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Indians Indians Archive Tribe Game Vault: 7/20/75. Rookie Rick Manning Hits His First ‘Honest’ Home Run
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

rick manning front smilingIn retrospect, 1975 was a watershed year. On one hand, the United States was in the process of moving on from some horrible experiences from its recent past. The Viet Nam war was ending as Saigon fell to the Communists, mollifying many. Sentencing from the Watergate Hotel break-in and cover-up was proceeding. One-time hostage-turned-fugitive Patricia Hearst was captured in San Francisco.

To be sure, the times were turbulent. Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing in Detroit. Mass genocide was beginning in Cambodia, at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. The Weather Underground was continuing its campaign of violence in the U.S. through high-profile bombings. Sarah Jane Moore fired a shot at president Gerald Ford, seventeen days after Manson ‘family’ member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme pointed a gun at him.

But there were signs of promise for the future, as well. The microcomputer was born in 1975. Bill Gates founded Microsoft, in New Mexico. Although the Cold War was at an ominous point, a manned American Apollo spacecraft and the manned Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docked in orbit in a public display of cooperation. And on the U.S. pop culture front, the Cleveland Indians hired Frank Robinson to be the first black manager in major league baseball.

The Indians’ season began with some promise, as several roster holdovers were expected to lead the way to a winning record. After a 10-10 start, however, the fortunes of the team nosedived. Turmoil reigned, in the clubhouse as well as with Robinson’s relations with the league’s umpires. Ineffective veterans were traded away as the season played out- namely, Gaylord and Jim Perry,

In their place, a number of talented rookies began to generate excitement . Robinson seemed buoyed by the pitching of Dennis Eckersley and Eric Raich. The energy and promise of catcher Alan Ashby, of second baseman Duane Kuiper. Of outfielder Rick Manning.


rick manning baseball digestOn July 20, Manning stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 3rd inning against California Angels starter Dick Lange. Today, certainly, the kid’s thoughts returned to the home run he’d hit off Lange, back in Anaheim on July 11.

archie manning handoffIn the 7th inning of that game, Manning hit a line drive to left-center.CF Mickey Rivers and LF Dave Collins each could have caught the ball, but neither did. They collided as the ball rolled all the way to the outfield wall. “Arch”, as Manning’s teammates called him (a reference to the more famous Archie Manning of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints), sprinted around the bases for the first home run of his promising career. After the game, the reporters wanted to know all about Manning’s feat. He obliged them quotes befitting a power hitter. "I hit a slider. As soon as I saw the ball sitting at the base of the fence, I knew it was gone." Arch’s teammates were amused, and began to tease him on a daily basis. “When are you going to hit an honest home run, rook?”

Indians lefty Don Hood walked Angels 2B Jerry Remy to start the Sunday afternoon matinee. The 10,402 in attendance at the Stadium groaned when Hood had Remy picked off at first, only to see a Rico Carty throwing error send the runner to third. Rivers singled Remy home, and then stole second base. A Leroy Stanton line drive to the Tribe’s Kuiper at short led to Rivers getting doubled up off of second. Although the damage was limited to one run, it was an inauspicious start for Hood and the Tribe. 1-0 Angels, middle of the 1st.


The Indians threatened in their half of the 1st. Lowenstein singled to center. After a Kuiper fly out to right, Manning reached on an error by Remy. Hendrick singled to center, loading the bases. Carty’s chance to make up for his error was wasted as he grounded into a double play of his own. 1-0 Angels after 1.

rick manning all red buntedTo open the 2nd, Hood again walked the leadoff batter (another bad habit that plagued this Indians team was its lack of playing fundamentally sound baseball). He recovered, however, stranding Dave Chalk at first base as the next three hitters hit fly ball outs. Still 1-0 Angels, middle of the 2nd.

Oscar Gamble opened the Tribe 2nd with a rocket to right field that he legged out for a triple. He was fast, but his afto beat him to third by a hair (you didn’t think I’d refrain from that easy crack, did you?).

3B Buddy Bell singled to right for the RBI, and Ashby followed with a double to right to plate Bell. 2-1 Indians after 2.

Don Hood enjoyed an uneventful 3rd, setting the Angels down in order.

In leading off the home half of the 3rd, Manning’s job was to reach base. He was a tough out, partly due to his blazing speed. His manager was so enamored with Manning’s energy and running skills that earlier on this day, he installed the one-time shortstop as the Tribe’s every day center fielder. George Hendrick slid over to RF from center. John Lowenstein, Oscar Gamble and Charlie Spikes were left to platoon in LF. Robinson said Hendrick didn't mind; that right field was his 'natural position' anyway. He was used to it from his days in Oakland.

rick manning turningIn most seasons, the year Rick Manning was having would have made him a serious candidate for American League Rookie of the Year honors. In 120 games, he hit .285 and had an on-base percentage of .347. His game was speed. Right from the start, he played shallow in the outfield, saying bloop fly balls that fall for hits “offended” him. Robinson appreciated Manning’s confidence in his ability to retreat and track down balls hit over his head.

Unfortunately for Manning, 1975 was the year that Jerry Rice and Fred Lynn debuted for the Boston Red Sox. Lynn finished at .331/21/105 and not only won the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but also the AL MVP award and a Gold Glove to boot as the Red Sox advanced to the World Series.

Actually, a good comparison to Rick Manning is a latter-day Red Sox outfielder, Jacob Ellsbury. Great speed, strong work ethic, ability to leg out ground balls that made a long hitless streak unlikely. Tremendous defensive outfielder. Mostly gap power; not one to hit many home runs.

That’s not to say that Manning couldn’t crush a ball now and then.

With the score still at 2-1 Indians, Manning opened the bottom of the 3rd with a longball. It was one of three he’d hit during that rookie season, and it was his answer to all of his teammates who’d kept reminding him that he hadn’t yet hit an “honest” home run.

rick manning larvell blanksThe Tribe wasn’t done scoring in the 3rd. Hendrick walked, and Carty grounded into a force out at second. Lange was lifted during Gamble’s at-bat, with Andy Hassler being summoned to face Gamble. Gamble walked.

Buddy Bell approached home plate, spit some tobacco juice, and peered at Hassler. This had been a strange season for Bell. He was accustomed to being treated as a hero in Cleveland. In fact, in later years when he returned as a Texas Ranger, he was lavished with a hero’s welcome- enough to offend sensitive Indians 3B Toby Harrah. But in 1975, Bell was picked on by the Cleveland boo-birds. He knew full well he was a disappointment- in fact, he made the thoughtful decision that season to decline his starting spot at third base for the AL in the All Star game.

With two on in the 3rd, and one out and one in, Bell homered off the reliever Hassler. 6-1 Indians.

The Tribe would tack on three more runs in the 4th, an inning that would feature a bomb off the bat of Carty. By the time the Angels’ Dave Collins hit a three-run homer in the 8th, the Cleveland win had been assured.

Frank Robinson’s Indians finished strong in 1975, after dealing some of the seasoned players who’d been counted on the lead the ball club. The 79-80 record was a testament to the leadership of some of the veterans who’d done their job- guys like 1B Boog Powell, Carty, and reliever and Indians Man of the Year Dave LaRoche. It was also a reflection of the wave of youngsters who injected some vitality into a clubhouse that had been more stressful than usual, partly due to the microscope Robinson was under as he broke the racial barrier for managers.

Helping to lead the way for the future was Rick Manning, who proved his worth in that first year.


Thank you for reading. Sources include; Frank Robinson: The Making of a Manager by Russell Schneider; Frank: The First Year by Frank Robinson and Dave Anderson; The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia by Schneider; Sports Illustrated; Baseball Digest.

rick manning slide bw

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