Friday, February 19, 2010

#247 Frank Riccelli

Who is this player?
Frank Riccelli, relief pitcher, Houston Astros
When the Houston Astros set their pitching staff to start the 1980 season, lefthanded pitcher Frank Riccelli was not with the club. The pitching-rich Astros released Riccelli on February 21, shortly after Spring Training had begun. Riccelli disappeared from the baseball scene completely as he did not appear with a professional team at all that season.

A graduate from Christian Brothers High School in Syracuse, New York, Frank Riccelli was the first round selection of the San Francisco Giants in 1971. He was considered one of the Giants top pitching prospects and was given a hard look each year during Spring Training. However, he was unable to make the club and was invariably sent back to the minor leagues. After toiling for six seasons in the minor leagues, he finally made his major league debut near the end of the 1976 season.

In his first game, he faced the defending World Champion Reds who were on their way towards repeating. He earned his first victory in his next start, a nifty 2-1 decision over the San Diego Padres. Despite that, he began the 1977 season again in the minor leagues and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the conclusion of the season. He never appeared in a major league game with the Cards who also traded him, this time to the Astros on June 8, 1978.

He made two appearances with the Astros at the end of the 1978 season and made the Astros pitching staff out of Spring Training in 1979. He was unscored upon in his first five appearances in '79 earning a victory in the process. This performance earned him a couple of starting assignments, the highlight being a 8-inning, seven strikeout win over the Reds, the Astros primary division rival. Unfortunately, an injury cut his season short and in November he was replaced on the 40-man roster by rookie reliever Dave Smith. He had made 17 appearances over the course of three seasons during his career.

After a year away from the game, Riccelli signed on with the Pittsburgh Pirates and spent the season in low minors. He did the same the following year, this time with the Toronto Blue Jays organization before finally ending his professional career. Frank played in the Senior Baseball League both years that the league was in existence (1989-90). Any information on his whereabouts during the last 20 years would be most appreciated.

Why I love this card
Riccelli is the spitting image of my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Fassen. While I was not in sixth grade in 1980, by the time we did reach Grade 6, this card made a comeback. Mark LeBrera was the first one to make the connection and it was the funniest thing going for a week. We even tried to start the rumor that Mr. Fassen was Riccelli himself in disguise. Mr. Fassen didn't see the resemblance or the humor in our efforts.

Something else....
While this is the last card of Riccelli's career, his only other card came in the 1974 set. As a prospect for the Giants, his rookie card is #599. He shares the card with three other pitchers (Ron Diorio, Dave Freisleben and Greg Shanahan).

Has any other player gone longer (five sets) between card appearances during their playing days? I'm sure that there is, but until then, Frank Riccelli is the unofficial record holder.

On this date in 1980:
Eric Heiden sets an Olympic record in the 1000m speed skate en route to a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid New York. Heiden was one of the more dominant athletes in Olympic history, winning five gold medals.


  1. Roger Freed had cards in 1972 and 1978, but none in between. He did have cards before and after those 2 cards though.

  2. I'm back with a few more lengthy stretches.
    Jerry Hairston went from 1976-1984.
    Vicente Romo went from 1976-84.
    Danny Boone went from 1982-1991.

    As a side note to Boone, his '91 card was a "prospects" card, after his success in the old Senior League.

  3. Did Mr. Fassen look like the Burger King? Because Riccelli sure does.

    Matt Sinatro 1982-1990

  4. I definately see the Burger King resemblence. Didn't then, do now - too funny.

    Johngy, thanks for the lists. I remember a Romo card in the 1983 set and being surprised since I had never heard of him at the time. I thought he was Enrique's father.