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Rick Lancellotti

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Richard Anthony Lancellotti

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[edit] Biographical Information

Rick Lancellotti was a free-swinging slugger who won three home run crowns in the minors, one in Japan and one in the Senior Professional Baseball Association. A .252 hitter in the minors, he smacked 348 home runs in his professional career (not counting winter ball), but only two in the major leagues. He topped 100 RBI three times in the minor leagues. A combination of low OBPs and defensive question marks helped prevent him from getting many chances in The Show. Lancellotti played in the US, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Italy and Japan.

[edit] Pirates organization

Lancellotti was an 11th-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1977. He hit .264/~.374/.479 in his debut with the Charleston Patriots. In 1978, the youngster batted .241/~.347/.392 for the Salem Pirates and tied for 15th in the Carolina League with 15 home runs. He led the league's outfielders with 15 errors but also was second with 15 assists.

In 1979, Rick emerged as a star power threat. He produced at a .287/~.367/.585 clip for the Buffalo Bisons. He led the Eastern League in slugging, total bases (296), RBI (107, tied with Joe Lefebvre) and home runs (41, 7 more than runner-up and teammate Tony Pena). He tied the EL home run record, held solely for 49 years by Ken Strong. His 16 errors were second among outfielders, two behind Kevin Bass, and he tied for 5th with 13 assists. He made the All-Star outfield alongside Lefebvre, Luis Salazar and George Vukovich.

Lancellotti took a step backwards in 1980. He hit .221/~.295/.367 in 61 games for the Portland Beavers and .262/~.352/.551 in 30 for Buffalo. On August 5, Pittsburgh traded him with Luis Salazar to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later (Mark Lee) and Kurt Bevacqua.

[edit] San Diego system

Assigned to the Amarillo Gold Sox upon his arrival, Lancellotti finished his trek that year by hitting .380/~.462/.658 to again flash promise. With the 1981 Hawaii Islanders, the 24/25-year-old batted .253/~.328/.440 in his first full season in AAA. He hit 14 sacrifice flies, second in the Pacific Coast League to Ron Roenicke. His defense was improved, with only 3 errors in 93 games in the outfield.

In 1982, Rick batted .272/~.359/.470, mainly playing DH for Hawaii. He drove in 95, but in the high-scoring PCL of that era, he was 49 behind leader Ron Kittle and 43 behind Greg Brock. A late-season call-up, he had his longest time in the majors - only 39 AB. He hit sixth and played first base in his debut, going 0 for 4 and striking out in his first MLB at-bat, facing Joaquin Andujar. Overall, he batted .179/.220/.231 in 17 games for the 1982 Padres. It would be four years until he returned to the major leagues.

[edit] 1983-1986: Four years, five organizations

Lancellotti was acquired by the Montréal Expos in a cash deal. He played 31 games for the Wichita Aeros before being released in late May. Less than two weeks later, he was signed by the Texas Rangers and played 33 games for the Oklahoma City 89ers. Overall, he had hit .206/~.276/.367 in those two American Association stops. Released by Texas after about six weeks, he was signed by San Diego.

With the Las Vegas Stars, he played 30 games and hit .302/~.332/.603 with 32 RBI. Lancellotti spent all of 1984 with Las Vegas and had a fine year, batting .287/~.351/.533. He hit 29 home runs, two behind PCL leader Rob Deer and drove in 131 runs, 23 ahead of MVP Alejandro Sanchez; it was the highest total in the affiliated minors that year. He led the league league with 19 game-winning RBI and with 11 times hit by pitch. He made the PCL All-Star team at DH despite playing 72 games in the outfield and 32 at first base.

Lancellotti was traded to the New York Mets for Rusty Tillman right before the start of the 1985 season. He hit only .180/~.256/.277 in 91 games for the Tidewater Tides and was sold to the San Francisco Giants on July 31. He continued to struggle, but improved to .210/~.293/.429 in his 33 games with the Phoenix Firebirds. His 16 home runs were his lowest output in 7 years.

Lancellotti signed back with San Francisco for 1986 and hit .275/~.348/.545 in another try with Phoenix. He led the PCL with 31 home runs for his second home run title and drove in 106, third behind Tim Pyznarski and Rob Nelson. He returned to the majors briefly, going 4 for 18 with 7 strikeouts for the 1986 Giants and getting only one start. He did hit his two MLB homers - a 2-run shot off of Jeff Dedmon on September 21 and a 3-run blast against Ron Robinson two days later.

[edit] 1987-1988: Japan

In the fall of 1986, Lancellotti was offered a shot to go to Japan with teammate Randy Johnson. After talking it over with Jim Lefebvre about Lefebvre's experience in Japan, Rick was leaning against not going. When GM Al Rosen said he could not guarantee a spot for the veteran, Lancellotti finally opted to go for the sure money in Japan.

Lancellotti described the differences in the baseball cultures in the two countries - in the US, he could walk down the street with his jersey and no one would recognize him, while in Japan, he could go out with a hat pulled down and old clothes and a crowd would surround him. He also reported being worn out by the aggressive practices employed at the time.

In June of 1987, Lancellotti homered in six straight games, a new record for the Hiroshima Carp (Takahiro Arai tied it 18 years later) and one shy of Sadaharu Oh's NPB record. The next game, he drew five walks and only saw one strike. (Lancellotti recounts the events as taking place in August; japanbaseballdaily.com lists June). On August 2, he tied the Hiroshima record with 8 RBI in a game.

Rick batted .218/.323/.536 in his first year in Japan. He led the Central League with 39 home runs, becoming the first home run leader in NPB history to finish last in batting average. He only had 9 doubles, one triple and 39 singles to go with the 39 homers. He led the CL with 114 strikeouts.

Returning to Japan in 1988, he slipped with a .189/.275/.455 batting line; in 264 AB, he hit 19 homers and 21 singles. His 7 sacrifice flies led the CL that year despite only playing 79 games. Lancellotti claimed that manager Junro Anan was trying to lose late in the year after it was revealed he would not return. Lancellotti said that Anan would let the pitcher hit in the crucial instance one game instead of pinch-hitting for him. When Lancellotti revealed his theory to the Japanese media, Hiroshima said they would send him to ni-gun but he refused. They then said they would not pay him. They reached a deal wherein Lancellotti would be paid but would claim it was all a misunderstanding. He did not discuss the secret agreement with club officials until after his career in Japan ended. Overall, his batting line with Hiroshima was .207/.313/.504 with 58 home runs in 667 AB.

[edit] 1989-1991: Back in the USA

Signing on with the Boston Red Sox, the 32/33-year-old hit .254/~.365/.446 in 1989 with 17 home runs for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He slipped to .223/~.320/.438 with 20 HR for the 1990 PawSox. He returned to the majors for a third brief stint, going 0 for 8 with three strikeouts and a sacrifice fly for the 1990 Red Sox.

He played for the Sun City Rays of the Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1990. He played in 23 games and batted .264 and was tied for the league lead of 5 home runs as well as leading the league (even with Ron Roenicke and Butch Benton) with 23 RBI when the SPBA folded.

Back with Pawtucket in 1991, Lancellotti won his fifth home run crown - and his second while hitting under .220. He batted .209/~.302/.452 and paced the International League (and all Red Sox farmhands) with 21 home runs.

Rick was the subject of a major error with Pawtucket, though. Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan claimed that Lancellotti had broken the minor league home run crown. People thought the 255 figure used as the minor league home run record in Bull Durham was the real record, belonging to somebody else. Ryan's error spread rapidly and Lancellotti appeared on CNN and in USA Today and Sports Illustrated, none of which bothered checking a record book. At the time, Hector Espino was the all-time home run leader with 484, well ahead of Lancellotti. Among US-based minor leagues, Buzz Arlett's 432 were also clearly ahead and Lancellotti was not within 100 of the top 10 all-time. Ryan's mistake is still cited, though, in online sources and probably elsewhere in 2007.

[edit] 1992: Italy

Lancellotti's 16th and final season in professional baseball was in Serie A1 in Italy. He said "It was a nice way to go out. They only played twice a week, practiced for about an hour on three days, and gave us the other two days off." He also commented positively about the food. The fans at the time were not well-informed, according to Lancellotti, and would sometimes cheer for the wrong team. He hit .315/.442/.535 with 36 runs, 37 RBI and 7 homers in 36 games for the Cariparma Angels. He was just 2 for 15 in the semifinals, though. As he had in 1982 and 1990, Rick even pitched one game in a mop-up role, allowing one run in one inning.

[edit] Post-playing career

After retiring, Lancellotti decided to start a baseball school due to his love of teaching. He began the Buffalo School of Baseball in 1993. In January of 1995, Rick was profiled along with two coaches at his school (Chris Rauth and Mike Twardoski) by The Sporting News in a piece on possible replacement players for the 1995 strike. He said that "[t]he union doesn't care about minor league guys...guys are trying to make a living down here. Why couldn't they cut 1 percent off the major league salaries and distribute it to minor leaguers?....How many swimming pools do you need?" He wound up with the Florida Marlins in spring training.

As of 2013, Lancellotti is still running the Buffalo School of Baseball.

[edit] HR Titles

1979 Eastern League 41, also led league with 107 RBI
1986 Pacific Coast League 31
1987 Japanese Central League 39
1991 International League 21
1984 Pacific Coast League Led the league with 131 RBI

[edit] Sources

Remembering Japanese Baseball by Robert Fitts, "A majors dilemma" by Steve Marantz in the 1/31/95 The Sporting News (pp.42-43), Lancellotti in Italy, Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland, 1978-1986 and 1991 Baseball Guides, 1987 Baseball America Statistics Report, 1990-1992 Baseball Almanacs

[edit] Related Sites

Buffalo School of Baseball

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