Randy Kutcher (TRADING CARD DB)

Randy Kutcher

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Randy Kutcher (TRADING CARD DB)The man the Boston Globe called the “ultimate utility man,” Randy Kutcher, played from 1986 through 1990 for the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox.1 Primarily an outfielder, he played every position on the field except for first base and pitcher, though his time at catching was limited to the final three innings in one 1989 game against the Yankees.

Kutcher was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round of the June 1979 draft, out of Palmdale (California) High School. Palmdale is a city about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, a formerly agricultural area which became known as the Aerospace Capital of America. His father was in the construction business.

Randy Scott Kutcher had been born in Anchorage, Alaska, on April 20, 1960.2 His parents, Art and Sheila Kutcher, had met in England while Art was in the Army. In Anchorage, Art formed a construction company, primarily building houses. But he tired of bundling up to go to work and when Randy’s uncle invited him to return to a newly-booming Palmdale and start up a new company, the family made the move in 1971, first to Reno, Nevada, and then to the Palmdale area in the Antelope Valley of California.

Randy was a middle child with two older sisters and two younger sisters. Shortly after making the majors, he shared a memory of walking a mile to school with the temperature 33 degrees below zero during the 11 years he had lived in Anchorage. “I carried my sneakers with me to play basketball after school, and they froze and cracked in half.”3 He added, “It wasn’t that bad; we were dressed for it.” He played hockey a lot as a youngster, but not long before they made the move to California, he suffered some bumps and bruises that made him think twice about that sport. “I got hit with a puck in one eye,” he recalled, “and then about a week later I got hit in the other eye.”4

At Palmdale High he played high school football, baseball, and basketball. He was a running back in football and looked to have an opportunity to go to UNLV as a defensive back. His father told him that an average professional baseball player lasts about 10 years, while an average football player lasts about three. It was baseball he pursued. He was right-handed and grew to 5-feet-11 and 170 pounds during his playing days. Randy’s high school baseball coach was Doug Mapson. San Francisco Giants scout George Genevese is credited with signing Kutcher, a fourth-round pick in the June 1979 draft. Not long afterward, Mapson became a scout himself, working for the Chicago Cubs 1983-92. His most notable signing was Greg Maddux.5

The 19-year-old Kutcher’s first assignment was to the rookie-level Pioneer League, where he played in 65 games for the Great Falls Giants, 55 of them at shortstop. He hit.253 with a .327 on-base percentage, drove in 25 runs and scored 55. Playing shortstop was a challenge that first year; he committed 29 errors for an .866 fielding percentage.

In 1980, he played in Iowa for the Clinton Giants of the Single-A Midwest League. He improved defensively, playing shortstop, recording a .935 fielding percentage. He hit for the exact same .253 average, but this time over the course of a full season, appearing in 138 of his team’s 141 games. Kutcher drove in 46 and scored 72. Home runs were relatively few and far between; he hit two in 1979 and three in 1980.

His 1981 season was split between Single-A Fresno (41 games in the California League) and Double-A Shreveport (77 Texas League games). In 1982, it was Shreveport all season long. He played in 116 games, hitting .247.

For three years in a row (1983-85), Kutcher played Triple-A ball with the Pacific Coast League’s Phoenix Giants, hitting .273 in 1983 and .277 in 1984. A non-roster player heading into 1985, he trained with the big league team before being assigned to Phoenix once more. He experienced a drop-off that year, his average dipping to .237. Why such a drop-off? “That’s called a divorce,” Kutcher said in a 2021 interview. “It was a bad year.”

At this point, he had put in seven years in San Francisco’s minor league system. The time had come for the Giants to add him to their major league roster or let him become a free agent. In October 1985, they let him go to free agency. A couple of other teams showed some interest, but the Giants still had some degree of hope for him and in February 1986, they re-signed him.

He was at a crossroads. He had a three-year-old son, Josh, and was going through a divorce with his wife, who he said had been very supportive of his baseball career. He had the opportunity of a steady income working with his father’s construction company. “I had to decide whether I wanted to dig ditches or wield a hammer the rest of my life,” he said.6

He decided to give baseball one more shot and started with Phoenix yet again in 1986. He lifted weights all winter and benefitted from some advice on his approach to hitting from Phoenix manager Jimmy Lefebvre.7 “He told me, ‘As many gloves as you may have, if you can just learn to hit a little bit, you’ll make it to the big leagues.”

Lefebvre took him aside and said that very few are lucky enough to have the possibility of making the majors, and when you get close you have to give it 100 percent. You have to buckle down. Lefebvre said, “I told him, ‘If you have problems off the field, then get even more involved with your work ethic on the field. Let hard work be the outlet, the release for those problems.” He added, “Randy, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be in the big leagues. You’ve got too many tools not to be.”8

Kutcher says, “That next year [1986], I came to spring training and worked with him every morning. Hitting. I didn’t even bring my glove out there.”9 Kutcher was having an excellent year but saw four other teammates called up before he was. He was batting .346 when he finally was summoned to the big league club after the game of June 17, when outfielder Chris Jones was sent down.

Kutcher’s major league debut was on June 19 in San Diego. Manager Roger Craig wrote him into the leadoff spot and started him in center field. Facing starter Eric Show, Kutcher singled between third base and shortstop in his first at-bat. The next batter hit into a double play, taking him off the base paths. The Padres built up an 8-2 lead through eight innings. Kutcher led off the top of the ninth with a solo home run off reliever Craig Lefferts. The Giants lost, 8-3, but Kutcher had a 2-for-5 game with a home run that he could look back on. He said he was so excited afterward that he could barely hold a cup of water.10

He did not have that long to wait for his second homer; that came in his fourth game, at Candlestick Park, the Giants’ first run in a 4-2 win on June 22 against the visiting Houston Astros. He struck out in 14 of his first 50 at-bats, but by month’s end, after a full dozen games, he was hitting .259. (The team batting average that year was .253.) On July 3, his sixth-inning home run produced the only run of the game in a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kutcher stuck with the team through the end of the season, batting ,237 with seven home runs and 16 runs batted in. He scored 28 runs. He played in 71 games (20 of them in the infield, but otherwise in the outfield) and only committed one error all year.

In 1987, he spent most of the season with Phoenix. He was called up for four games in late April and early May, for two games at the beginning of August, and then joined the team in September for eight more games. In only three of his 14 games did he get more than one plate appearance. In 16 at-bats, he hit for a .188 average, with one double, one triple, seven runs scored, and one run batted in. He handled 19 chances in the field without an error.

On December 9, Kutcher became a member of the Boston Red Sox. He was the “player to be named later” in a September 1 deal that saw the Red Sox send Dave Henderson to San Francisco. The trade was completed when Kutcher was sent to Boston on the final day of that year’s Winter Meetings.

One of the things that appealed to Red Sox GM Lou Gorman was his versatility as a defender, and, in particular, that Kutcher could catch. “He could be a valuable utility player,” Gorman said. “He has a little speed, and our reports say he’s a good outfielder. But what we like is he could fill in as a catcher if he makes the club.”11

As for Kutcher, he embraced the role, and acknowledged that he would really love to do what only Bert Campaneris and Cesar Tovar had done – play all nine positions in the course of one game. He’d come a long way since Anchorage “where each summer there was hardly time to play one position, never mind a half-dozen.”12 Kutcher said that he particularly admired Chris Speier, who worked hard, taking ground balls at three different infield positions. “Some guys think being a utility man is a downer. Some classify it as not having a position. I classify it as being a versatile ballplayer.”13

During 1988 spring training with the Red Sox, Kutcher did play every position but pitcher for manager John McNamara, but on the day the final cuts were made, the team went with Kevin Romine over Kutcher. He had struggled to hit the ball that spring, batting .214. “Somewhere between winter ball and spring training, I lost my swing.”14 He was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

With Pawtucket, he played in 86 games and hit for a .233 batting average in 331 at-bats. Not a slugger, his slugging percentage was .317. He was brought to the major-league club three times – filling in for injured players and appearing in two games in June and three in July. He was brought up in September when rosters expanded. Only once did he play a complete game. Twelve of the appearances were as a pinch-runner. He scored two runs and had two base hits, a single in June and a double in his one complete game, the last game of the season. The Red Sox won the division but were swept by the Oakland A’s in the best-of-seven ALCS.

Kutcher enjoyed playing for manager Joe Morgan, who had taken over from McNamara in midseason. Morgan, he said, always had time for the players who were on the team but not the star players. “A lot of guys forget where they came from. He hasn’t.”15

Kutcher made the team in 1989, as Morgan appreciated his ability to serve as a third catcher. He said he had caught two full games in Triple A, but the Red Sox used him a lot in spring training. As it happened, he was not needed that much as a catcher (he caught in just one game) but was available if needed. He played six games at third base, six as DH, and the rest of the games in the outfield (25 in right, 21 in center, and 11 in left.) He was a battler, the kind of scrapper that Morgan liked, notably sliding hard to break up a double play in one spring training game, a time when players do not necessarily put it all on the line.16

He stayed with the big league team the full year, appearing in nearly half the team’s games (77) and batting .225 in 160 at-bats, driving in 18 runs and scoring 28. He homered two times. Basically, Kutcher was a turd. Lest that sound like an uncalled-for insult, he is the one who proclaimed, “Turds. That’s what we call ourselves. It’s a baseball term for the extra men. We take pride in being turds.”17 Later in the season, he sported a Kutch Potato Fan Club t-shirt given him by a fan, reflecting the amount of time he spent on the bench.

The one game in which Kutcher worked as a catcher was at Yankee Stadium on June 8. The Yankees held a 7-5 lead when he came into the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth. There were two Red Sox on base and two outs. He doubled down the right-field line off Dave Righetti, driving in both baserunners and tying the score. He caught Lee Smith in the ninth, Rob Murphy in the 10th, and Bob Stanley in the 11th, until the Yankees got to Stanley and won the game.

On July 23, he hit his first home run of the season, a three-run homer as part of a four-RBI day that helped beat the White Sox. It was the first homer he had hit in the majors since 1986. After the game, he said, “It’s been so long since I hit a home run I didn’t know how to go into a trot.”18 In the very next game, two days later, he hit a two-run triple. On August 22, his other home run broke a ninth-inning 3-3 tie and gave the Red Sox a 4-3 win at Yankee Stadium. As he left the game, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner griped, “Who the hell is Randy Kutcher? I never heard of him.”19 Kutcher then lost almost all of September to injuries.

In the winters, he worked for his father’s construction company, doing whatever needed to be done and making $10 an hour.

In 1990 spring training, he helped out in another way. When an alligator emerged from Lake Lulu behind the Red Sox clubhouse in Winter Haven, several players started throwing rocks at it. It was Randy Kutcher who nailed it on his first try. The alligator turned around and went back to the lake.20

He played with Boston through July 29 and was hitting .246 when the team needed to make room for Dwight Evans to return and sent Kutcher to Pawtucket for August. With the Pawsox, he played in 35 games and hit .316 with 14 RBIs, one of the best stretches in his professional career. In September, he rejoined the big-league team and got into another 12 games, ending the year with a .230 batting average.

The Red Sox had won the AL East again. This time Kutcher was on the postseason roster. Once again, the Red Sox were swept in four games by Oakland. Kutcher’s only participation was as a pinch-runner, once in Game One and once in Game Three. The Red Sox scored only one run in each of the four games. Both times Kutcher ran, the batter behind him hit into the inning’s final out. After the season, he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair some torn cartilage.

The Red Sox signed him in February 1991, and he played through spring training, hitting a game-winning double in the ninth inning of the final game. He made the team but was not used in any of the team’s first nine games. He was released on April 18 after the Red Sox claimed left-handed hitter Steve Lyons off waivers. Outspoken as usual, Kutcher’s reaction was, “For Steve Lyons? You got to be kidding. I can do everything he can do and better. But I have no regrets. It’s a tough game.”21

Within a week, he was signed by the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. He played in 70 games, mostly in the outfield, hitting .232. It was a difficult year. Detroit manager Sparky Anderson had told him they wanted him to go to Toledo and get some at-bats, because he’d been off for a while. He had been doing well in the early going and was told he would be called up the next day. Playing first base, on a field he says was very sandy, he tore his hamstring22. It was months before he could run again.

Randy had returned home where his mother, Sheila Kutcher, died in his arms. He was able to help his father. When spring training 1992 came around, he had not hooked up with any club, but the Angels signed him to a contract and placed him with the Sultanes de Monterrey in Mexican League baseball. He was 32 years old, and he decided it was perhaps time to move on.

He opened up a baseball card shop and did some light construction work on his own, to get by. Then he got a call from a friend who invited him to work in a warehouse that supplied rental materials for the motion picture business.

After a couple of years away from the game, and with a player strike on at the start of the 1995 season, he thought about giving it one more try and signed on as a possible replacement player with the New York Yankees. He was not sure if he would have crossed any picket line, had it come to that. The strike was settled before he had to make that choice.23

Another invitation led him deeper into the movie business. He became a grip. “So, for the next 22 years, I was a grip. Lighting. We put the dolly track down, push the dolly. If they need overhead lighting, we put overheads up. It’s a lot of work.”

What films had he worked on? He mentioned Con-Air (1997), Enemy of the State (1998), with Will Smith. The Green Mile (1999). “Mission Impossible. I did that one, too. The first one. I worked on some music videos, too. And then TV. I worked on CSI for 12 or 13 years.”

The work took its toll. He had to go on disability, and in recent years has had both of his knees replaced, and then both of his hips. In early 2021, he said he also needs a shoulder replacement but because he remains actively involved coaching youth baseball and wants to be able to continue to hit fungoes, he will defer that as long as he can.

There was a second marriage, a second son – Nolan, and a second divorce. Around the time Nolan was 8 years old, and showed an interest that Josh had not, Kutcher got involved with coaching in a couple of ways, with a travel ball team, the Storm Elite, and also coaching at Saugus High School for five years, through 2020. The high school is located just north of Van Nuys and about 35 miles from Palmdale. The Storm Elite is part of USA Baseball and has had some success. In 2019, they went to the Junior Olympics in Arizona and placed third out of more than 100 teams. At the time of the May 2021 interview, the team was planning a late June return to the Junior Olympics.

One prospect – right-handed pitcher Joey Estes, a Palmdale High graduate, was signed by the Atlanta Braves. In 2021, he was playing in Low A baseball with the Augusta GreenJackets.

Nolan Kutcher is currently enrolled in Gateway Junior College in Arizona, playing baseball – primarily as an outfielder.

Randy Kutcher follows baseball, and still roots for both the Giants and the Red Sox, but he also likes the Angels, too.

He had almost had the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues. The two positions he never played were first base (though he played first base in one game for Phoenix and eight with Toledo) and pitcher. But there were two times with the Red Sox when it might well have happened. “I was warming up one time in Detroit. Clemens gave me his glove to go warm up. It was at the beginning of the year. It was snowing. We were down like 10-3 and we had a couple of games coming – I think we had a doubleheader or something coming the next day. Joe Morgan says, ‘Hey, Randy. Go warm up.’ We got the bases loaded and I think Dwight Evans hit a grand slam and he said, ‘OK, sit down. We’re close enough.’”

On May 25, 1990, in Minneapolis, it was the bottom of the eighth inning and the Red Sox were losing, 15-0. Morgan called on Danny Heep to pitch. Heep gave up one run – doing a better job than any of the four previous pitchers. But it was not a true novelty for Heep; he had already pitched once before, going two scoreless innings for the Dodgers in 1988. Morgan could have used Kutcher and given him that distinction. It was an opportunity lost.

Throughout his career, Kutcher had often been on the cusp, often the last man to get called up. “One year,” he recalled, “the Giants had cut everybody. All they had to cut was one more guy. The last day of spring training, I’m in the shower and all of a sudden, I feel this tap on my shoulder. ‘Hey, Skip wants to talk to you.’ That was when Frank Robinson was the skipper there. That was in ’82. I was doing pretty good, but really I was the low man on the totem pole.” It turned out he was the last guy cut. It was back to Shreveport.

After he had spent most of 1986 in the majors, he nevertheless had to wait to see if he had made the club for 1987. He got the good word that he had. “They said, ‘OK, you’re going to San Francisco.’ So, my cousin came to spring training, and he was driving my car back. I brought my bags, and they took my stuff to the plane. I put my suit on. I was getting on the bus to go to the plane. Sat down. All of a sudden, ‘Hey, Skip wants to talk to you.’ So, I get back out and I went in there. The whole front office was in there. I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘We’re going to take Mike Aldrete instead of you.’ Back then they didn’t have cellphones. I had to page my cousin and tell him, ‘Hey, turn around and come back.’ And then I didn’t have my clothes for about two days because they’d gone to San Francisco.” That was the year that many teams played with 24 on the staff, not fully filling out their 25-man rosters.

In 1988, after being traded to Boston, he worked out with the big-league club during spring training. Once again, though, he was the last man cut, later being called up in the first half of June. It was a tough team to break into, though, with several future Hall of Famers and near Hall of Famers. “Great players,” Kutcher recalls. “To get in…people had to get hurt.”

Kutcher’s career saw him play in 244 major-league games, with a .228 batting average (.285 on-base percentage), 10 homers and 40 runs batted in. He scored 83 runs and had a career .975 fielding percentage.

Kutcher played parts of five seasons in major-league baseball, getting into those 244 games (and, importantly to any manager) ready to enter many more if called upon. Red Sox manager Joe Morgan was appreciative of the versatility Kutcher provided him, a player who was “the utility man nonpareil of the Red Sox.”24 Boston Herald sportswriter Stephen Harris asked Morgan a question that was “hypothetical and more than somewhat in jest” but the manager gave the question serious thought. The question was: “Could you win a pennant with 24 Randy Kutchers?”

It was an interesting proposition, wrote Harris. “Stock a big-league club with Kutcher clones and you’d have a team unfortunately unique by current standards – one that works hard, cares and loves to play.”

Morgan’s response: “Probably not. Unless you had a dynamite pitching staff.”25 He added, “More guys ought to play the game like Randy Kutcher. But they just ain’t built like that, that’s all there is to it.”

Last revised: September 16, 2021

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by James Forr and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Alan Cohen.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, and the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, third edition, ed. Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff (Baseball America, 2007). Thanks to the Boston Red Sox, Randy Kutcher, and Rod Nelson.

 

Notes

1 The phrase was used in a page 2 lead to Kevin Paul Dupont, “Kutcher won toughest battle,” Boston Globe, March 23, 1988: 48.

2 Kutcher was the fourth native Alaskan to make the majors; since his debut, there have been eight others.

3 Jake Curtis, “Kutcher’s Journey from The Tundra to the ‘Stick,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, 1986: 97.

4 Author interview with Randy Kutcher on May 16, 2021. Unless otherwise indicated, all direct quotations come from this interview.

5 Mapson joined the Giants as a cross-checker in 1993 and has since become a senior advisor based in Chandler, Arizona. Thanks to Rod Nelson of SABR’s Scouts and Scouting Research Committee.

6 Curtis.

7 Curtis.

8 Curtis.

9 May 16, 2021, interview.

10 Curtis.

11 Joe Giuliotti, “Sox get utility man from Giants,” Boston Herald, December 10, 1987: 104.

12 David Cataneo, “Seeking a perfect 10,” Boston Herald, February 29, 1988: 37. Kutcher told Cataneo, “You were lucky to get three months to play ball.” Now in the American League, there was even a 10th position he could play – designated hitter.

13 Cataneo. Kutcher never did pitch in the minors, though he said, “I almost pitched once…I was in the bullpen warming up, and I figured it would be a piece of cake.” See “Nine years in the minors,” Marietta Journal, March 4, 1988: 27.

14 Garry Brown, “UMass baseball on move; NOW wants more TV,” Springfield Union-News (Springfield, Massachusetts), April 9, 1988: 5.

15 Stephen Harris, “Morgan calms storm hovering over Sox,” Boston Herald, February 27, 1989: 54.

16 Joe Giuliotti, “Kutcher catching on,” Boston Herald, March 21, 1989: 88.

17 Joe Fitzgerald, “Rac tells of major-league mind game,” Boston Herald, June 3, 1989: 83.

18 Associated Press, “Clemens halts Chisox streak,” Laredo Morning Times, July 24, 1989: 11.

19 Moss Klein, ‘Red Sox sub sinks Yanks, Candelaria,” Jersey Journal (Jersey City, New Jersey), August 23, 1989: 27.

20 Larry Whiteside, “Smith meets with Gorman,” Boston Globe, March 26, 1990: 46.

21 Steve Fainaru, “Lyons back with Boston,” Boston Globe, April 19, 1991: 30.

22 May 16, 2021, interview.

24 Stephen Harris, “Kutcher a cut above the rest.”

25 Stephen Harris, “Kutcher a cut above the rest.”

Full Name

Randy Scott Kutcher

Born

April 30, 1960 at Anchorage, AK (USA)

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