Obituary: Richie Scheinblum (1942-2021)


RIP to All-Star outfielder Richie Scheinblum, who had an 8-year career in the majors between 1965 and 1974 with six different teams. His family posted the following message on his Facebook page:

It is with extreme sadness that we share that our brother Richie Scheinblum passed away peacefully on May 10, 2021 after a long illness. Richie is survived by two brothers and two sisters, a son and daughter in law, two grand children, and many nieces, nephews and cousins, and more friends than one could imagine. The consummate story teller with a great sense of humor, Richie will be missed by family, friends, and fans. Please keep Richie in your thoughts and prayers. If you are inclined to want to do more, please consider a memorial contribution to MLB B.A.T. The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization that confidentially supports members of the Baseball Family in need of financial, medical and psychological assistance. Contributions may be made at: https://www.mlb.com/baseball-assistance-team Sincerely, Randi, Rafe, Robin and Robert

No location or specific cause of death was available, but Scheinblum, who was 78, was living in Florida at the time of his death. Scheinblum played for the Cleveland Indians (1965, 1967-69), Washington Senators (1971), Kansas City Royals (1972, 1974), Cincinnati Reds (1973), California Angels (1973-74) and St. Louis Cardinals (1974).

Richard Alan Scheinblum was born on November 5, 1942, in New York City. He learned to switch hit from his Little League coach, Janet Murk. In her youth, she tried to play second base with her high school baseball team but was declared ineligible after a couple of games. Instead, she became a player in the AAGPBL and a Little League coach after that. Scheinblum went to Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, N.J., and was an All-County baseball player there. He then moved on to the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University and was a multi-sport star. In addition to pitching and playing outfield on the baseball team, he was also a starting forward on the basketball team and set the school record for javelin throw.

Source: The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), January 31, 1984.

When Scheinblum was a senior in 1964, he was awarded the Dr. Roy Ilowit Athletic Achievement Award by the school. He had been the co-captain and starting center fielder of the baseball team and hit .415 while leading the team to its first winning season. The only question about Sheinblum’s game was his fielding. He was moved out of the infield way back in little league, when he focused on hitting and not enough on defense. Even in high school and college, he had a tendency of letting fly balls get past him. Of course, his arm was so powerful that he still threw out runners trying to score on his miscues.

Cleveland signed the 21-year-old outfielder in June of 1964. Scheinblum said that about eight different teams had shown interest in signing him. “The Mets showed some interest, but not too much money,” he said. “The Yankees called me while I was in Cleveland, but I had decided to go to the Indians because I think I can make the club a lot quicker.”

He wasn’t wrong. Scheinblum batted .309 for the Burlington Indians of the Carolina League in 1964 and then .318 for Salinas of the California League in 1965. He also hit 8 home runs and drove in 71 runs there. He performed so well that Cleveland brought him to the majors at the tail end of the 1965 season. He got into 4 games, three as a pinch-runner and one as a pinch-hitter. He hit into a force out against the Yankees in his only at-bat, leaving him 0-for-1 with a run scored.

“You know this is only the second time I’ve been in Yankee Stadium,” he said of his appearance in New York. “I guess I did what everyone else had done when he plays here for the first time — looked at the monuments in center field.”

Cleveland was a little more cautious with his development after that brief stay in the majors. Scheinblum spent all of 1966 with AA Pawtucket and them most of 1967 and ’68 with AAA Portland of the Pacific Coast League. He hit around ,300 with the Portland Beavers and showed some power, averaging 15 homers a year there. Each season, he had brief stays in the majors, appearing in 18 games with Cleveland in 1967 and 19 in ’68. The 1967 trip was the better one, with a .318 batting average and 6 RBIs. He was an effective hitter, even if he wasn’t knocking line drives all over the field. “I got three hits last night, and if you added all of them up they wouldn’t make 11 feet. Everything is going off the end of the bat,” he said.

During his offseason after the 1967 season, Scheinblum played in Nicaragua for the Cinco Estrellas, in the middle of a revolution. That whole saga really requires a story of its own, but suffice to say, he was lucky to leave the country in one piece. He returned to Cleveland, where Indians manager Joe Adcock told him he was to be the starting right fielder in 1968. However, Adcock was fired that winter and replaced with Al Dark. Dark sent Scheinblum to the minor-league camp in spring training without a second thought. When he did make occasional appearances with Cleveland, he hit a full 100 points below his 1967 mark.

Cleveland had a difficult decision to make in the offseason of 1968. The expansion draft for four new teams took place that October, and the Indians, with a limited number of players they could protect, reserved Scheinblum and left Lou Piniella unprotected. Piniella was drafted by the Seattle Pilots but was traded to the Kansas City Royals before the end of the season. He won the 1969 AL Rookie of the Year Award. Scheinblum spent the entire 1969 season with Cleveland, playing all three outfield spots. It took him a while to get started — he was hitless in his first 30 at-bats — but he eventually became the team’s top pinch-hitter, batting .259 in the role. His only home run of the season and the first of his MLB career was a pinch-hit shot off Detroit’s Tom Timmermann on July 20, 1969. It tied the score at 4, and Cleveland went on to win the game 5-4 in 10 innings. He struggled in his few chances to start and finished the season with a .186 average.

While Scheinblum’s home run on July 20 was a noteworthy event for him, it probably didn’t get much attention, even back in Cleveland. That same night, Neil Armstrong became the first person to ever walk on the moon.

Scheinblum had back-to-back stellar performances in the minor leagues in 1970 and ’71, and he did it for two different organizations. While with Cleveland, he was sent to the Wichita Aeros of the American Association and led the league in hits (155), runs (79), total bases (265), RBIs (84) and was second in homers (24) and third in batting (.337). While the Indians didn’t bring him to the major leagues, the Washington Senators purchased his contract that October. He played sparingly with the Senators in 1971, with a .143 average in 27 games. The highlight of his time there came from taking hitting lessons from manager Ted Williams. When he was demoted to the minors, he joined the Denver Bears and won 2/3 of a triple crown — a .388 batting average and 108 RBIs led the league, and his 25 home runs were second-best.

The Kansas City Royals were the next team to take a flyer on Scheinblum and his potential, acquiring his contract for 1972. They were rewarded with Scheinblum’s best season. He slashed .300/.383/.418 in 134 games. He was not much of a power hitter, with 8 home runs, but he hit 21 doubles and added 4 triples for good measure. He was among the leaders for the AL batting title until some late-season foot injuries dropped his average. Scheinblum was named to his only All-Star team and grounded out against Bill Stoneman in his only at-bat.

During his breakout season, he reflected on the excellent hitting instructors he had in his career — Birdie Tebbets, Al Dark, Ted Williams. Every one of them tried to change his stance, but he set it all aside. “I’m forgetting everything I’ve ever been told about hitting and I’m going up there swinging at everything I can see,” Scheinblum said. “Everything may be wrong, but I know I can hit that way.”

Much to his surprise, the Royals traded Scheinblum after the season. He later said that he hired an agent in the offseason, as they were starting to come into fashion. The agent met with Royals management in November of 1972 and reportedly asked for an exorbitant salary. The very next day, Scheinblum was traded to Cincinnati, along with pitcher Roger Nelson, for Hal McRae and pitcher Wayne Simpson. It was a great trade for the Royals to get their future DH mainstay McRae. Scheinblum, however, was going to a Reds team that already had Cesar Geronimo in right field. He struggled to a .222 batting average in limited opportunities and was traded to the California Angels on June 15, 1973. His return to the American League rejuvenated him; in 77 games, Scheinblum batted .328 with 3 home runs and 21 RBIs.

After two good seasons with the Royals and Angels, the end of Scheinblum’s career was pretty abrupt. He started 1974 with the Angels and hit .154. At the end of April, he was traded back to the Royals. Kansas City tried him as a DH and part-time outfielder. He hit .181 in 36 games there with just 2 extra-base hits — both doubles. That August, the Royals sold his contract to the St. Louis Cardinals. He was sent to the minors but was brought up to the big leagues in September. He had 6 pinch-hitting appearances and had singles in two of them. At the end of the year, he had played in a total of 46 games across three different teams and hit .183.

Source: St. Louis Jewish Light, October 16, 1974.

Scheinblum opted to sign with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp for the Japan Central League for 1975. Although not quite a power hitter that most American ballplayers in Japan were expected to be (Carp teammate Gail Hopkins homered 33 times), he nonetheless batted .280 and helped spark the club to its first championship. He improved on all his numbers in 1976, as he hit .307 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs. That year was his last as a professional ballplayer.

In parts of 8 seasons, Scheinblum had a slash line of .263/.343/.352. He had 320 career hits, with 52 doubles, 9 triples and 13 home runs. He drove in 127 runs and scored 131 times. For all the talk of him being a defensive liability in the outfield, Scheinblum had a .962 fielding percentage in right field and .978 in left field. That puts him a little under par as a right fielder, but he was pretty much a league average left fielder, if not a little above average.

Scheinblum tore his Achilles in the 1977 offseason and was laid up for eight months. By the time he was well enough to play, he was unable to find a job either in the U.S. or Japan. He had some good insights about Americans playing in Japan. “Americans are in a funny position there. You’re supposed to be a superman, but they want to see their players do as well or better than the Americans,” he said. “If you do really well, nobody is going to talk to you. If you do real bad, they’re going to make fun of you. What you have to do to succeed in Japan is be real steady… hit your .280, .290. They don’t want you to be a star — and if you’re bad, you’re gone.”

He also had some issues with umpires there. “The strike zone is like a cloud. It has different shapes and sizes and moves around,” he said. The one exception was for slugging legend Sadaharu Oh, who almost never was called out on strikes. “Oh’s strike zone is when he swings.”

Scheinblum capitalized on his successful season with the Royals with an endorsement for a hair replacement center.

Scheinblum ran a successful jewelry wholesaler business along with his wife, Mary, in California. His son, Monte, injured his elbow in high school, ending hopes of a baseball career. Instead, he picked up a set of golf clubs and became a successful golf pro. Scheinblum was also a regular teacher at baseball clinics and was part of a group of players who participated in a special tribute to Jewish baseball players in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 2004.

“My first season in the minors [in Burlington, N.C.], my roommate said, ‘Would you mind if I touch you?’ Then he phones his parents and said, ‘They don’t have hair all over their body.’ He’d never seen a Jew before,” Scheinblum said.

To close, it has to be noted that Scheinblum was pretty well-known in his day for an endless array of one-liners. Here are a few to remember him by:

On his childhood: “I grew up in the Bronx. They named my neighborhood after a mountain. Lookout.”

On Cleveland: “The only good thing about playing in Cleveland is that you don’t have to make road trips there.”

On manager Birdie Tebbets: “He used to tell me to go kneel in the on-deck circle until he could think of someone to send up to hit.”

On his role in the Kansas City outfield: “Amos [Otis] covered everything. I was told to stand on the right field line and don’t move. Lou [Piniella] was told to stand on the left-field line and don’t move. What our job was, when the ball was hit, we’d point.”

On his college, C.W. Post: “Sure, I was a .400 hitter my freshman year. I was 2-for-5. We used to get tremendous crowds out for our games, maybe 14 people — seven from the home team, seven from the visitors. But there were a lot of other people watching from behind buildings and things. That held our attendance down.”

On slumps: “A slump is like a cold. No matter what you do, it’s going to last two weeks.”

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