Ricky Trlicek

This article was written by David Fuller

Richard Alan Trlicek’s professional baseball career began with the 1987 amateur draft when the Philadelphia Phillies, having spotted him at La Grange (Texas) High School. selected him in fourth round of the draft. The 6-foot-3, 18-year-old right-handed pitcher signed his first contract days later and started the climb from low-A ball to the major leagues where he spent parts of five seasons, including two full tours, before retiring in 1998 due to back problems.

Trlicek was born on April 26, 1969, in Houston, a fourth-generation Texan descended from Moravian immigrants (Czech Republic) who landed in Louisiana in 1872 and settled in La Grange. His father, James Charles Trlicek, owner of an HVAC company, was born in 1944. His mother, Earline Dell Wind, was born in 1945. A brother, James Earl Trlicek, was born in 1967 and a sister, Laura Kay Wolff, was born in 1971.

Trlicek (pronounced TRIL-i-chek) spent his first two seasons in the New York-Pennsylvania League as a starting pitcher, first with the short-season Utica Blue Sox and then the Batavia Clippers. After eight starts in the 1988 season for the Clippers, he finished with a 2-3 record and a 7.39 ERA. The team had tried to change his delivery and he developed a ligament strain that caused numbness in his pitching hand. He reported to spring training in 1989 but was released by the Phillies on March 23. “That was the worst moment of my baseball career and maybe my life,” he told the Toronto Star in 1992. “The year before (1988) had been a rough year for me, and I finished with a sore arm. I threw well in spring training in 1989, but I think they had their minds made up.”1 He later learned that a typo in the Phillies media guide may also have been a reason. “I was taken in the fourth round, and they paid me $35,000 to sign,” Trlicek said. “Somehow in the media guide, it was printed as ‘taken in the 35th round and signed for $4,000.’ So I was released. My pitching coach was furious and called it a mistake.”2 The experience stayed with him, and he rededicated himself to becoming better. “You never forget a thing like that,” Trlicek said. “You take it with you for the rest of your career.”3

Atlanta’s Red Murff, the scout who signed Nolan Ryan, worked with Trlicek to get his old form back. He watched him pitch in a beer-league game and when it was over, Murff laid a contract on the hood of a car for Trlicek to sign.4 He was sent to extended spring training in Bradenton and then to the Sumter Braves of the South Atlantic League under manager Ned Yost. He pitched in 15 games and finished with a record of 6-5 and a 2.59 ERA. His season included two starts for the Durham Bulls, then in the Class-A Carolina League. On August 28 he pitched eight innings in a regular-season game, giving up just two runs but left with the game tied. The Bulls won the game 4-2.5 His second appearance came in a playoff game on September 6, but he lasted only 2⅓ innings and took the loss. His stint in Durham happened to coincide with the beginning of the club’s rise to fame from the hit movie Bull Durham, released the previous year. His journey to “The Show” began in earnest during the offseason when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on December 17 for popular but aging catcher Ernie Whitt, 37, the last original Blue Jay, and outfielder-pinch-runner Kevin Batiste.

For the next three seasons, Trlicek rose through the ranks, first with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Class-A Florida State League in 1990, where he went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 26 starts with a total of 154⅓ innings, third highest on the team. He was sent to Double-A Knoxville after breaking camp in 1991and converted to a reliever. He said the team thought his groundball-inducing sinker and slider would be more useful in a relief role.6 He recorded 16 saves in 41 games, with two wins and five losses and an ERA of 2.45. He missed the final month of the season with an ankle injury that required surgery and cost him a chance to play winter ball in Venezuela.7 In 1992, Trlicek was moved up to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs to start the season. He pitched in 35 games, earning 10 saves with a record of 1-1 but his ERA crept up to 4.36 against Triple-A hitters.

The 1992 season, in which the Jays won their first World Series, was memorable for Trlicek for a couple of reasons, even though he wasn’t a part of the postseason. In a spring-training game against the Orioles on March 24, he took over for starter David Wells with two out in the sixth. He threw one fly-ball pitch to end the inning and earned the win. He said it was his shortest game ever.8 When final-cut day arrived, Trlicek and Pat Hentgen found they were both starting the season with the Blue Jays because three regulars were on the disabled list. That gave Trlicek the opportunity to make his major-league debut on April 8 at Tiger Stadium.9 He pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing two runs, as the Blue Jays beat Detroit 10-9. Six days later, he made his second appearance, against the New York Yankees at SkyDome, pitching one shutout inning in a 12-6 win. Trlicek’s first trip to the big leagues ended after just those two games and he was sent to Syracuse on April 22 for the rest of the season to make way for All-Star Dave Stieb, who was returning from back surgery. On August 12 Trlicek underwent elbow surgery for a pinched nerve and did not participate in either the playoffs or World Series. When he was sent down to Syracuse, a disappointed Trlicek vowed that he would be back, and arrived at camp for the 1993 season eager to prove he was ready to stick with the Jays. Toronto placed him on waivers, however, and the Los Angeles Dodgers claimed him on March 16.10


It turned out to be a big break. Trlicek broke camp with the Dodgers in what was to be his first of two full seasons in the majors. Early in spring training, out of options, he had bumped rookie and future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez back to Triple A and remained with the Dodgers. He appeared in 41 games, posting a 1-2 record with a 4.08 ERA – and received a three-day suspension for a hit-by-pitch altercation on June 10 with the Padres’ Gary Sheffield, who was also suspended for three days.11 Sheffield had taken his best home-run swing on a 3-and-0 pitch in the sixth with his team ahead 10-2. Trlicek, who responded to the swing with an inside pitch, said he wasn’t trying hit Sheffield, and Sheffield said he wasn’t sure if it was deliberate, but he charged the mound anyway. It was Trlicek’s first time being charged and tackled. “I guess it would happen sooner or later,” he said.12 On July 7 the Dodgers and Phillies played a 20-inning marathon that lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes. Trlicek pitched four hitless innings – the 16th through 19th – but gave up two hits and two runs run in the 20th when he had to leave the game with numbness in his pitching hand, a recurrence of the nerve problem he’d had in Toronto. The game ended in a 6-5 loss (Trlicek’s) at 1:47 A.M. On September 8 Trlicek was one of seven Dodger pitchers to take the mound against Atlanta. The bright spot in the 8-2 loss to the Braves was that he collected his only major-league hit, off Tom Glavine.

Trlicek’s first major-league win came the next day, on September 9 against the Florida Marlins, when he threw one inning in relief. On September 21 he pitched a shutout inning against Cincinnati to earn his first major-league save. All of these achievements in his first full season in the major leagues were not enough for him to stick with the Dodgers, who placed Trlicek on waivers during spring training the following year. He was claimed by the Boston Red Sox on April 1, 1994.

Trlicek’s arrival in Boston was greeted with headlines when, in the second game of the season, in relief of Frank Viola, he retired all five batters he faced in a 5-4 win over Detroit. He threw 21 pitches, including 15 for strikes – shutting down the same team he had faced in his major-league debut two years earlier.13 His success proved fleeting, however, and after six games and an ERA of 17.18, he cleared waivers and was demoted to New Britain of the Double-A Eastern League in April. His woes were due to the same recurring nerve inflammation that caused numbness in his pitching hand – a problem that he said worsened in the cold New England weather.14 He moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket in May, was recalled to Boston in June and appeared in five more games before clearing waivers and being sent back down to New Britain as a starter. In July Trlicek cleared waivers and was sent to Pawtucket, only to be recalled on August 4.15 He made his first major-league start on August 8, a 5-2 loss to Minnesota. When the players strike began four days later, instead of being sent down to Pawtucket for the remainder of the season so he could keep pitching (and getting paid), the Red Sox kept Trlicek and a group of other players on the major-league roster where their pay was suspended. The Red Sox released him on December 5 to make room on the 40-man roster for two Rule 5 draft picks.

In the 1992 interview with the Toronto Star, Trlicek said he did not want to be a player who bounced around from team to team, spending time in the minors between chances.16 But his later career was all of that. Although he did make it back to the big leagues for parts of the next three seasons, he labored in the minors each year between opportunities with six teams. After becoming a free agent on being released by the Red Sox, he signed with the San Francisco Giants for 1995 and reported to minor-league camp in February as a nonroster invitee to avoid being a replacement player with the strike still in progress. “I’m going in under a minor-league contract,” he said. “I’ll have nothing to do with replacement players, or any big-league games. As of this moment, until the strike is settled, I’m a minor leaguer.”17 The strike ended on April 2, and Trlicek started the season with the Triple-A Phoenix Firebirds. He was 5-4 with a 5.29 ERA when the Giants released him on June 18, and he signed a minor-league contract with Cleveland on June 28 to play for the Double-A Canton-Akron Indians. A record of 5-3 and an ERA of 3.05 in 24 games – including a no-hitter on August 718 – was not enough for him to stick with Cleveland, which released him on October 16, 1995.

The next stop on Trlicek’s campaign to get back to the big leagues was Detroit, which picked him up on November 30 with an invitation to spring training in 1996. By March 27, the Tigers had seen enough and released him. He hung out at his hotel room in Florida, throwing against a brick wall to keep his arm in shape. He was about ready to quit and was packing to head home to Texas when he got a call from the Mets, who signed him to play for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.19

Trlicek pitched in 62 games, going 4-5 with 10 saves and an ERA of 1.87. The rebound won him a September call-up from the Mets and he appeared in five games, finishing the season with an ERA of 3.38, but was again placed on waivers. This time it was back to the Red Sox, who picked him up on October 14.

The return to Boston started on a good note: Trlicek made the 1997 Opening Day roster and went on to appear in 18 games, going 3-4 with an ERA of 4.63. But a pitching coach had tried to teach him a split-finger pitch that may have strained the middle finger on his pitching hand. It was a decision he disagreed with as he already threw a sinker. The Red Sox sent Trlicek back to the Mets on May 12 for Toby Borland in an exchange of journeyman relievers. The return to the Mets lasted only nine games before an injury ended his season.20 In a game at Wrigley Field on June 11, he strained the ligament in his middle finger and had to go on the disabled list. He went home on July 5 and was put on the 60-day disabled list on July 23. On October 9 he was sent outright back to Norfolk.

Trlicek re-signed with the Mets again for 1998 and returned to Norfolk, where he appeared in 19 games and finished 2-2 with a 6.08 ERA and three saves. Once again, injury sidelined him – this time it was an old back problem that flared up again and grew worse toward the end of the season. When Trlicek went home to check with his doctor, he was told his back was not going to get better, and he announced his retirement from playing at the end of the season. It took a while for him to adjust to the fact that his career was over but, “once it’s gone, it’s gone,” he said.21 He wrote a private memoir of his career for his family, both to catch them up on what had happened and to work out his thoughts on being out of the game.

Trlicek, then 29, turned to the oil business in 2001 and worked with his brother Jimmy, who was a land manager for an oil company until 2013. The work was hard and demanded long road trips and stressful negotiations with landowners. Jimmy gave up the work and started a sports memorabilia company in La Grange with his wife. Rick joined the company a year later and as of 2022 managed the sports-card side of the business.

Trlicek never married. He lives on an 85-acre property in La Grange that he shares with his parents and brother. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting and fishing. Although he enjoys traveling to sportsmen’s camps, he said he can track deer just going out his back door or near his cabin in the Texas hill country.22



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted Ancestry.com and Baseball-Reference.com.




1 Jim Byers, “Downcast Trlicek Vows He’ll Be Back,” Toronto Star, April 23, 1992: C3.

2 Trlicek phone interview, April 4, 2022; Philadelphia Phillies Media Guide 1989. The media guide actually says Trlicek was the Phillies’ 40th pick and makes no mention of his signing bonus. In fact, he was the team’s third pick, taken in the fourth round, after they traded their first-round pick for a player.

3 Trlicek interview.

4 Trlicek interview; Ed Price, “Merrill: Series for A-League Title ‘A Natural,’” Durham (North Carolina) Herald-Sun, September 10, 1989.

5 “Bulls Box,” Raleigh (North Carolina) News and Observer, August 29, 1989: 12.

6 Trlicek interview.

7 Alan Ryan, “Jays’ Trlicek Gets Roughed Up Again,” Toronto Star, March 12, 1992: D5.

8 Craig Daniels, “Pucks Fly in the Ballyard as Espo Makes His Pitch,” National Post (Toronto), March 25, 1992: 35.

9 Steve McAllister, “A Brutal Day in Motown,” National Post, April 9, 1992: 43.

10 Jim Byers, “Trlicek Now a Dodger,” Toronto Star, March 17, 1993: F4.

11 Mary Ann Hudson, “Dodgers Out in Left Field against Padres,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1993: C1, C9.

12 “Dodgers Fighting Mad in Loss,” Santa Clara (California) Signal, June 11, 1993: C4.

13 Michael Vega, “Trlicek’s Debut Is a Pronounced Success,” Boston Globe, April 7, 1994: 39.

14 Trlicek interview.

15 Nick Cafardo, “Red Sox Notebook,” Boston Globe, August 5, 1994: 73.

16 Byers, “Downcast Trlicek Vows He’ll Be Back.”

17 Lary Stone, “Giants Don Kid Gloves to Handle 2 Camps in 1,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 5, 1995: D1.

18 “Phillies Lose to Indians on Trlicek’s No-Hitter,” Pottsville (Pennsylvania) Republican and Herald, August 8, 1995: 11.

19 Trlicek interview.

20 New York Daily News, June 14, 1997: 111.

21 Trlicek interview.

22 Trlicek interview.

Full Name

Richard Alan Trlicek


April 26, 1969 at Houston, TX (USA)

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