Thursday, November 24, 2005
One-Time Prospect Acknowledges Draft Info Wrong
By Toby Smith
Journal Staff Writer
As a young man, Gov. Bill Richardson was an accomplished baseball pitcher. You can look it up.
What you won't find in the record books is a baseball distinction that's been attached to Richardson's name for almost 40 years: that he was drafted to play pro baseball by the Kansas City Athletics.
Publications ranging from The New York Times to the New Republic to the Albuquerque Journal have reported that as fact. So have USA Today, Time magazine and National Review.
In the just-published "2006 Almanac of American Politics," these words appear in a history of Richardson's career: " ... in 1967 was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics."
In preparing a story earlier this year on Richardson's baseball past, the Journal was unable to confirm in any authoritative record that he had been drafted.
Richardson said he believed that he had been, based on conversations with scouts and other sources, and asked for additional time to find proof.
But in a written statement provided to the Journal last week, he said, "After being notified of the situation (by Toby Smith) and after researching the matter ... I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's."
"However, as the Journal's reporting should reflect, I was actively scouted by several Major League teams ... "
While at odds with years of published reports, that statement is consistent with Richardson's new autobiography, "Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life."
He does not say in the book that he was drafted. In the book, which hit stores earlier this month, Richardson says he was a hot prospect who passed up a shot at the big leagues because his father wanted him to attend college.
He later developed arm trouble, removing any possibility of a baseball career.
Richardson was an outstanding prep pitcher. He also played in the amateur Cape Cod summer league and at Tufts University.
"During my time at Tufts, I was approached by scouts who offered to draft me, under the condition that I agree ahead of time to sign a contract, if drafted," Richardson said in his statement to the Journal.
"I could not agree to sign a contract, and therefore was not drafted by any of those interested teams."
Richardson said in an interview that scouts told him he "would or could" be drafted.
"In my mind," he said, "that meant I had been drafted."
Paul Reichler, now a Washington, D.C., attorney, in the 1960s was sports editor for the Tufts Weekly, the student newspaper. Reichler remains a Richardson friend.
"It wouldn't surprise me that Bill remembers being drafted," said Reichler, "because there was so much interest in him. But maybe his desire to be drafted was so strong that he convinced himself that it actually happened."
On the record
Major League Baseball's draft began in 1965. Over time, draft status became part of Richardson's political persona.
His official campaign biography in 1982, when he first ran for Congress in New Mexico's 3rd District, concludes: "In 1966, he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics ... "
When Richardson was about to be appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1997, the Clinton White House issued a news release that mentioned he had been drafted along with his Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
A year later, when Richardson was named Secretary of Energy, CNN reported he had been drafted.
"Pitching Around Fidel," a 2002 book by Sports Illustrated senior writer S.L. Price, reconstructs a 1996 evening at a Havana ballpark where Fidel Castro chatted with Richardson, "once drafted by the Kansas City Athletics."
When asked where he had obtained that description of Richardson's past, Price said, "Richardson told me."
In early 1999, nearly 2,000 convention guests in San Antonio watched Richardson accept the highest individual honor the National Collegiate Athletic Association bestows.
The Theodore Roosevelt Award goes to a former college athlete who has distinguished himself in public service. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first winner of the "Teddy," as it's called, in 1967. Gerald Ford won it in 1975, George H.W. Bush in 1986 and Ronald Reagan in 1990.
Rocco J. Carzo, then Tufts director of athletics, nominated Richardson.
In his nomination letter, Carzo wrote this of Richardson's baseball prowess: "A right-hander, he was drafted by the Kansas City A's in 1966 before attending Tufts, but passed on turning pro. He was drafted again by Los Angeles in 1968, but knew his arm wouldn't hold up as a professional.'"
Carzo, now the Tufts Athletic Director Emeritus, said the information "might have come from him (Richardson)."
The Athletics, now the Oakland Athletics, is the team most often mentioned as having drafted Richardson.
But published Richardson "draft" references also mention the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles.
The Journal could find no record that any team drafted Richardson.
Major League Baseball's main office in New York City did a year-by-year draft search for Richardson and could find no listing for him.
"The Baseball Draft: The First 25 Years," Baseball America magazine's reference work, has no mention of Richardson being drafted.
Administrators of leading Web sites for the pro baseball draft thebaseballcube.com and baseball-reference.com said Richardson's name does not appear on any of their draft documents.
Although Richardson said he was wrong about being drafted by Kansas City, he described the draft process of the 1960s as "rudimentary" and said he believed names could have been omitted.
Last week, he insisted his name had appeared on "a draft list of some kind" created by both the Pirates and the Dodgers.
According to the governor, Dick Hanlon, a Dodgers' scout and George Owen a scout for the Pirates, both told him he would be placed on a list making him eligible for the draft. Hanlon and Owen are deceased.
Richardson said he has been unable to find those lists.
In his book, Richardson writes, "In my mind, I committed to a future playing ball. I was ready to sign on the dotted line right after graduation (from prep school)."
His father, he writes, was a demanding figure who insisted he should go to college.
Major League Baseball scouts say that if a prospect is unlikely to sign a contract, a team will not draft him.
Earlier this year, Richardson said he always assumed the A's had drafted him when he saw the information in a Cape Cod summer league baseball program.
Steve Vaughn, a teammate who was drafted, said he thought Richardson "clearly was a prospect" and "remembered hearing" his teammate had been offered a contract by Kansas City.
That was 38 summers ago, and Richardson was playing for the Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers, a team comprised of standout college players.
The Kettleers published a 25-cent handout they issued to fans.
Next to Richardson's name on the faded program are four brief lines, and the words "Drafted by K.C."
"When I saw that program in 1967," Richardson said, "I was convinced I was drafted. And it stayed with me all these years."
At Richardson's urging, the Journal talked to Arnold Mycock, who was the general manager of Richardson's Cape Cod League team in 1967.
Mycock, 82, and living in Cotuit, Mass., has a copy of that 1967 program. He said information on the bios came from the players or their college coaches.
Nick Furlong, a pitcher for the Kettleers in 1967, later drafted by three major league teams, said he filled in his Cotuit bio sheet himself and sent it to the club.
College athletes typically fill out a biographical form to help a school's athletic department disseminate information to a student's hometown media.
On the bio sheet Richardson completed for Tufts in his junior year, he penciled words "Drafted by Kansas City (1966), LA (1968)."
Richardson said he wrote those words because he believed them to be true.
"I never tried to embellish this," he said. "I never tried to mask it."