Ricky Bottalico

After spending his college days as a catcher at Central Connecticut State, Bottalico was signed by Philadelphia in 1991off the less-than-fertile grounds of the Greater Hartford Twilight League. He inherited the Phillies’ closer job from Heathcliff Slocumb in 1996 and earned an All-Star berth by converting his first 14 save opportunities, finishing the year with 34 saves.

Distractions abounded as the Phillies endured a horrible start to the 1997 season. But Bottalico shrugged off his team’s misfortunes, a mid-season slump, and a proposed trade that nearly sent him to Seattle for outfield prospect Jose Cruz, Jr. (the Mariners accepted Toronto’s offer of Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin instead) to again save 34 games.

Elbow surgery early in 1998 took the zip out of Bottalico’s fastball and the break out of his curve, sidetracking what had been a promising career. After posting just six saves and a 6.44 ERA, Bottalico was traded to St. Louis with Garrett Stephenson for Ron Gant, Jeff Brantley and Cliff Politte.

Bottalico led the Cardinals’ relief corps with a twenty-save season in 1999, but blew eight chances and never lived up to St. Louis’ lofty expectations. His frustration erupted in August when he cursed at former manager Terry Francona during a game against the Phillies. “When you get traded, it’s like being spit on,” Bottalico explained after apologizing to Francona. “They gave up on me, and I wanted to get them back.”

By that time, the Cardinals had pretty much given up on Bottalico as well. After being released by St. Louis in November, he inked a one-year deal with Kansas City to replace the retired Jeff Montgomery as the Royals’ new closer.