In keeping with the closer theme, we come to Dick Radatz, who was without a doubt one of the most dominating relievers of all time. For a few years anyway. Red Sox fans remember the Monster but by and large Radatz is a mostly forgotten player as the closer role became more and more defined. The Monster was an imposing presence, 6'6" and 230 lbs. in his playing days. And he threw hard.
Radatz was converted into a relief pitcher in the minor leagues by his manager Johnny Pesky. Pesky wanted to turn Radatz into a weapon, and he did. Radatz made his Major League debut in 1962 and lead the American League in games (62), games finished (53), and saves (24). Radatz was 9-6 with a 2.24 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 124.2 innings. Radatz finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. The best was yet to come.
In 1963, Radatz went 15-6 with a 1.97 ERA and 25 saves. He struck out 162 in 132.1 innings. Radatz was named to the All Star game and was the first pure reliever to make the team. Radatz finished fifth in the AL MVP voting that season. In 1964, he was 16-9 with a 2.29 ERA and once again lead the league in saves (29). He struck out 181 in 157 innings. He was once again an All Star and finished ninth in the AL MVP vote. Unfortunately his numbers would decline from this point.
Radatz slumped in 1965, finishing with a record of 9-11 with a 3.91 ERA. He saved 22 games but only struck out 121 in 124.1 innings. 1966 saw Radatz start the season slowly, saving four games with a 4.74 ERA before being traded to the Indians. Radatz bounced around to several teams after that, never again reaching the incredible highs of the 1962-1964 seasons.
For his career, Radatz saved 122 games, 104 with the Red Sox. He was one of the first pure closers. Pesky succeeded in turning him into a weapon.