Today I would like to spotlight pitcher Jerry Reuss. He is a hometown boy from Overland, Missouri. He went to Ritenour High School where he led them to the 1966 and 1967 Missouri state baseball championships and years before he pitched a no-hitter and won a World Series.
The “electric” atmosphere outside the ballpark on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon fascinated him, as did the Cardinals crisp, white uniforms.
“On the ride home, I said, ‘I want to be a major-league ballplayer. My brother, Jim, said, ‘Don’t we all? The odds of making it are one in a million,’” Reuss said. “I responded, ‘Well, there has to be one. And why can’t that one be me?’”
Reuss succeeded, pitching 22 seasons in the big leagues from 1969 to 1990, and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct the left-hander among its Class of 2016.
Reuss had been a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1967. What made him special?
“No. 1, his size. But, No. 2, his ability to listen and comprehend what you were talking about,” said his Ritenour baseball coach, Lee Engert. “In 45 years of coaching, I wanted players to listen but I also thought it was important that coaches listened, too. He understood the importance of listening. And he always worked above and beyond 100 percent.”
Reuss reached Triple-A Tulsa at age 18 in 1967, mentoring under Hall of Fame pitcher and then-manager Warren Spahn, and won his St. Louis debut on Sept. 27, 1969 at Montreal. He remained a Cardinal until April 1972.
“By watching Carlton and (Bob) Gibson,” Reuss said of the two Hall of Famers, “I learned the things to do and the things not to do. I could see how to handle wins and shake off losses.”
The experience he had with Cardinals, Astros and Pirates prepared him for a trade that Pittsburgh made that sent Jerry Reuss to the Dodgers for Rick Rhoden. It was with the Dodgers where he shined.
Reuss, who finished with 220-191 record and 3.64 earned run average for his career, was the Opening Day starter for three different teams, started the 1975 All-Star Game, threw a no-hitter for the Dodgers against the Giants on June 27, 1980, was the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game the next month and pitched a complete-game, five-hitter to beat the Yankees 2-1 in Game 5 of the 1981 World Series. The Dodgers won the Series in six games.
“You want to try to hit some of the different things that all pitchers strive for,” Reuss said. “A no-hitter, pitching and winning in the World Series and All-Star Game, all of those things I was fortunate enough to do at least once. They are all special.”
Reuss said his induction in to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame also is special.
“The plaque will list my statistics,” he said. “What this represents to me are the people who made it possible. As a kid, the family, friends, coaches, teachers, administrators, vets at the American Legion, minor league coaches … people all the way through the process who were there when I started and were there when I finished helped me live a dream that millions of kids can’t.”
I have talked to my son about playing high school baseball in which he really wants to do and I basically told him the story of Jerry Reuss. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication.