Richard Lee Baney: Lost Boy of Summer Enjoys Colorful Life On and Off the Baseball Field

Categories: Sports
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"The Lost Boys of Summer" cover boy Richard Lee "Dick" Baney of Tustin can point to pro baseball career highlights that include pitching Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" to victory in a divisional playoff game and striking Henry Aaron out twice as "Hammering Hank" closed in on Babe Ruth's all-time homerun record.

He's also apparently turns up in three very different pop culture reference points: the book Ball Four, the movie Bull Durham and Playgirl magazine.

Baney turns up in four pages of Ball Four, pitcher Jim Bouton's tell-all about his 1969 season with the Seattle Pilots. That was Baney's rookie season with the Pilots, and the pride of Anaheim High School also pitched alongside "Bulldog" Bouton with the minor league Vancouver Mounties of the Pacific Coast League. Here is one Ball Four excerpt that mentions Baney:

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When Dick Baney went into the game to throw his first major-league pitch everybody in the bullpen moved to the fence to watch him. We wanted to see how he'd do against the Brew, which is what we call Harmon Killebrew. Inside I still think of him as the Fat Kid, which is what Fritz Peterson over at the Yankees always called him. I'd say, "How'd you do, Fritz?" and he'd answer, "The Fat Kid hit a double with the bases loaded." Well, the first time the Fat Kid faced Dick Baney he hit the second pitch 407 feet into the left-field seats.

After the game I was shaving next to Baney. "Welcome to the club," I said. "You lost your virginity tonight."

"The only difference," he said, "is that all you guys will still be here tomorrow."

Baney has told the story a million times about how Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett wrote how handsome he was in his tight Reds uniform. (Search the web for a photo of a Red player in the 1970s and you'll see how tight they were back then. You might want to avoid Johnny Bench, though.) Barrett item produced a call to Baney from Playgirl asking if he would pose. He declined figuring Reds management probably would not approve.

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All photos of Baney today by Kenneth M. Ruggiano/OC Weekly
Brenda Baney, relaxing with her husband Richard at home, is a top real estate seller with Tarbell Realty in Tustin.
After leaving baseball, Baney was walking along the beach in Laguna Beach when he was approached by a woman who asked if he would accompany her to meet someone. He was led to an umbrella shading another woman who said she represented Playgirl and wondered if he would pose. Now needing the money, Baney went for it and became Playgirl's February 1977 Man of the Month.

That issue's magazine cover occupies a spot in the shrine to Baney's baseball career in his home.

The parts of Baney in writer/director Ron Shelton's popular 1988 movie Bull Durham are pure speculation on the Tustin resident's part. He and second baseman Shelton played together in 1971 on the Rochester Red Wings, the Baltimore Orioles' Triple-A minor league team.

"He was always taking notes," Baney tells me of Shelton. "Players are suspicious of other players taking notes. Ronnie would get in the game once every million years. That's what happens when you play behind Bobby Grich."

Baney and handful of other former Red Wings players were flown out by Shelton to a reunion screening of Bull Durham in Rochester.

"I saw myself in there, not in very complimentary ways," Baney says of the movie, which follows a grizzled old minor league catcher (Kevin Costner) trying to mold an erratic phenom pitcher (Tim Robbins), as both vie for the affections of an experienced small town groupie (Susan Sarandon).

Baney was mum about what exactly Shelton poached about him, but when the pitcher describes himself as a player there are similarities to Robbins' "Nuke" LaLoosh.

"I had a good fast ball and felt I could throw every pitch 100 mph," says Baney. "After I hurt my arm, I learned how to play baseball."

In other words, there is more to pitching than firing fastballs, as Costner's "Crash" Davis was always trying to pound into the head of Nuke.

Part of Baney's problem with baseball not taking better care of short-timers from 1947-'79 is he figures he was discouraged from getting an education in favor of giving his most productive work years to the game. He recalls mentioning to major league scouts that he was also being recruited by Pepperdine University coaches. "You don't want to do that, kid," he was told.

As a minor league hurler in Waterloo, Iowa, after the Boston Red Sox took Baney ninth in the second phase of the 1966 amateur draft, he overheard coaches mutter of a teammate signed out of a university, "smart-ass college kid."

"He was looked down upon," remembered Baney in a tone that made an education sound as much of a liability as a bum knee or an inability to hit the curve.

Besides Grich, Shelton and Bouton, guys Baney came up with included former Angel Don Baylor and Bo Belinsky.

Despite Jackie Robinson having broken the color barrier in 1947, Baney, who was in the minors from 1968 to 1975, says African-American teammates still encountered places in the Deep South and rural America where they could not get off the team bus.

"I used to run in and get hamburguesa for a Latin player," Baney recalled.

After repeating this ritual over and over, Baney, who is part Mexican, informed the fellow that he spoke Spanish so it would be fine to order something else, much to the guy's relief.

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