self-imposed deadline, Roberts retired on June 15 when no major-league team expressed interest in him.17 Calling Roberts a positive influence with the other pitchers, Raffo said, “He never looked down on you just because you were young.” Raffo said Roberts initiated a daily routine in which the pitching staff would sit on the grass in a circle and “just talk baseball, where Roberts would make suggestions not just about mechanics but also the mental parts of pitching.”18

Promoted to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League in 1968, Raffo started 22 games and relieved in 12, posting a record of 11-7 and an ERA of 2.68. He threw two one-hitters, a 2-1 win over the Tulsa Oilers on May 10,19 with relief help from Bill Wilson, and a 1-0 victory over the Denver Bears on June 26.20 As happy as Raffo may have been on August 31 after picking up his 10th victory in a 1-0 win over the Phoenix Giants,21 it did not compare to the joy he experienced the next day, when Nancy Raffo gave birth to their son, Gregory.

Assigned to the Phillies’ new Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds, to begin the 1969 season, Raffo pitched twice in relief before his April 26, 1969, promotion to the Phillies. Raffo brought a very simple pitching arsenal to the Phillies, his primary pitch being a fastball that he described as “almost like a slider” because of the way he gripped the ball to avoid developing blisters on his right middle finger. Raffo also occasionally threw what he described as “a big curveball” which, he added with a laugh, “was often kind of a hanging curve.” Although he tried to develop a changeup, he had little success, and said, “We didn’t have a lot of coaching. You had to work on things yourself. Occasionally there would be a roving minor-league coach who would make a visit, but that was about it.”

Raffo made his major-league debut on April 29 in a 10-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium. Entering the game in the top of the sixth inning with the Phillies trailing 8-0, Raffo allowed four hits and one run in three innings. Next he pitched in a May 5 exhibition game in Philadelphia against the defending World Series champion Detroit Tigers. Before Raffo entered the game, veteran Phillies reliever Turk Farrell asked him if he was scared. Raffo replied, “I have been working for a long time to get here and I’ve worked too hard to be scared.” He pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings; Phillies manager Skinner commented that Raffo’s “fastball was moving real well.”22

On May 30 in a 13-6 Phillies victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Philadelphia, Raffo earned his only major-league save, pitching 3⅔ innings of one-hit relief. Of Raffo’s performance, Skinner said, “We need somebody down there who gives himself a chance, who challenges hitters the way Raffo challenged them tonight.”23

At the end of June, communication issues between Dick Allen, the team’s best player, and Skinner led to Allen being suspended for 26 days.24 Raffo found Allen to be “a supportive and considerate teammate,” as Allen tried to help him further develop his slider. Allen’s absence, juxtaposed with an injury to right fielder John Callison, eliminated two of the team’s primary offensive contributors for the first weeks of July. Still, during that period the Phillies put together a nine-game winning streak that turned out to be the high point of their season.

The streak began with a 6-5 victory in 10 innings over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium on June 25 in which Raffo contributed when he entered the game in the fifth inning in relief of starting pitcher Lowell Palmer with one out and the Mets leading 5-0. Raffo got two groundballs to end the inning with no further damage – “doing his job to stop the rally.”25 Raffo then pitched a hitless, scoreless sixth inning as the Phillies came back from the five-run deficit for the win.

Raffo’s career trifecta came in the ninth victory of the streak, which temporarily vaulted the Phillies into fourth place, a game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. The streak ended with an 8-5 home loss to the Montreal Expos on July 4.26 All of the wins came on the road, tying a team record (since eclipsed) for consecutive road wins.27

In a July 12 game against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, Raffo entered the game with the Phillies behind 6-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning in front of 26,732 fans and an NBC Game of the Week audience. As he entered the game on what he remembered as “a beautiful Saturday afternoon,” Cubs fans were yelling, “Raffo, sit down, you can’t get our Cubbies out.” Calling the total scene, “a real baseball day in a real baseball environment,” Raffo contrasted it to the Phillies home park in the dilapidated Connie Mack Stadium (tactfully described by Raffo as “a stadium that needed to be replaced”) before crowds that frequently numbered less than 5,000.28 Raffo pitched three innings, surrendering three hits and one run in the 7-4 loss. “I got a lot of good big-league hitters out,” he observed.

Appearing in 13 games in June with 18⅔ innings pitched, 14 games in July with 29⅔ innings pitched, and in three games during the first week of August, Raffo was carrying a team-best 2.77 ERA. It was at this point that, as he succinctly put it, “My arm went dead.” Working with the trainer provided no solution; at one point the trainer questioned his motivation, using the phrase”Jake out.” Raffo told him he didn’t work to come this far after seven years to “jake out.” He even contacted former teammate and kinesiology student Mike Marshall, whose long-distance diagnosis was that the constant use and constant warming up, even on days that he would not go into games, was causing nerve damage resulting in the “dead arm” sensation.

Raffo’s arm problems were apparent in consecutive games at Cincinnati when, on August 8, he gave up five runs in 1⅓ innings in a 12-5 loss, including a home run to Pete Rose, then the next night gave up another home run to Rose that drove in the winning runs in a 12 inning 4-2 loss. After being limited in action for two weeks, Raffo gave up five runs in two innings in a 13- 4 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park on August 26. Aggravating the situation was that a group of Raffo’s friends and relatives were in the stands that day. After finishing the season with 45 appearances in relief and posting a 1-3 record with one save, and an ERA of 4.11, Raffo was assigned to Eugene.29

Starting the 1970 season with Eugene, Raffo pitched in 15 games in relief, then went on the disabled list on May 22 with a rib injury. He asked to be assigned to Double-A Reading in July when he was able to return because he preferred the role of starter and Reading needed one. Raffo’s second time around with the Reading Phillies began favorably; he won his first start 10-4 over the Pawtucket Red Sox on July 12.30 This was followed by a string of difficult defeats, none worse than a 3-2 loss at Waterbury on August 9 that went 12 innings in which both Raffo and future Pittsburgh Pirates stalwart Bruce Kison went the distance. Despite the loss, which dropped Raffo’s record to 1-5, the Reading Eagle described him that night as “tougher than tooled steel; tougher than he’s been since his demotion from Triple-A.”31 In 12 starts at Reading, Raffo finished with a record of 3-8 and a 5.31 ERA.

Again assigned to Reading in 1971, Raffo pitched exclusively in relief under manager Nolan Campbell. For a second time at Reading, he had as a teammate a future Hall of Famer, Mike Schmidt. Raffo remembered Schmidt as “a good teammate who kept to himself … (and) was very focused on things on which he worked to try to improve – one being hitting the slider.”

On July 12 Raffo posted his first win of the season, a 7-3 home victory over Pawtucket; he pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings, and Reading staged a five-run late-inning rally keyed by a bases-loaded double by Schmidt, who earlier in the game hit his first official home run32 as a professional.33 In 29 relief appearances at Reading, Raffo finished the season with a record of 2-0 and a 2.31 ERA.

Although his 1971 ERA was close to a career best, Raffo saw, as he put it, “the writing on the wall” and retired to obtain his degree in Spanish. His daughter Angela was born in 1972. In 1973 Raffo began a career in education, teaching Spanish and coaching baseball at South Pittsburg (Tennessee) High School. Three years later he accepted a similar position at Marion County High School in Jasper, Tennessee. Over the next several years, he earned a master’s degree in education at Middle Tennessee State University.

Known to the students at Marion County High School as “Señor,” Raffo earned numerous professional honors during his teaching tenure, including Marion County Teacher of the Year in 1990.34 Teams coached by Raffo earned multiple district championships and state playoff berths, with the 1990 team being runner-up for the state championship. A 10-time recipient of the District Coach of the Year Award, Raffo was named Region Coach of the Year five times. In 2001 the Marion County High School baseball field was renamed Raffo Field.35 Special to Raffo was the 1990 team, which lost in the finals for the state championship. With a record of 17-13, Raffo recalled, “When other teams looked at our record, everyone wanted to play us. We surprised people.”

After retiring from coaching, in 2004 Raffo was named the high-school principal, and served in that position until he retired in 2006.

Evidence that the Raffo family has baseball in its blood is that his son Greg, after playing at Middle Tennessee State University, pitched for three years in the Detroit Tigers minor-league system while Raffo’s granddaughter, Ansley Blevins, accepted a softball scholarship at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

On the life that he and Nancy have led since settling in Jasper, Raffo declared, “I have … a lot of positive things to say about my experience here in a small town where I was able to raise my children and do what I needed to do. We’ve had a good life.” Asked about Raffo, Logan Carmichael, publisher of the Marion County, volunteered, “You won’t find anyone here in Jasper who has anything but good things to say about Al Raffo.”36



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted,, the Al Raffo player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, and the following:

Johnson, Lloyd, and Miles Wolff, eds. Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Third Edition, (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 2007).



1 Allen Lewis, “Phillies Rip Reds, 6-1, With 11 Hit Attack, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 1969: 32.

2 Unless otherwise attributed, all quotations by Al Raffo are from interviews with the author on May 27, 2019, and August 5, 2020.

3 D. Byron Yake, “Raffo:’Mop Up Man.’” Pottsville (Pennsylvania) Republican, July 3, 1969: 10.

4 Bill Conlin, “It’s a Mistake to Switch Off Phillies,” Philadelphia Daily News, July 3, 1969: 54.

5 Bunning was also the ace of the Phillies staff from the 1964 through the 1967 seasons.

6 Ryan also scored from third base in the ninth inning; it was the only time in his 636-game 11-year major-league career that he scored three runs in one game.

7 Jerry Weiner, “Bluestone, Raffo Cop All City Nods,” Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, June 13, 1959: 4.

8 Seminick also managed Raffo at Chattanooga in 1965, Macon in 1966, and Reading in 1970.

9 Rick Pezdirtz, “37,428 Fans Make Prophet of Durney,” Miami (Florida) News, June 24, 1962: 80.

10 The Cowboys featured several league leaders: Future major leaguer Jeff James tied for the lead in wins (16) and led in strikeouts (218); the league batting champion was Gene Kerns (.349); and the home-run and RBI champion was future major leaguer Alex Johnson (35 HRs, 128 RBIs).

11 “Timely Hits,” Billings Gazette, August 2, 1963: 12.

12 This was even more losses than the last time Raffo played for Seminick, but at least with five victories this time.

13 Raffo’s 2.44 ERA was ninth-best in the league. Ranked right ahead of him, in eighth place with a 2.33 ERA, was his former roommate Mike Marshall, now of the Montgomery Rebels, the Detroit Tigers Double-A affiliate. (“Southern Association,” The Sporting News, September 24, 1966: 36). According to Raffo, after Marshall began to pitch full time at Chattanooga, Rebels manager Wayne Blackburn liked what he saw and persuaded the Tigers to purchase Marshall’s contract from the Phillies. Statistics on saves were not available for Raffo’s various minor-league teams.

14 “Rested Perkins Brings Joy to Pressbox,” Reading Eagle, July 1, 1967: 6.

15 Batting .382 with 15 RBIs and three home runs against Reading so far that season, Morales was no doubt already in a bad mood when he stepped into the batter’s box, having been dusted off by close pitches twice the previous night.

16 “Phillies Win, 2-0, in 11th Behind Raffo,” Reading Eagle, August 20, 1967: 53.

17 See C. Paul Rogers III’s SABR biography of Roberts at

18 Raffo had the distinction that year or playing either for or with three future managers of the Philadelphia Phillies. His manager, Frank Lucchesi, managed Philadelphia beginning in 1970 until midway through the 1972 season. Reading’s shortstop that season was Larry Bowa, remembered by Raffo as being “full of fire and not satisfied with mediocrity,” who managed the Phillies from 2001 to 2004. Dallas Green, a player-coach with Reading, managed Philadelphia from 1979 to 1981, and became a piece of Phillies history when he managed the team to its first World Series championship in 1980.

19 “Coast Roundup,” The Sporting News, May 25, 1968: 34.

20 “Coast Roundup,” The Sporting News, July 13, 1968: 41.

21 “Coast Roundup,” The Sporting News, September 11, 1968: 30.

22 Bill Conlin, “Lab Tests Find Relief Remedy,” Philadelphia Daily News, May 6, 1969: 66.

23 Bill Conlin, “Allen’s Homer Sparks Phillies 13-6 Victory, Philadelphia Daily News, May 31, 1969: 29.

24 See Rich D’Ambrosio, “Dick Allen,” SABR biography,

25 Although Raffo got Art Shamsky and Ed Kranepool to each to hit groundballs to second base that otherwise have been considered routine, the fact that third baseman Rick Joseph had just been moved to second base to replace Cookie Rojas, who had been ejected, added some excitement to each play. Joseph removed the excitement by capably handling each.

26 The Phillies lingered in fourth place until a third straight home loss to Montreal on July 5 banished them to fifth place for the rest of the season – taking little consolation over finishing ahead of the expansion Expos, managed by their former skipper, Gene Mauch.

27 Alan Lewis, “Phillies Pound Pirates for 9th in Row: Raffo Victor,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 3, 1969: 28. See “McCubed Net, Philadelphia Phillies Winning and Losing Streaks,” The 1954 Phillies also won nine road games in a row, but the wins were not consecutive; the streak was interrupted by several home losses. Although the 1969 Phillies lost their next game after the July 2 victory over the Pirates, they won their next road game, 7-5 over the Cubs in Chicago on July 11. A loss to the Cubs the next day ended the road win streak at 10. The 1976 Phillies won 13 consecutive road games between an 18-16 victory over the Cubs in Chicago on April 17 and a 4-1 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis on June 2.

28 The Phillies continued to play in Connie Mack Stadium on Opening Day of the 1971 season, when they moved to Veterans Stadium.

29 Allen Lewis,” Phillies Get Money, No Players in Draft, Lose Hurling Prospect to White Sox,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 2, 1969: 30.

30 “Phils Memorable Game,” The Sporting News, August 1, 1970: 43.

31 “4 Runs, 4 Losses for Reading,” Reading Eagle, August 10, 1970: 26. The 1969 streak remains special: During neither the 1954 nor the 1976 road win streaks did the Phillies win nine consecutive games.

32 Schmidt hit his first home run as a professional in a June 17, 1971, exhibition game against the Reading Phillies in Reading. Schmidt’s home run was the winning blow. See Brian C. Engelhardt, Reading’s Big League Exhibition Games (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2015), 96.

33 Duke DeLuca, “Schmidt Powers Phillies; Hitting Woes May Be Over,” Reading Eagle, July 13, 1971: 25.

34 Tennessee House Resolution, No.192 of 2003, filed on May 22, 2003.

35 Tennessee House Resolution, No.192 of 2003.

36 Interview with Logan Carmichael, May 16, 2019.

Full Name

Albert Martin Raffo


November 27, 1941 at San Francisco, CA (USA)

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