Daryl Irvine worked in 41 major-league games for the Boston Red Sox in the years 1990-1992. He was a right-handed reliever pursued by both the Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays before signing with Boston. He won four games and lost five in his work in the big leagues.
Irvine came from Grottoes, Virginia, just off Route 340 near Harrisonburg. He was born Daryl Keith Irvine in Harrisonburg on November 15, 1964.1 Daryl had two older sisters – Debbie and Sharon. Both parents worked in Harrisonburg and in the same general field. “My dad was Keith Irvine. My mother’s name is Mary Louise Irvine. She worked in a factory in Harrisonburg. I believe at the time it was called Dunham Bush. They made air conditioners and heating units. She worked putting the pieces together and building the units. My dad was a heating and air conditioning mechanic.”2 Keith Irvine had served as a Senior Airman in the U. S. Air Force and had worked both for Westinghouse and a firm named Riddleberger’s in Waynesboro. He retired from the Waynesboro city school system where he worked in the maintenance department. “He loved baseball. He said he played a little bit when he was younger, but he didn’t play college ball or anything like that; he would get out in the yard and help me when I started playing.”
One of his teammates in both Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball was Dell Curry, who went on to a 16-year career in the NBA, with 10 of those years for the Charlotte Hornets. Curry’s father was coach of the Babe Ruth baseball team. “When I pitched, Dell would play shortstop. When Dell pitched, I would play shortstop,” Irvine said.”3 The two don’t keep in touch much today, but when Daryl’s two children were 10 and 12 years old, he took them to Dell Curry’s basketball camp.
Daryl attended the nearest high school – Spotswood High School in Penn Laird, Virginia, graduating in 1983. Penn Laird is a small community about 5-6 miles southwest of Harrisonburg. He has remained in the area and was living in Penn Laird with his wife Ricki [Crawford] Irvine – a fellow Spotswood graduate – at the time of our 2021 interview.
While a student at Ferrum Junior College, he was first drafted by the Red Sox in the third round of the January 1984 draft – but it took three drafts before he signed. In the June 1984 draft, he moved up one round and was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round. He wanted to get in another year of college before pro ball. It wasn’t an easy decision, of course. He later said, “Anytime you are drafted and don’t take it, it is tough because you don’t know if the opportunity will come again.”4
That summer he played with the Harrisonburg Turks in the Valley Baseball League, and later said that the experience taught him “how to be a pitcher instead of a thrower, an adjustment needed to face the talent he was pitching against.”5
The Red Sox remained interested and made him their first-round pick in the January 1985 draft, the 20th overall selection. Even then, it was May 13 before he signed. Red Sox scout Wayne Britton is credited with the signing.
Britton had maintained his interest despite an Irvine arm injury. In his sophomore year for Ferrum, Irvine was pitching in a game. There were, he recalled, nearly 20 scouts on hand. “I did something to my elbow. I came out of the game and pretty much all the scouts were like, ‘What’s wrong? What happened?’ I told them something was going on with my arm and like – boom – they were all gone.” Only Britton stayed. Daryl says Britton told him, “Hey, if you let me take you to see Dr. McHugh at UVA and he says you’re good, I still want to sign you.”
David Driver of Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record writes of Britton, “The long-time resident of Waynesboro had Irvine checked by a doctor in Charlottesville soon after that and despite some ligament damage — but no tear — the Red Sox took Irvine in the first round of Major League Baseball’s secondary phase in January 1985. “There were no cell phones and social media,” Irvine said. “When scouts talked to you that was the last you would hear from them [until around draft time.] The day of the draft you just kind of sat around the house waiting for the phone call.”6
Britton said at the time of the draft, “He’s a late bloomer. He wasn’t mentally or emotionally ready for pro ball, but he is now.”7
Irvine grew to become 6-foot-3 and was listed at 195 pounds. His first placement was with the 1985 Greensboro (North Carolina) Hornets in the Class-A Sally (South Atlantic) League. Irvine pitched in eight games, starting seven, and was 4-2 with a 4.38 earned run average.
He worked the full season of 1986 in Class A as well, for the Winter Haven Red Sox in the Florida State League. Pitching in 26 games (24 starts), he was 9-8 with an ERA of 3.19.
Each of his next three years was with the Double-A Eastern League’s New Britain Red Sox. In 1987, he split his time between starting (16 games) and relieving (21 games), but struggled at the higher level, as reflected in his 5.31 ERA. His record was 4-13 for the sixth-place team. The 1988 team finished last, and Irvine again had a losing record, too (5-11), but had improved his ERA significantly, to 3.09. He was getting more work in relief, 25 appearances and 14 starts.
In 1989, he worked in 54 games, only starting once, and closing 45 games. He again improved dramatically in earned run average, to 1.28, and was named as the league’s All-Star reliever. New Britain finished last once more. Irvine, though, had earned himself a promotion to Triple A in 1990. He also debuted in the major leagues.
He was invited to spring training with Boston and made a good impression. “Irvine showed a little bit of moxie,” said Red Sox manager Joe Morgan after winning the March 26 game in relief.8 In early April, though he was said to have been “virtually untouchable,” he was assigned to the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.9 Irvine later credited fellow relievers Jeff Reardon and Lee Smith for helping him in his early days with the team.10
When John Leister, and later Mike Rochford, were demoted, Irvine was called up to Boston on April 20. “He’s going to be a very good setup man,” said New Britain pitching coach Rich Gale, who was said to have taught Irvine a cut fastball that added to his repertoire. “Daryl is an excellent fielder. He’s like having an extra infielder out there. He’s real quick off the mound.”11
Irvine’s major-league debut came over a week later on April 28, in a non-pressure situation at Fenway Park against the visiting Oakland A’s, winners of the 1989 World Series. Greg Harris started for Boston and was treated to a 6-0 lead after two innings. Rob Murphy took over in the sixth. The score was 12-0 after eight innings. Manager Joe Morgan gave Irvine his first opportunity. He got through the inning, but it wasn’t easy – a single by Walt Weiss, a walk, a groundout, an RBI single, a groundout that drove in another run, a balk, and then another RBI single gave Oakland three runs before another grounder resulted in the third out. His ERA was 27.00 and he had to wait almost 3½ months before his next time on a big-league mound. To bring the roster down to 25 players by May 1, Irvine was shipped back to the PawSox.
He struggled to get his footing at Pawtucket, losing five of his first six decisions, but improved as the season went on. The team as a whole was not doing well, and they changed managers, 70-year-old Johnny Pesky replacing Ed Nottle in July. Irvine was 2-5, but he had 11 saves and his ERA was 3.24 when he was called up on August 3 to replace injured reliever Jeff Reardon.
Irvine got into his second major-league game at the Kingdome in Seattle on August 11 and won it. The starters were Bill Swift for the Mariners and Mike Boddicker for the Red Sox. The score was 1-1 after seven innings. It went into extras, and both teams scored once in the 11th. The game continued. Irvine became Boston’s fourth pitcher of the night, taking over from Jeff Gray to pitch the bottom of the 13th. He struck out the first batter he faced, then got two infield groundouts. The Red Sox got two runs in the top of the 14th, thanks to a Dwight Evans homer. Irvine breezed through the bottom of the inning, with three more infield groundouts. He’d been perfect (“two smooth innings,” wrote the Boston Herald) and won his first major-league decision.12
Four nights later, he worked a third of an inning against Oakland and suffered his first loss. The score was tied, 2-2, heading into the bottom of the 10th. Morgan called on Irvine, who walked the first batter, Rickey Henderson. Willie Randolph pinch-ran. One out followed. An error allowed Randolph to reach second. A wild pitch to batter Dave Henderson let Randolph get to third. Irvine was told to intentionally walk Hendu. Bases loaded, with Mark McGwire coming to bat. After Irvine threw a ball in the dirt on his first pitch to McGwire, Morgan had Rob Murphy take over from Irvine. Murphy’s first pitch was hammered for a grand slam. McGwire said afterwards that might have been a mistake, since he was completely unfamiliar with “Irwin” and had no idea what he might expect. “With a guy like that, you don’t know how he’ll pitch you, what he’ll throw.”13
Back at Fenway on the 21st, Irvine pitched three scoreless innings concluding a game that Boston lost. He appeared in seven more games and brought his ERA down to 4.67 by season’s end, to go with the 1-1 record.
In 1991, Irvine was up and down from Pawtucket, replacing relievers who were injured; he had one appearance in late April, three in May, one at the end of June, and four in July. Pitching coach Rich Gale said in late April, “He told me he got so intense that he couldn’t concentrate. Daryl had the same problem I did in the minors – he needed to relax, not get more intense. He’s on the right track. He certainly has the stuff.”14
Irvine was asked if he remembered that feeling of intensity. He gave a thoughtful response. “In my mind, I think it was ‘Man, I’m going to have to be perfect when I get up here.’ That’s where the intense part probably came in. I felt like anytime I’m going to get called up to the big leagues, I had to be perfect. I never felt like I was able to relax and pitch like I did in Pawtucket. My numbers in Pawtucket were always pretty good.”
He developed what was originally called a stiff right shoulder, and went on the 15-day disabled list at the start of August. On September 12, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to fix a small tear and remove some scar tissue fragments. He had worked a total of 18 innings for Boston, without a decision, with an ERA of 6.00. He worked in 27 games for the PawSox, closing in 25 of them. His record there was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA. The need for shoulder surgery may have come from being used too often in too short a period of time. Two Red Sox pitchers went down at almost the same time, for different reasons. Jeff Gray had pitched on July 27 and 28 but suffered an aneurysm on July 30. He never returned to baseball. Irvine threw 2 1/3 innings on July 27, another 2 1/3 innings on the 29th, and then 2 2/3 innings on July 31. “That’s when I started feeling something with my arm. I hadn’t pitched that many days in a row since I was in high school. I hadn’t pitched that much. As the closer in Pawtucket and even what I was doing in Double A, you don’t pitch that much in consecutive days.”
Irvine’s 1992 season began at Pawtucket and ended with Boston, his first big-league appearance of the year coming on June 30. He had built up a 4-1 record with an excellent 1.54 ERA in 36 PawSox games, closing 31. When he got to Boston, he won his first game thanks to a walk-off Bob Zupcic grand slam that overcame a 5-4 Tigers lead on June 30. His second decision was a win, too, on July 24 against the visiting Twins. There were two losses in August, in both of which he only worked a third of an inning. After August 12, he was back in Pawtucket for a month.
After returning to Boston, he pitched the 13th, 14th, and 15th innings against the Brewers at Fenway Park on September 16 and won – again with Zupcic as the final batter. Rather than a grand slam, this game was won on Zupcic’s sacrifice bunt that scored Jody Reed from third base.
Irvine’s last three outings were all on the road, and he lost the last two. His ERA climbed from 4.56 to 6.11 over the final three games.
Just two days before Red Sox Opening Day 1993, Irvine was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for infielder Jeff Richardson. He never pitched for the Pirates, but was sent to AAA Buffalo, where he was 1-3 with a 44.30 ERA as a reliever in 37 games. It was his last year in professional baseball. He joined them for spring training in 1994 but declined an assignment to the minor leagues and opted to retire.
“I had surgery in ’93 on my elbow. I came back to spring training in 1994 and got released. I came home. I got a call from the Rangers and they wanted to have me come to Florida for a tryout that was run by Tom House and Mike Scioscia. They said they liked what they saw and they wanted to sign me. To me, I wasn’t throwing very well. I asked where [they would place me] and they said Double A. I thought, ‘I don’t think I want to go back to Double A and do it all over.’ So that was it.”
The transition to other employment was a quick one – and more than 25 years later he still works at the same place, Massanutten Resort. “I got into golf. I started working at a golf course in Massanutten. We lived right there in Massanutten at the time. I was playing a lot of golf and the pro at the time was telling me, ‘If you’re going to play here all the time, you might as well work here.’ He took me on, and I’ve been working up there now 25, 26 years.”
He became a scratch golfer and was in the PGA, but he and his wife Ricki had two children – son Cameron and daughter Casey – and helping raise the children required a solid commitment of time. “I ended up coaching them both – baseball and basketball – but I didn’t get back into the PGA. I stayed on at Massanutten as the golf shop manager and assistant pro.”
Being part of the community, if one of his children had something like a Christmas program at school, he could ask a fellow worker to look after the shop while he went over to the school for an hour or so.15
Ricki Irvine earned a master’s degree from James Madison University and works as a sales representative for the large multinational pharmaceuticals company Grifols, the largest producer of blood plasma-based products.
Both children have been active in athletics. At the time of the 2021 interview, Casey was a senior at James Madison University. She had played basketball but suffered a serious concussion. She was medically disqualified but, though not active on the court, remains part of the team.
Cameron plays on the baseball team at High Point, North Carolina. Over the summer of 2021, he played with the Strasburg Express and they won the Valley Baseball League championship. “Out of high school, he went to Virginia Tech as a walk-on. He was starting a lot of games as a freshman, but he broke his back. Swinging a bat. A Pars fracture. He ended up sitting out the remainder of the season. After that season, he came home to rehab. He’s a junior.”16
One statistic leaps out from a look at Daryl Irvine’s major-league career – his performance in home games against those on the road. He was dramatically better at home. On the road, in 18 outings he was 1-4 with an ERA of 10.64 and a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 2.273. Conversely, in 23 outings at Fenway Park he was 3-1, with a 3.05 earned run average and a WHIP of 1.307. “Wow. I didn’t realize it was that big of a difference,” Irvine said in 2021. Asked to speculate why there was such a difference, he said, “I think Fenway – being a smaller park – felt more like…home, when I pitched there. On the road, bigger stadiums, distractions…I don’t know. I was very comfortable pitching in Fenway. It felt like home.” Yes, the fans are very close to the field, “but they were always great to me.”
Asked how he feels looking back on his career, Irvine said, “Proud of what I accomplished. Of course, I’d like for it to have been more but…I used to always say, ‘I want to be able to look in the mirror and say that I did everything I could.’ And I feel like I can do that. I feel like I did.”
Last revised: February 16, 2022
This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Norman Macht and checked for accuracy by members of SABR’s fact-checking team.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, and SABR.org. Thanks to Rod Nelson of SABR’s Scouts and Scouting Committee.
1 Harrisonburg had the nearest hospital, about 15-20 minutes away from Grottoes.
2 Author interview with Daryl Irvine on September 14, 2021. Unless otherwise indicated, all direct quotations attributed to him come from this interview.
3 David Driver, “Road to the Majors,” Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, Virginia), July 3, 2021.
4 David Driver, “Local Baseball Products Recall Their Draft Day,” Daily News-Record, May 11, 2020.
5 Jen Kulju, “A Turks’ Father-Son Feature: Cam and Daryl Irvine,” ValleyLeagueBaseball.com, June 19, 2018, at http://www.valleyleaguebaseball.com/view/valleyleaguebaseball/news-652/news_505113
6 Driver, “Local Baseball Products Recall Their Draft Day.”
7 Garry Brown, “Marino a winner from way back; Sox hot on draftee,” Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), January 19, 1985: 5.
8 Joe Giuliotti, “Boddicker, Pina Sox’ first stars,” Boston Herald, March 27, 1990: 78.
9 The phrase comes from Nick Cafardo, “A fresh start for Murphy?” Boston Globe, April 21, 1990: 31.
10 David Driver, “From Pitcher to Pitching Wedge,” Daily News-Record, April 20, 2020.
11 Cafardo, “A fresh start for Murphy?”
12 Joe Giuliotti, “Evans wakes Sox,” Boston Herald, August 12, 1990: 81.
13 Mike Shalin, “McGwire making his Mark,” Boston Herald, August 16, 1990: 101.
14 Peter Gammons, “Jays can up ante with another ace,” Boston Globe, April 28, 1991: 84.
15 For more of the story of Irvine at Massanutten and in the community, see Driver, “From Pitcher to Pitching Wedge.”
16 Irvine added more about Cameron’s injury and path back. “He was going to practice. After practice, he would go back. Homework. Dinner. And then they were letting those kids…they had a key to go back to the batting cage if they wanted to. He was taking hundreds of swings. I think it just caught up to him. When he was feeling better, he went to Florida and played for Gulf Coast State Junior College. He was putting together a decent year there, and then COVID… So, he came home for that. High Point called him, and he went to High Point last year. Last year they DH’d him and played him in left field. He also plays some infield. I’d say he’s a utility guy.” He was solid academically, a Dean’s List student.