Dick Drago, a pitcher on the 1975 Red Sox team, died Thursday at age 78 from complications following surgery, the Boston Globe reported.
“We are saddened by the passing of Dick Drago, an integral part of the 1970s Red Sox pitching staff and a beloved teammate,” the team tweeted. “We express our condolences to the Drago family.”
Drago played in the majors from 1969 to 1981.
He played his first five seasons with the Royals and finished fifth in the Cy Young in 1971, going 17-11 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 complete games.
In 1974 he was traded to the Red Sox, where he served as a starter and reliever.
“That was the most difficult year for me on my arm,” Drago said later recalls in an interview. “I would pitch a few games for relief. Then a starter broke down and I stepped in as starter. That happened all year long and by the end of the year I felt like I had pitched 300 innings.”
In 1975, he focused on finishing, saving 15 games for the AL East champions and then two more in the ALCS victory over Oakland, where he recorded the final game.
He recorded four or more outs in 11 of those 17 saves.
“It would have been great to only get three outs for a save,” he said in 2009 of the shorter workload for modern relievers.
“Back then, we often had to go three innings to get a save. I probably would have had a lot more saves if I had pitched today.”
In Game 6 of the World Series against the Reds – widely considered the greatest game of all time – Drago pitched three innings to give Boston a decisive shutout win, although Cincinnati won the title the following night.
He was traded to the Angels after the season and gave up Hank Aaron’s 755th home run, the last of Aaron’s career, in a loss to the Brewers.
Drago played for the Orioles and then returned to the Red Sox before finishing his career with the Mariners.
“I was shocked to hear of the sudden death of my old teammate,” tweeted Fred Lynn, 1975 AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. “He was our closer before they called it closer. My thoughts are with his family. He will be missed.”