Born: November 21, 1935|
Oak Park, Illinois
Died: December 20, 1999 (aged 64)|
Mission Viejo, California
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|September 22, 1960 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 12, 1967 for the Chicago Cubs|
|Runs batted in||112|
Richard George Bertell (November 21, 1935 – December 20, 1999) was a right-handed professional baseball catcher who played Major League Baseball for the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants from 1960 to 1967. Although he was a light hitter offensively, he had a strong arm, throwing out 47.74% of the base runners who tried steal on him, ranking him fourth on the all-time list.
Bertell was born in Oak Park, Illinois. The Cubs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State University in 1957. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader on September 22, 1960. Though he went hitless, Bertell knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat. He recorded his first major league hit three days later, singling off Bob Grim of the St. Louis Cardinals. He went 2-for-15 in his first season, knocking in two runs in five games.
Bertell found himself in a platoon role with the Cubs in 1961, seeing the majority of the playing time (92 games) behind the plate for the hapless Cubs. He hit his first major league home run on July 6 off Pittsburgh's Vinegar Bend Mizell, and, overall, had a decent season at the plate for a catcher. Bertell hit .273 with two home runs and 33 RBI. However, his playing time decreased the next season as the Cubs again stumbled to a ninth-place finish in the National League. In 77 games, he posted a career-best batting average of .302 with two home runs and 18 RBIs, and despite playing in fewer than half the team's games, Bertell still played more innings at catcher than anyone else on the 1962 team.
The 1963 season found the Cubs rebounding and posting a winning record for the first time since 1946. Bertell also saw his playing time increase, his third straight season as the club's starting catcher. He led National League catchers in 1963 with a 60.8% baserunners caught stealing percentage, the twelfth highest single-season total in Major League history. Unfortunately, he could not maintain his previous season's batting prowess, dipping to .233 with 2 home runs and 14 RBI. In 1964, Bertell had career best totals of doubles (11), triples (3), home runs (4) and RBIs (35), and had a batting average of .238. He also led National League catchers in throwing out baserunners with 34.
San Francisco Giants
Bertell spent the first two months of the 1965 campaign as the Cubs' starting catcher, but fared poorly at the plate, batting just .214 and managing only two extra-base hits (both doubles) in 34 games. On May 29, the Cubs traded him along with Len Gabrielson to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Harvey Kuenn, Ed Bailey, and Bob Hendley. His playing time significantly decreased with the Giants, as he saw action in just 22 games over the final four months of the season, hitting just .188 as a backup to regular catcher Tom Haller.
Bertell was under contract to San Francisco in 1966 but he did not play in the majors. Just prior to the beginning of the 1967 season, the Giants traded him back to the Cubs for Don Bryant. He played two games with the Cubs, on April 11 and April 12, before being released. His final major league hit was a triple off Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, his first triple since 1964.
In 2000, Bertell was inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- , Baseball Digest, by Jerome Holtzman, June 1965, Vol. 24, No. 5, ISSN 0005-609X