Rick Grapenthin was a Linn Grove, Iowa native who was signed by the Expos as a free agent after a college career at both Mesa Community College and Indiana State University. Grapenthin (pronounced Grap-En-TEEN) earned professional notice following a summer pitching for Storm Lake in the Northwest Iowa League where at one point he was striking out more than two batters per inning, including a 25 strikeout game. “Dave Potratz, a radio announcer at Spencer (High School), suggested I attend an Expos tryout at Mankato, Minn.,” said Grapenthin. “It was run by Jim Fanning, a former Iowan, and Bob Gebhard. I threw pretty well and they were impressed. They offered me a contract and sent me to Jamestown, N.Y… I was terrible at first. But they made me a relief pitcher and things got a little better.”
Grapenthin had a great 1982 season in A San Jose and AAA Wichita, earning a spring training invitation the following spring. He was among the last players sent down to the minors, but within days he was recalled by the Expos due to an injury to Woodie Fryman. He sat on the bench for nearly three weeks before he finally got to pitch in a major league game. In his debut, he entered a game after Scott Sanderson was removed with a foot injury and allowed four runs on four hits (two homers – Bob Horner and Chris Chambliss) and earned the loss against the Braves. Back to the minors he went – but he got two more chances in 1984 and 1985. He signed with San Diego in 1986 and spent a season in AAA, then spent two more seasons with Louisville in the St. Louis chain. After a short stint with two AL teams (NY, DET) in 1989, he called it a career.
Felipe Alou, who managed Grapenthin in the minors for Montreal, said that the Iowa native had a solid fastball, but no dependable breaking pitch. “Grapenthin has a major league arm,” said Alou. “He’s got a good fastball but needs to work on the breaking pitch. He has one of the best arms we have in terms of strength.” Later, he added a fork ball to go with a fastball and slider.
Grapenthin won one game in relief, made one emergency start (losing to the Cubs on a Keith Moreland grand slam) in 1984, and had three career losses. As a reliever, he garnered two saves in his 18 relief appearances. He tallied a 6.35 ERA in 34 innings. As a hitter, he had two hits in seven at bats, and even scored a run.
Richard Ray Grapenthin was born 16 April 1958 in Linn Grove, IA. Right before spring training in 1985, he married Lucinda (Cindy) Carol Taylor – like Grapenthin, a graduate of Indiana State University. After calling his baseball playing career overn he spent time as an assistant coach at Clemson. Grapenthin went back to college, getting a Masters from the Kellogg School of Management at NU, and then working in marketing management for a number of sports equipment and sporting goods companies. He currently serves as the CEO of BoneChip Enterprises.
Hersom, Terry. “NWI League flash”, Sioux City Journal, 28 June 1980, Page 9.
“Grapenthin whiffs 25 as Storm Lake wins”, Sioux City Journal, 29 June 1980, Page D2.
“Raines Triples His Payment, Helps Expos Defeat Cubs, 4-3.”, Palm Beach Post, 15 April 1983, Page D1.
“Behanna Has Braves Believing, 5 -2”, Los Angeles Times, 04 May 1983, Page III-6.
Grett, Wayne. “Thank Heaven for tryout camps”, Des Moines Register, 07 June 1983, Pages S1, S2.
Rogers, Kim. “Grapenthin seeks baseball bliss”, Indianapolis News, 14 February 1985, Page 31.