What does it mean, when you play 24 major league seasons and end up with an OPS of .666? What does it mean when you are considered a defensive marvel but an offensive black hole during the regular season but slug .923 in one World Series and 1.300 in another NLCS? What does it say when you had been considered one of the greatest defensive catchers of your era but you are most known for theatrics between the bases then for anything you did when the games counted?
It probably means you left a mark. The mark Rick Dempsey left was to be forever tied in with rain delay theatrics as he basically invented the genre (go to the 4:42 mark):
If YouTube had existed at the time it would have been trending with millions of hits. Houston Mitchell recounts the antics:
When I was a kid, "This Week in Baseball" hosted by Mel Allen would occasionally show how Rick Dempsey entertained fans during rain delays during baseball games. Dempsey would wait until the tarp was nice and drenched, like a giant Slip-N-Slide. He would go from the clubhouse to the dugout, where he would take off his cleats, stuff a pillow under his jersey and head to the approximate area of home plate.
There, he would pantomime Babe Ruth hitting a home run, complete with called shot. He would even pantomime the pitching. He then did an exaggerated Ruth home-run trot around the bases, sliding into each base and falling when rounding third. Then, about halfway down the third-base line he would start his slide, which would hydroplane him down the tarp and across home plate, where he would call himself safe.
If you ever saw it, you'd never forget it. Fox ought to track down footage of it and show it during Game 5 on Tuesday, which is also expected to be rained out.
How acquired: The Dodgers brought in Dempsey as a non-roster invitee, and he beat out Alex Trevino during spring training for the backup catcher job, despite Trevino's guaranteed $300,000 salary. But it took some work from the Encino native Dempsey to convince general manager Fred Claire to even bring him in for the chance.
"It did take some convincing, because I obviously didn't impress Fred enough when I first talked to him on the phone. I never heard back from him, so I came in to see him," Dempsey told Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times during spring training in 1988. "The most nerve-wracking part was sitting in his office after everybody had left and not knowing what (Claire) was thinking. I had to convince myself, not to give up and go home."
Prior MLB experience: Drafted in 1967 by the Twins, Dempsey had a sterling career with the Twins, Yankees, Orioles, and Indians before joining the Dodgers. He won a World Series in 1983 with Baltimore and was named the MVP of the World Series, one of only six catchers to have won the award. Never known for his offense, it is no surprise Dempsey was a defensive legend playing for Earl Weaver.
1988 age: 38
1988 stats: Dempsey at age 38 had his greatest offensive season. Splitting time with Mike Scoscia, Dempsey tore up left handed pitching, posting a career best 129 OPS+. Rick only had 198 plate appearances but he made the most of them, hitting 13 doubles, and seven home runs.
Regular season game of the year: Unlike many 1988 Dodgers, Dempsey had a boatload of good games to choose from. I'm going to go with July 26, the first game of a doubleheader against the Giants. Rick went 2-for-2 with a double, a home run, two walks, and two runs batted in as the Dodgers defeated the Giants 7-3. His home run was a two-run blast off of Terry Mullholland that broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning.
NLCS performance: Who had the highest OPS among Dodgers position players in the NLCS? That would be Dempsey, who went 2-for-5 against the Mets, with a walk, giving him a 1.300 OPS for the series.
World Series performance: Not being a one trick pony, Dempsey also hit a double in the World Series. Is this any surprise? The man who had lifetime OPS of .666 had a World Series OPS of .936 in three different World Series totaling 14 games. He has to be the catcher answer to Mark Lemke.
Post-1988 playing career: Even though he was 38 when he joined the Dodgers, Rick stayed around and played two more seasons with Los Angeles before joining the Brewers in 1991. In 1992 he went back to his roots and played his final season with the Orioles. When Dempsey caught his first game in the 1990s he became the rare catcher to catch in four decades. Dempsey returned to the Dodgers organization and managed the Pacific Coast League Champion 1994 Dukes. He also managed in the Mets' system, and coached at the major league level with the Dodgers and Orioles, but never got the elusive major league managerial gig he wanted.
Where he is now: Dempsey, who was an analyst for the Orioles for Comcast SportsNet in 2001 before returning to coaching for five years, will enter his seventh season in 2013 working for MASN, as a co-host on the Orioles television pre- and post-game shows.