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Richie Zisk

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Richard Walter Zisk

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[edit] Biographical Information

Richie Zisk hit 207 home runs in a 13-year career.

Zisk was born in Brooklyn, NY and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates at the age of 18 in 1967. Richie's family moved to New Jersey as a youngster, and he graduated from Parsippany High School, a town which several years later produced another Pirate, Joe Orsulak. He attended Seton Hall University in New Jersey close to New York City, but he was already playing pro ball in 1967.

Richie moved up one notch of the minor league ladder each year from 1967 to 1971, showing power every step of the way, and winning 3 minor league home run championships, until he hit the bigs for 7 games in 1971. It was a year when the Pirates won the World Series, but Zisk did not appear in the Series.

Zisk did well in the minors during most of 1972, hitting .308 with a .571 slugging percentage, and it was to be his last time in the minors. Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on December 31, 1972, and that opened up a spot in the outfield. The next year, 1973, Zisk appeared in 103 games for the Pirates, posting a .324 batting average, a .364 on-base percentage, and a .526 slugging percentage. His defensive range in the outfield was below the average, as it often was in his career (with a notable exception in 1974).

In 1974, he hit .313 with 17 home runs and 100 RBI, as the Pirates won the division. Zisk hit .300 in the Championship Series.

It was a darn good outfield in Pittsburgh in those days - Zisk played alongside Willie Stargell and Al Oliver, while Dave Parker and Miguel Dilone tried to get some playing time. The team was loaded with power hitters and was nicknamed the Pittsburgh Lumber Company.

In 1975, Zisk hit .290 with 20 home runs, as Pittsburgh again won the division. Zisk hit .500 in the Championship Series, as Zisk batted fifth in the order behind Oliver and Stargell (who by now had moved to 1st base), and ahead of Parker. In 1976, his last year with the Pirates, he hit .289 with 21 home runs.

The Pirates then traded him to the Chicago White Sox for two pitchers, Rich Gossage and Terry Forster; all three players were in the last year of their contracts, and neither teams thought they would be able to retain their home-grown stars after they hit free agency. Zisk became one of the South Side Hitmen in 1977 with 30 home runs, playing alongside outfielders Oscar Gamble, who had 31 homers, and Ralph Garr, who hit .300.

A free agent after the season, he chose to sign with the Texas Rangers, and spent three years with them. He hit around 20 home runs each season, and had his highest batting average with them, .290, in the last of the three years.

Traded to the Seattle Mariners in an eleven-player deal, he finished out his career in three seasons with them. He did well in the strike-shortened 1981 season, hitting .311 with 16 home runs, and in 1982 he hit 21 home runs batting .292. He was named Comeback Player of the Year in 1981, even though he had hit well the previous year, and his rise in batting average was largely a function of having moved to a better hitting park. By then he was largely a designated hitter and when he fell off in 1983 to .242 at the age of 34, because of various injuries, he was done.

The most similar player to Zisk, according to similarity scores, is a surprise - Sid Gordon. Other players that are listed among the ten most similar, in terms of career performance, include Bill Skowron, Pedro Guerrero, Kevin McReynolds, Rondell White, and Jackie Jensen.

An article in Baseball Digest in 2001 looked at major league career leaders by alphabetical last name. Zisk was one of the leaders in most categories, along with other long-time ballplayers whose names started with Z: Heinie Zimmerman, Chief Zimmer, Todd Zeile, and Gus Zernial.

In 2006-2010, Zisk was a coach with the Daytona Cubs.

Zisk's brother, John Zisk, was an outfielder in the Texas Rangers chain.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2-time AL All-Star (1977 & 1978)
  • 1981 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1975-1978 & 1982)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1977)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1974 & 1977)
  • Won a World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971 (he did not play in the World Series)

[edit] Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
2000 Daytona Cubs Florida State League 76-63 5th Chicago Cubs League Champs
2005 Daytona Cubs Florida State League 69-66 5th Chicago Cubs

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