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Former Phils reliever Reed starred in two sports

Former Phils reliever Reed starred in two sports

Here's a trivia question: Which Phillie faced both Wilt Chamberlain and Willie Stargell?

No, it wasn't Phillie Phanatic. Someone as tall: 6-foot-6 Ron Reed, a bullpen stalwart for the Phillies from 1976-83.

Reed was one of the rare two-sport stars, having played pro basketball in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons and pitched professionally. He played both sports at the University of Notre Dame and was drafted in the third round by the Pistons in 1965, the same year that baseball held its first amateur draft.

Reed wasn't selected in the baseball draft. He was scheduled to report to the Pistons' camp in September but told Don Wattrick, the Detroit GM, he needed a summer job. Wattrick contacted John McHale, the Braves' GM, who offered Reed a place on the Class A West Palm Beach roster.

He averaged 7.5 and 6.5 points in his two NBA seasons. Highlights included a 30-point game and a 20-rebound game and "playing against the likes of Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor," said Reed. "I'm so glad I can say I played against those Hall of Fame players."

During his second pro baseball season, 1966, Reed's path to the majors took him through Kinston (Class A), Austin (Double-A) and Richmond (Triple-A) before joining Atlanta.

"I decided to give up basketball [after the 1966 NBA season] and concentrate on baseball," said the 69-year-old resident of Lilburn, Ga. "I figured longevity was greater in baseball." With 19 years in the big leagues, it sure looks as if he made the proper decision.

As a starter, he reached double figures in wins six times with the Braves. After 10 games with Atlanta at the start of the 1975 season, he was traded to the Cardinals. He went a combined 13-13 with a 3.53 ERA in 34 starts between both clubs.

That winter the Cardinals traded him to Philadelphia for outfielder Mike Anderson, but Reed's Phillies career almost ended before it even started.

"Danny Ozark called me right after the trade was announced," Reed recalled. "He told me, 'We are looking for a 250-inning starter.' I told him, 'You got the right guy.' Then, in Clearwater, Danny told me I'd be going to the bullpen. I wasn't happy at all and asked to be traded. He said something like, 'We think you will be a great reliever, a chance to pitch often with the arm you have. Give it a try.' I decided to try. I don't think I would have made it if it wasn't for Gene-o [Gene Garber]. He taught me a lot about relieving, the mindset needed and how to not overuse your arm."

Reed led the club in saves in 1976, 1978 and 1982 and was part of an outstanding relief corps along with Gene Garber, Tug McGraw and later Warren Brusstar. He not only pitched in save situations but also set-up situations. "We had a lot of great players but to me the bullpen was the real strength of those winning clubs."

Reed pitched in one Division Series, five League Championship Series and two World Series in Phillies pinstripes.

"Looking back, I really enjoyed my era. We had some real battles with the Dodgers, Reds, Pirates, Cubs, Expos. A lot of great players busted their butts."

During his eight-year Phillies career Reed averaged 57 games, 97 innings, 7 wins and 11 saves. He ranks among the Phillies' all-time top-five pitching leaders for games, games finished, relief appearances, saves and wins for a reliever. He won 13 games in 1979, three short of the club record for a reliever set by Jim Konstanty, the NL MVP in 1950.

As a supervisor for Marketing Event Partners, a company that arranges charitable events to benefit children. Most of the events are golf outings so he's kept busy. Well, except this summer.

All those bullpen warm-up tosses and game pitches have finally taken its toll of his right shoulder. In July he will have a total shoulder replacement procedure which will require 4-6 months of rehab.

"That should get me ready in time for spring training and a comeback as the oldest pitcher ever," he laughed. "Actually, I just need to get back to my golf game and hopefully be at Alumni weekend next year."

During the 2008 World Series, he was glued to the TV set when Brad Lidge ended the Series with a strikeout. "Hey, the Phillies have won two World Series and each time they had a reliever from Notre Dame. You can look it up," he laughed.

Like all Phillies fans, he was devastated with the news that Harry Kalas had died. "We became very close friends. During spring training, we lived next to each other on the beach for seven years. We'd spend our late afternoons arguing over the best bets at the dog track. I cried when I heard the news, the first time I've cried since my mom died."

Ron Reed File
Ronald Lee Reed ... Born November 2, 1942, LaPorte, IN... Married Julie Gentry; two daughters, Jodi and Ali... Attended University of Notre Dame.

NBA Career: Detroit Pistons (1965-66).

MLB Career: Pitched for Atlanta Braves (1966-1975), St. Louis Cardinals (1975), Phillies (1976-83) and Chicago White Sox (1984)... 1968 NL All-Star... Postseason: NL Division Series (1981); National League Championship Series (1969, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1983); World Series (1980, 1983)... Winning pitcher for Atlanta the night Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run... Recorded final out when Phillies clinched NL East in Pittsburgh (9/30/78).

Phillies Record Book: Games (6th, 458)... Games finished (2nd, 255)... Relief appearances (3rd, 449)... Saves (6th, 90)... Wins for a reliever (1st, 54).

Nicknames: Bigfoot and Slinky... "LC [Larry Christenson] called me Bigfoot because of my size 15 boats. Ron Schueler said I threw like the Slinky toy."

(This article originally appeared in Phillies Magazine).

Larry Shenk is a contributor to
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