A flaky individual but a take-charge catcher, Rick Dempsey’s break came on June 15, 1976 when he went from the Yankees to the Orioles in a ten-player deal. When he left Baltimore, signing as a free agent with Cleveland in 1987, he had caught more games for the Orioles than anyone in franchise history. His greatest moment came as MVP of the 1983 World Series. He had the game-winning RBI in Game Two and homered and doubled in the Game Five clincher, hitting .385 overall.
Dempsey led AL catchers in fielding in 1981 and 1983 and in assists in 1979. He sacrificed batting average for added power in his last years at Baltimore (1984-86). Expected to stabilize a young Cleveland club, Dempsey suffered on both offense and defense. His 1987 season was curtailed by a broken left thumb suffered in a home plate collision with Bo Jackson. Dempsey rebounded in a reserve role with the 1988 World Champion Dodgers. Two years later he achieved the rare distinction of catching a game in four different decades.
Dempsey, whose father was a Vaudeville actor and whose mother was a former Broadway star, was known to be a bit of a ham himself. During a 1977 rain delay at Fenway Park he entertained players and fans alike by performing a baseball pantomime routine with towels stuffed in his shirt to evoke Babe Ruth‘s well-known belly. He ended the routine by belly-flopping across the rain-soaked tarp at home plate and then leading the crowd in a rendition of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” Dempsey reprised the routine at various times in later years, including once in a September 1982 game at Milwaukee when he wore a Robin Yount jersey and mimicked hitting a home run before circling the bases to the delight of the crowd.