By Hal McCoy
This is a feel-good story that should put a smile on faces and puts the current Cincinnati Reds regime on a high plateau and pedestal.
Unless you are a deep-in-depth Cincinnati Reds fan, you may not remember Tom Carroll. When a player has a brief career in the majors it is said he had a cup of coffee in the big leagues.
Carroll didn’t even have a full cup. He had a couple of sips as a right handed pitcher — 16 appearances in 1974 and 12 appearances in 1975 for the Reds.
But what he did in 1975 played a major role in the team’s climb toward a World Series championship.
Starter Don Gullett was hit by a line drive and fractured his thumb late in the season and Carroll was called up from the minors and inserted into the rotation. Gullett couldn’t have done much better. Carroll went 4-and-1.
Gullett returned in time for the playoffs and World Series and Carroll was not included on the playoff roster. He was permitted to dress and sit in the dugout, but was ineligible to play unless somebody got hurt.
The players, though, recognized what he did and voted him a three-fourths share of the World Series cash.
But the organization forgot him. Carroll did not receive a World Series ring, a trinket that every player who ever put on a big league uniform covets.
Now, thanks to some teammates and Reds CEO Bob Castellini, 45 years later, Carroll is wearing his much-deserved 1975 World Series ring.
Mostly it was because of teammate Rawley Eastwick, who made Castellini aware of the oversight.
“Rawly really went to bat for me,” said Carroll. “I went to a card show in Cincinnati a couple of years ago with Rawly, Tom Hall and Wayne Granger. We went out for a beer afterward and I think Tom Hall brought it up. They talked about it and said, ‘You should have gotten a ring.’
“Rawly started advocating it and finally went to Mr. Castellini,” Carroll added. “They were very gracious and got it done. Everything worked out. They finally got it done. I always had hope, but my wife didn’t think it would ever happen,” he said. “I’m thankful.””
So why did Carroll deserve a ring?
Immediately after his call-up, Carroll started against Houston and he won, 4-3. Then he started against Atlanta and pitched an eight-inning shutout, a two-hitter.
Carroll said he then had a couple of off games and was in and out of the rotation and bullpen. Then he pitched four shutout innings against Montreal.
Then came his big start, a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of 55,000 in Dodger Stadium. He pitched 6 1/3 innings and the Reds won, 1-0.
Those certainly sound like credentials worthy of inclusion on the post-season roster. But Gullett returned and Carroll was sent back to Triple-A. He was called back up on September 1, but to be eligible for the post-season a player must be on the roster before September 1.
“I was 4-and-1, coming off that 1-0 win, but Gullett came back and I was sent down, which is understandable. Yeah, it was hard to go down (to the minors) with a 4-and-1 record and coming off a 1-0 shutout.”
Carroll owns another little footnote. As a hitter, he wasn’t. He batted 40 times for the Reds and struck out 20 times.
So, on July 17, 1974, he stepped into the batter’s box to face fearsome Bob Gibson. At the time, Gibson had 2,999 strikeouts and it looked, for sure, as if Carroll would be victim No. 3,000.
Incredibly, Carroll lined a single, one of his four major league hits. The next batter, Cesar Geronimo, struck out.
“It’s funny,” said Carroll. “In high school, we had to write an essay about a hero and I wrote about Bob Gibson. I still have it somewhere.
“Going into the game, a writer asked me how it felt going against Gibson,” he said. “I said, ‘He was my hero as a kid and I’d love to get a hit off him.’
“I knew when I got up there I could be No. 3,000. Gibson still threw hard and I decided just to start my swing early,” he said with a laugh. And he lined a sharp single — at least that’s how he remembers it.
Carroll was the Reds No. 6 draft pick in 1970 and went 18-5 with a 2.39 earned run average for the Class A Tampa Tarpons. A couple of years later he threw a no-hitter for Triple-A Indianapolis against Omaha.
After the 1975 season, the Reds traded him to Pittsburgh, his hometown, but that winter the Montreal Expos made him the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. Carroll went to spring training, but his arm was gone, “It just wasn’t there, I couldn’t throw like I used to,” he said.
There was life after baseball and Carroll spent ten years teaching at Georgetown University as an adjunct.
“It took me a while to get going and but I’ve had a great career with a federally-funded research and development center, the MITRE Corporation. It’s not baseball, but it was pretty satisfying.”
On a bright, sunny day earlier this week, Carroll went fly fishing on the Susquehanna River, proudly wearing a 1975 World Series ring.
Although it was 45 years late, it is more than well-deserved.