A World Series MVP from the losing team?

October 24th, 2021
Bobby Richardson during the 1960 World Series.

NEW YORK -- It’s been 61 years since former Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson had a World Series for the ages. Yes, when people think of the 1960 Fall Classic, they think of Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 homer -- the first series-clinching walk-off HR in MLB history -- that gave the Pirates their first championship since '25. But Richardson was the man, and MVP, of that seven-game series, the only player in baseball history to win the award on the losing team.

Richardson set the record for the most RBIs in the series with 12, which still stands today. Former Yankees public relations director Marty Appel calls him every October to tell him that the record is still intact.

“Appel knows that in Sumter, South Carolina, we don’t always follow [the record] really close,” the 86-year-old Richardson said via telephone. “So he makes sure I know.”

Richardson said he sometimes runs into Pirates fans while vacationing on Pawleys Island in South Carolina, and they will tell him that Mazeroski was the MVP.

“It’s nothing personal. They are good baseball fans," Richardson said. "The average person doesn’t realize [what I did]."

Bobby Richardson at his final Yankees Old Timers game in 2018.

Richardson was awarded a Corvette for winning the MVP, but he traded it in for a Jeep. Richardson had a wife and three children at the time, and he couldn’t fit a family of five into that Corvette. But he bought that same Corvette from an Oldsmobile dealership a year later. By the time he bought the car, the driver before him had driven it for 9,000 miles.

Richardson's best performance in the 1960 series was Game 3, when he hit a grand slam against right-hander Clem Labine in the first inning. Before he stepped to the plate, Richardson expected manager Casey Stengel to pinch-hit for him. The skipper often pulled him out of games during the early innings.

“What Stengel would do was holler out, ‘Hold that gun.’ Everybody knew what that meant,” Richardson explained. “It meant come on back and [someone] would hit for you. I was listening for that and I didn’t hear it.

“I was trying to hit the ball on the right side. Labine threw the ball inside. I hit it hard, but while rounding first base, the left fielder, Gino Cimoli, had gone to the fence and he was looking at his glove. I thought he caught it and then I saw the umpire at second base give me the home run sign. Every time I came up to bat, there were men on base that series. I set a record that [has] lasted six decades.”

Bobby Richardson in 1966 with his wife and children after announcing his retirement from Major League Baseball.

But being MVP isn’t all he remembers from that World Series. Richardson didn’t like the way Stengel managed that series, and remembers looking at teammates crying in the locker room after Mazeroski ended it. In tears, Mickey Mantle told his teammates, “We were the better team.” After all, the Yankees outscored the Pirates, 55-27.

“Stengel was fired after the series,” Richardson said. “He said he was fired because he was 72 years old. But really he was fired because he didn’t start Whitey Ford [in the first game]. We never understood that. Whitey pitched two shutouts that series. … I would bet you $100 that he would have pitched another shutout. He would have been on top of his game for that first game. It had to be something I don’t know about.”

The 1960 Fall Classic wasn’t Richardson's only success. He was in the postseason seven times and posted a career .305 batting average with 15 RBIs in the playoffs. He is proud that he collected seven hits off Cardinals great Bob Gibson in the '64 World Series, “but I made the last out,” Richardson said. And, despite the '60 loss, he is quick to point out he won two World Series, in '61 and ’62.

Richardson retired after the 1966 season at the age of 30 to spend more time with his family, which by then included his wife, Betsy, and four children. They’ve been married 65 years now, and today he has five children, 18 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. A 14th is on the way.

Richardson appeared in his first Yankees Old Timers Game the year after his retirement … at age 31. His final appearance was in 2018.

“The Yankees have invited me back every year and I wrote them a letter and I said, ‘I’m in my 80s now. It’s a little hard for me to travel. I don’t like to wait in lines. I’m not going to come this year. … If you have anything special, let me know and I will come for that.’”

Richardson went to work after his baseball career ended. He became a baseball coach at the University of South Carolina (1970-76), Coastal Carolina (1985-86) and Liberty University (1987-90). Richardson was briefly in politics in the 1970s, running as a Republican for the United States House of Representatives in South Carolina's fifth Congressional district. He lost.

“I ran for Congress one year, and most people don’t know that. That’s fine with me,” Richardson said.

While he is not a minister, Richardson has been known to do eulogies and sermons at the funerals of teammates, including Roger Maris and Bill Skowron. Richardson also made the funeral arrangements for Mickey Mantle and for Ralph Houk, his favorite manager.

“I had a great rapport with my teammates,” Richardson said. “We kidded a lot. They had a bottle of Coke for me to shake up when we won the championship.”