This article was written by Bill Nowlin
Dick Reichle went from college football to baseball to football, playing professionally in both sports. The only home run of his brief major-league career stands in history as the first ever hit by a visitor at Yankee Stadium. It came on April 20, 1923, hit off Waite Hoyt. “I must have fouled off 10 or 12 pitches. Hoyt got so mad that he yelled, ‘Either hit the ball or strike out.’ So I hit the next pitch into the stands,” Reichle said. Driving in George Burns ahead of him, his two-run first-inning homer helped give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead, but it was overcome in the end as the Yankees won the game in the ninth, 4-3, on Babe Ruth’s long drive with the bases loaded. The ball sailed so far over everyone’s head that no one even bothered to chase Ruth’s smash down; it would have normally been a home run but under the scoring rules of the day was classified a double since only two bases were necessary to push the winning run across the plate.
Richard Wendell Reichle was born in Lincoln, Illinois, on November 23, 1896. His parents, George and Anna (Knoeble) Reichle, farmed, successfully enough that after some years George’s parents came from Germany to join the family. George’s brother Frank lived on the farm in 1900 as did a “servant” named Samuel; both worked as farm laborers. Dick had three sisters and a younger brother, named George. He went to Lincoln High School and then on to the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he played on the football team, his time there interrupted by World War I.
There was another Reichle playing minor-league baseball from 1908 through 1929, Ed Reichle, but he was a native of Nebraska and doesn’t seem to have been related.
When the First World War broke out, Dick and George Halas both served as ends on the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team, part of the squad that won the 1919 Rose Bowl, 17-0, over a Marine Corps team. Reichle had played football in college and was part of the Illini’s championship baseball team of 1921.
Dick graduated from Illinois in June 1922 and was in the major leagues before the year was out. His progress had caught the eye of a number of scouts and a June 7 report stated that he’d been signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and would report for a mid-June tryout. His first stop after graduation was to play first base for the Evansville Evas in the Class B Three-I League (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa). He played in 93 games, batting .337 with six home runs, and stole 11 bases. What happened with Brooklyn isn’t clear, but the Boston Red Sox were in dire need of anyone who could hit, and scout Mike Donlin recommended Reichle. He was acquired from Evansville on August 17, and brought to the big leagues. [Boston Globe, August 25, 1922]
Reichle, an even 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds, batted left-handed and threw right. He debuted on September 19 in Cleveland, playing center field in the first game of a doubleheader that saw the Red Sox go down twice, 3-2 and 7-4. He was 0-for-4 in the game. There was another twin bill the next day, and Dick started both games, going 1-for-4 and 1-for-3. The Red Sox lost both of those games, too, 5-2 and 5-4. Reichle had a two-hit game on the 22nd, and doubled in the game on the 23rd. After he had appeared in six games, batting .250, his season was done. He’d scored three times but hadn’t driven in a run. He was 15-for-15 in the field, all putouts.
Dick became the regular center fielder for manager Frank Chance and the Red Sox in 1923. His best day was May 18, when his three runs batted in (thanks to a two-RBI double and a triple) made all the difference in a 6-2 win over Detroit at Navin Field. Eight days earlier, he’d had a 4-for-5 day in Chicago, with two RBIs, though the White Sox won that one.
The Red Sox team batting average in 1923 was .262. Dick hit .258, in 361 at-bats and 122 games. He was hit by a pitch eight times, sixth in the league. He had just the one home run and 39 RBIs. He committed five errors in 205 chances.
Not content to lie around during the winter reflecting on a good first season of major-league baseball, Reichle trained with the Milwaukee Badgers of the National Football League and played as an end in six of the team’s games, one of the few men to play both baseball and football at the highest level of play.
In 1924, Reichle reported to the San Antonio Bears. Some deal had been worked out in 1923 whereby he’d play with the Bears, in a year in which the Red Sox held their spring training in the Texas city. He suffered a broken leg in spring training but recovered unusually quickly, getting into 18 games for San Antonio (but batting only .189) He made two more moves in 1924. On June 20, it was reported in the Hartford Courant that Reichle had been sent from the Western League to the Eastern League, to play for the Senators in the Connecticut capital. He played well, smashing out three hits on July 2, impressing on defense, and stealing a base. His one-handed catch up against the left-field wall in the ninth inning secured a 2-1 win over Bridgeport on July 5. By the end of August, however, Reichle was playing left field in the Southern Association for Mobile, also named the Bears.
In the spring of 1925 Reichle went on the voluntarily retired list, and beginning in 1928 he took a job with a St. Louis firm called Investors Syndicate which specialized in selling annuity retirement contracts. He had what he considered a large clientele among major-league baseball players.
Reichle and his wife, Ruth, lived in the St. Louis area, where they raised three children – Richard Jr., Wendell, and Judith. He died on June 13, 1967, of a heart attack, though he had been suffering from prostate and bladder cancer for eight years at the time of his passing.
In addition to the sources cited within this biography, the author consulted the online SABR Encyclopedia, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.