Rick Reed was one of the replacement players during the players strike of 1994-95. Although he was ostracized by fellow players after crossing the picket line, Reed was eventually accepted by teammates after joining the New York Mets, with whom he spent most of his big-league career. When he finally earned his chance to pitch regularly in the majors, he showed that he belonged. Reed was one of the anchors of the Mets’ starting rotation during his tenure with the team. He used finesse and was often called “the poor man’s Greg Maddux.” He pitched some clutch games for New York and showed that he truly was a major leaguer, not just a replacement.
Richard Allen Reed was born on August 16, 1964, in Huntington, West Virginia. His parents were Don and Sylvia (Ross) Reed.1 Don worked as a chef in Rebels & Redcoats Tavern, which was located under the same roof as a Huntington bowling alley. There was one other child in the family, a younger sister named Robin.
Reed grew up in poverty, although that didn’t prevent him from playing baseball during his youth. He said later that he was not aware of his parents’ financial straits until he reached the majors. As he recalled in 1998, “My father and mother worked all their lives and never had anything. They never went on vacation because I was always playing baseball.”2
Reed remembered the night his parents’ poverty hit him the hardest. “My wife and I were going to go out to dinner with my parents and my mother got in her car and the car door wouldn’t shut. My father had to tie it with a rope,” he recalled.3
Reed played for the Huntington High Highlanders and earned a scholarship to Marshall University in Huntington. Reed played for Marshall through the 1986 season. He led the team with 17 appearances and three saves in 1985. He left after three years when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round of the June 1986 amateur draft. Pittsburgh sent him to its team in the rookie Gulf Coast League that summer.
Reed made three starts and pitched in eight games before being promoted to the low Class A Macon Pirates (South Atlantic League) at the end of the season. He made one start for Macon. His overall ERA for the season was 3.56.
The Pirates returned Reed to Macon in 1987. He pitched in 46 games, working primarily as a reliever. Reed struck out 92 and lowered his ERA to 2.50 while finishing the season with seven saves. That year Reed married Denise, known as Dee; they remained together as of 2020.
Pittsburgh made Reed a starter in 1988. He started the season with the high Class A Salem Buccaneers (Carolina League). After he compiled a 6-2 record and a 2.74 ERA, the team promoted him to Double-A Harrisburg (Eastern League). His pitching coach at Salem, Chris Lein, said, “He’s a strong competitor but you’d miss him in a crowd. He’s not going to light up the radar gun. He changes speeds, he keeps the ball down, he moves the ball around and he works fast.”4
With Harrisburg, Reed made two starts, striking out 17 batters in 16 innings, before being promoted again, to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons (American Association), where he went 5-2 in nine starts. He was called up briefly in early August and made his major-league debut in a start against the Mets on August 8. He went eight innings, limiting New York to three hits in eight innings to earn a win. After the game, Reed said, “I’ve dreamed my whole life of just getting the chance to pitch to the Mets, because they’re such a great team, and I shut them out for eight innings. It can’t be real. I’ve been pinching myself to believe this is true.”5
After that start, Reed worked in only one other game in 1988, and was back with the Bisons in 1989, compiling a 9-8 record in 20 starts. Called up again in late July, he started seven games and finished with a 1-4 record.
Reed spent most of the next two seasons with the Bisons, serving brief stints in Pittsburgh. He was 2-3 in eight starts for the Pirates in 1990, and in 1991, during a call-up that interrupted a 14-4 season in 1991, he pitched in only one game for the Pirates, on July 31.
In that game, Reed pitched 4⅓ innings and surrendered five earned runs, including a home run by Deion Sanders. Reed told reporters, “My pitch didn’t do what I wanted it to do. It did what Mr. Sanders wanted it to do.”6
The Pirates released Reed on April 3, 1992, and he signed with the Kansas City Royals the next day. The Royals sent Reed to the Omaha Royals (American Association). Reed started 10 games for Omaha and had a 5-4 record and a 4.35 ERA when he was called up in early June. He made 18 starts for Kansas City and finished with a 3.68 ERA and a 3-7 record. The Royals returned Reed to Omaha in 1993 and his overall record improved to 11-4 with a 3.09 ERA. Still, the Royals released Reed on August 5, 1993.
Reed signed six days later with the Texas Rangers and made two late-season appearances with the team. In 1994 he made four starts in the early part of the season. His record was 1-1 with an ERA of 5.94 when he was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Reed made two starts there before he was released by the Rangers in early May.
The Cincinnati Reds signed Reed on May 13 and he finished the season with Triple-A Indianapolis. He made 21 starts with the Indians. Reed had a 9-5 record with a 4.68 ERA when the players struck in August.
Baseball’s eighth work stoppage started on August 12, 1994, and resulted in the rest of that season being canceled. The strike was finally suspended on April 2, 1995. Baseball’s executive council had approved the use of replacement players on January 13, 1995, when negotiations stalled.
Reed had been assigned to Indianapolis for 1995, but when Cincinnati decided to use replacement players, he was given the call. He was told by the Reds to cross the line or the team would release him and then blackball him from the game.7 Reed’s mother, Sylvia, was a diabetic who had no medical insurance. He was paying her medical bills, so he decided to cross.
As the season approached, the Reds slated Reed to be their Opening Day starter. Reed said that he sat in his room the weekend before that scheduled start and prayed that the strike would end so he wouldn’t have to take the mound. “It was their season to start, not mine,” Reed said of the regular players.8
When the strike ended, Reed was sent back to Indianapolis. He expressed his concern about being a replacement player, saying, “I’m really worried about what [the players] think. There’s going to be some hard feelings, but not as much as there would have been if we had played in regular season games. And I think these guys (major leaguers) realize that we were put between a rock and a hard place. We had to make a decision RIGHT NOW, and we had to think of our families.”9
After compiling an 8-4 record with a 3.17 ERA by mid-July, Reed was recalled by the Reds. General manager Jim Bowden called a team meeting to inform the players of his plans to add Reed to the roster. One player stood up in the back of the clubhouse and screamed his opposition, claiming he would never be a teammate with a “scab.”10
Reed was never really accepted by the Cincinnati players and there was talk about stationing his locker near the bathroom. He made three starts before he was returned to the minors, where he finished the season with an 11-4 record. The Reds granted him free agency on October 16, 1995, and he signed with the Mets three weeks later.
Reed was sent to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides (International League) in 1996. He spent the season there, finishing with an 8-10 record, a 3.16 ERA and a team-leading 128 strikeouts while walking just 33 batters.
Reed was a man in isolation during spring training in 1997. He was not allowed to attend the Players Association meeting and had to sit in manager Bobby Valentine’s office during the meeting. “It was kind of uncomfortable,” he said. “I understood. But it was kind of lousy sitting there all by myself. What are you going to do?”11
New York was impressed with Reed’s efforts in spring training and planned to make him a part of the rotation in 1997. Valentine — who’d managed Reed at Norfolk — approached veteran players for their reaction. He told reporters, “I heard everything from, ‘It’s fine, I’ve forgotten about it,’ to ‘Well, I still need a little time.’ I never heard, ‘I’m the first to burn his uniform, it’s not going to happen on my team.’”12
If he pitches good and we win, it’s great,” fellow pitcher Dave Mlicki said. “If he can help us win, you have to look past stuff like that. Some guys will, some guys won’t.” Mets reliever Greg McMichael was a bit less forgiving, saying, “It comes down to making a decision. Some people made good decisions, some people made bad decisions, and he has to live with it.”13
At first, Reed generally sat in front of his locker and rarely spoke to his teammates. Other than pitcher Joe Crawford, another former replacement player, the rest of the team ignored him. Reed said at the time, “Hopefully, that stuff is behind us and we can move on. It’s not going to be forgotten, of course.”14
Reed made his first start on April 5 and threw seven shutout innings while giving up just three hits to the San Francisco Giants in a no-decision. Four days later, he threw five innings in relief at Dodger Stadium and allowed just one hit. When the team returned to Shea Stadium, Reed pitched a complete game on April 22 to earn his first win for the Mets. Although the Mets got off to a 3-9 start, Reed’s pitching was key to their eventual turnaround.
By the end of the season, he had earned the respect of many of his teammates. “He’s probably got the best control of anyone on this staff,” said catcher Todd Hundley. “You can mess with hitters when he’s pitching because his control is so good. You can call a pitch, and you know he’s going to throw it for a strike. He’s a lot like Ron Darling. He doesn’t overpower guys; he spots his pitches.”15
Reed finished 1997 with a 13-9 record and a 2.89 ERA, the best among the Mets starters. The Mets battled the Florida Marlins for the wild card. On September 21 Reed tossed a season-high 121 pitches and left with a 2-1 lead. He ended up with the win but the Mets eventually missed on the postseason. His pitching that season won over his teammates as well as the fans.
When teams returned to spring training in 1998, Reed was allowed to attend the Players Association meeting. The union said it was just a courtesy and Reed was still not a member. Reed took it as an improvement, saying, “It feels good right now being allowed to sit in. It sure beats the hell out of sitting in the coaches’ office.”16
Reed said that he regretted crossing the picket line. “I didn’t really know much about what the union meant. But when you spend a whole year and see what the union does, it kinda makes you feel like crap.”17
Reed returned to the Mets’ starting rotation in 1998 and it was his most productive season in New York. He had a perfect game going into the seventh inning on June 8, when Tampa Bay’s Wade Boggs doubled to break up his bid. After the game, Boggs called Reed a “scab and career minor leaguer.” John Franco, the Mets player rep, came to Reed’s defense. “For most of us, that’s in the past,” he said. “I can tell you everyone in the clubhouse supports him. I’d go to war with him.”18
Reed was chosen for the All-Star Game that summer but he didn’t make it into the game. After he was chosen, Reed said, “Believe me, this is as big a surprise to me as anyone else. I never considered myself in the All-star Category but I’m going to enjoy it. You never know, it might be my last.”19
As Reed developed into the one of the centerpieces of the Mets starting rotation, he still maintained some of his superstitions. Reed avoided stepping on foul lines as he took the field and returned to the dugout. He would always walk around to the back of the mound to climb it. He also wore the same undershirt and stirrups for every game.
“I’ve had [these superstitions] from Day One, he said. “I did things like that in high school. It was something that worked. If I did something good, I tried to do the same thing as before.” When his stirrups were lost in 1997, he lost four straight starts. “I know that the stirrups had nothing to do with it but I guess you’d say I’m weird. I guess you’ve got to be weird to play this game.”20
Reed finished the 1998 season with a 16-11 record. His 3.48 ERA and 153 strikeouts were bested on the Mets staff only by Al Leiter. Leiter commented at the end of the season, “Reed’s concentration pitch by pitch and his focus are as good as any pitcher I’ve seen. And that includes Greg Maddux. Just watch the way he prepares himself on the rubber and looks in on the sign.”21
The Mets played well enough to contend for a playoff spot in 1998 but missed out when they lost their final five games of the season. When it looked as though they might make the playoffs, Valentine said he would give the ball to Reed in the first game. “He’s been as good a pitcher as we’ve had for two years,” the manager said. “He gives you everything he has, that real professional effort.”22
Reed and his wife, Dee, had another episode of their long-running family drama in the spring of 1999. They had tried to adopt an 11-year-old boy back in 1988 when Reed played winter ball in the Dominican Republic. “They said we had to be so many years older, and we weren’t,” Reed said. “And if we weren’t, he had to have so much schooling. And he’d never been to school.” Eleven years later, they tried to find the boy and were unsuccessful at first — but there was a happy reunion.23 After years of not being able to conceive a child, the Reeds soon adopted a daughter, whom they named Madison. An adopted son called Mason followed two years later.
Reed remained in the Mets’ starting rotation in 1999. He pitched six solid innings to earn the team’s first victory of the season on April 6. However, in his next start he tore a calf muscle after hitting a double against Montreal. Reed writhed in pain in the dirt before being helped off the field.
Reed told reporters after the game that he had banged his thumb when he was closing his suitcase on the previous day. “I also cut myself shaving, too,” he said. The injury forced him out of the rotation until May.24
When he returned, Reed tossed six solid innings to beat the Astros. But the Diamondbacks handed him an ugly defeat five days later. Reed was hurt for the second time on May 13 when Angel Echevarria hit a fastball right back at the pitcher.
“It felt like lightning,” he said. “Like the ball went right through me.” Valentine said, “He got hit as hard as I’ve ever seen a guy get hit.” Reed stayed in the game and earned the win.25
Reed struggled after his return and had a 3-3 record by mid-June. But he rebounded and eventually won seven games between mid-June and August 2. Yet he still wondered if that would be enough to keep him in the rotation down the stretch.
“He’s a perfectionist and he hasn’t felt as good as he wanted to,” said Valentine. Reed had been concerned about a possible trade. This may have prompted Valentine to quell those rumors, then tell reporters, “Maybe it just relaxed him and got a good performance out of him,” after Reed pitched seven solid innings to earn his 10th victory on August 2.26
But on August 8, Reed injured the middle finger on his pitching hand in the second inning of his start at Shea. “Warming up I was fine. In the first inning, I threw a curveball and it hurt. I tried to pitch through it but it hurt.” Reed was removed after speaking to pitching coach Dave Wallace. “He said it hurts. And Rick Reed doesn’t complain,” Wallace said after the game.27
After missing a month, Reed returned to the rotation. He looked rusty as he gave up six hits and three runs in four innings on September 8. But his manager said he was pleased with Reed’s return. “I thought he made a lot of quality pitches. He just had an inning when they weren’t called strikes,” Valentine said.28
Reed pitched superbly in his next two starts, but the Mets lost both games. On October 2, with the season on the line, Reed pitched a three-hit shutout to keep the Mets tied with the Reds in the playoff race. He said later, “It’s pretty cool, I guess. It’s awesome. This is a chance for us to make the playoffs. I know that there are a lot of guys in here that are wanting it, and I’m one of them.”29 Reed finished the season with an 11-5 record.
In the National League Division Series against the Diamondbacks, Reed started the first playoff game at Shea since 1988. Arizona had roughed up Reed in his lone start against them during the season. With the series tied at one game apiece, the Mets needed a solid performance from him. Reed pitched six innings, his only mistake a two-run homer in the fifth, and got the decision as the Mets won 9-2. New York won the series on the next night to move into the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves.
Reed pitched the fourth game of the NLCS. He held a 1-0 lead in the eighth until Brian Jordan and Ryan Klesko hit consecutive homers off him. The Mets rallied in the bottom of the inning to keep the series alive, but Reed did not earn the victory — he was removed after the two home runs. After the game, he said, “If there was a tunnel from the mound to the dugout, I would have crawled through it. To be honest, I thought that the season was over.”30 When the Mets went through nearly their entire roster on the following night, Reed was warming up in the bullpen in the 15th inning. He never made it into the game, though, because Robin Ventura sealed the win with what became known as “The Grand Single.”31
Reed remained a key part of the Mets starting rotation in 2000. He finished the season with an 11-5 record and 1.7 walks per nine innings, the lowest of any Mets starter for the fourth straight year and also one of the lowest in the majors. Reed pitched solidly in the postseason. He pitched the third game of each series as the Mets moved through the playoffs and into the World Series. Reed pitched six innings in a no-decision in a 3-2 victory against the Giants in the NLDS.
Valentine named Reed to start the third game of the NLCS against the Cardinals, but he lasted only 3⅓ innings in the Mets’ 8-2 loss. Reed said he was nervous about the start and didn’t have his command. “I thought that I had it straightened out but I didn’t,” he said.32 However, he bounced back in Game Three of the World Series against the Yankees. He ended up with a no-decision in the Mets’ 4-2 win, their only one of the series. The Mets rewarded Reed with a three-year, $21.75 million contract later that year.
Reed struggled in 2001 and was just 7-4 in early July when Valentine picked him to represent the Mets in the All-Star Game. Reed bowed out several days before the game because of a neck injury. Then, with the Mets struggling offensively, Reed was dealt to the Twins for Matt Lawton at the trade deadline.
Reed was originally optimistic about the trade, saying, “It’s a pretty good situation. The last couple of years, I have been involved in pennant races with the Mets, and here I am again, involved in another one.”33 Years later, though, Reed said that the day that he was traded was “the day that baseball kinda died for us, my wife and I. I wish that I could have ended my career in New York.”34
Reed went 4-6 with the Twins and finished the 2001 season with a combined 12-12 record. He bounced back in 2002, finishing with a 15-7 record. His efforts helped Minnesota reach the postseason, but he ended up the loser in both games he started in the playoffs. After a disappointing 2003 season (6-12, 5.07 ERA), Reed was released by the Twins.
Reed signed a contract with the Pirates in January 2004. Back problems had caused him to miss a month of the 2003 season; those problems continued in spring training and so he played very little. When the Pirates assigned him to Triple A, Reed chose to retire.
Reed and Dee returned to Huntington. He came back to Marshall University as the pitching coach for the baseball team in 2005. “Rick brings a great deal of baseball knowledge and experience, said Marshall head coach Dave Piepenbrink. “He is a quality individual that cares not only about this university, but the Huntington community as a whole. He will truly be an asset to our program.”35
Reed remained with the program for several years before retiring once again. He and Dee donated $1 million to Marshall in 2019 to help build a new ballpark. “My wife and I discussed it, he said when the donation was announced. We always want to give back and we’re all on board with this.”36
Last revised: August 4, 2020
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Len Levin and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org for player, team, and season pages and other pertinent material.
1 “Sunday Evening Obituary Update,” Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, West Virginia), November 17, 2013.
2 Bill Benner, “Former Indian Reed Savors Unimaginable: All-Star Game, Indianapolis Star, July 7, 1998: C1.
3 Buster Olney, “Mets Make Reed No. 5 in Starting Rotation, New York Times, March 25, 1997: B13.
4 Kit Stier, “Reed Starts Attracting Attention,” White Plains (New York) Journal News, March 25, 1998: 10D.
5 “Pittsburgh Rookie Stuns Mets, 1-0,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 9, 1988: 4D,
6 “Sportspeople: Mumford Dropped by Villanova,” Scranton Tribune, August 2, 1991: 12.
7 Steve Price, “This Day in Reds History: Replacement Rick Reed,” Red Leg Nation.com, July 22, 2010.
8 Joseph Reaves, “Cubs Prove Replaceable,” Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1995: 31.
9 Kim Rogers, “Reds Opening Pitcher Doesn’t Give Up Hope,” Indianapolis News, April 4, 1995: 22. (Uppercase in original).
10 Tim Kurkjian, “The Replacements,” ESPNmag.com, August 29, 2002.
11 Thomas Hill, “Reed Crosses Back,” New York Daily News, March 2, 1998: 58.
18 Matthew Silverman, “The Minor Signing of Rick Reed That Became a Major Impact,” Rising Apple.com, risingapple.com/2019/11/17/mets-rick-reed-career.
21 Ian O’Connor, “Reed Holds Mets Focus,” New York Daily News, September 26, 1998: D1.
23 Jason Diamos, “Reed Makes Trip to Find the Son He Couldn’t Keep,” New York Times, March 12, 1999: D3; Gregg Sarra, “Happy Ending 11 Years Later,” Newsday, March 13, 1999.
24 Rafael Hermoso, “Mets Win, Lose Reed,” New York Daily News, April 12, 1999: 36.
25 Lisa Olson, “Rick Takes One for Team,” New York Daily News, May 13, 1999: 84.
26 Rafael Hermoso, “Reed Displays His Better Self,” New York Daily News, August 3, 1999: 48.
27 Thomas Hill, “Day for Mets,” New York Daily News, August 9, 1999: 49.
28 Julian Garcia, “For Reed, Right Stuff, Wrong Result,” New York Daily News, September 8, 1999: 48.
29 Rafael Hermoso, “Mets Fate in Own Hands,” New York Daily News, October 3, 1999: 57.
30 Mark Kriegel, “Haven’t Met,” New York Daily News, October 17, 1999: 66.
31 The “Grand Single” occurred in the fifth game of the 1999 NLCS. With the game tied in the bottom of the 15th inning, Robin Ventura hit one over the center-field fence. The scoreboard initially flashed 7-4. But when Ventura never made it to second due to the cheering of his teammates, the official scorer changed the hit to a single. The New York newspapers and fans quickly dubbed his hit “The Grand Single.” Joel Achenbach, “Rough Draft: Robin Ventura’s ‘Grand Single,’” Washington Post.com, October 18, 1999.
32 T.J. Quinn, “Rick Gets Roughed Up as St.Loo Gets 1,” New York Daily News, October 15, 2000: 60.
33 La Velle Neal, “Twins Can’t Make Deal for Offense,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 1, 2001: C6.
34 Anthony McCarron, “Former New York Mets Pitcher Rick Reed Calls Trade to Twins the Day ‘Baseball Kinda Died for Us,’” New York Daily News, May 22, 2010.
35 “Rick Reed Joins Marshall Baseball Staff,” Herdzone.com, herdzone.com/news/2005/7/9/Rick_Reed_Joins_Marshall_Baseball_Staff.aspx
36 Tim Stephens, “Rick Reed Donates $1 Million Toward Marshall Baseball Facility,” Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail, October 26, 2019.