Richard Anthony Drago was born on June 25th in Toledo, Ohio. The six foot one, right hander attended the University of Detroit, getting signed by the Detroit Tigers in 1965.
He would win 15 games in each of three consecutive minor league seasons, beginning in A ball (1966) right through AAA Toledo in 1968. It was a thrill for Drago to be pitching in his home town with the Toledo Mud hens.
In 1968 he was the 31st pick in the expansion draft, chosen by the Kansas City Royals.
In his first season he went 11-13 with a 3.77 ERA, second in both categories to Wally Bunker on the Royals staff. After a 9-15 season in 1970 he had his best season as a starter in 1971. He went 17-11 with a 2.98 ERA, throwing 15 complete games, striking out 109 batters in 241 innings of work, with four shut outs. That season he finished up fifth in the Cy Young voting behind Vida Blue, Mickey Lolich, Wilbur Wood and Dave McNally.
On July 30, 1971 he took a loss to the Baltimore Orioles, in a strange rain shortened five inning game. Drago only pitched four innings as Frank Robinson's HR ended up being the difference. Drago won 12 games in each of the next two seasons, although he posted losing records both years. He tied with Paul Splittorff for most wins in 1972 on the Royals staff.
In October 1973 Drago was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Marty Pattin. His 53 complete games with the Royals still ranks him 5th all time on the club.
He went 7-10 with a 3.48 ERA in his first season in Boston. Drago had always worked out of the bullpen as well, & by the time he got to the Red Sox he was becoming a full time reliever.
In 1975 he led the A.L. Champion Red Sox in saves with 15 (5th most in the league), going 2-2 with a 3.84 ERA while finishing 34 games (9th most in the league).
Post Season: In the ALCS sweep over the Oakland A's, Drago recorded two saves in the three games, including one in the final game at Oakland. In 4.2 innings he posted a 0.00 ERA.
In Game #2 of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he came in relief of Spaceman Bill Lee in the 9th inning with Johnny Bench on second base & no one out in a 2-1 game, at Fenway Park. After getting Tony Perez & George Foster out, he surrendered a game tying single to Dave Concepcion. Ken Griffey then doubled what was the games winning run.
He appeared again in the classic Game #6 at Fenway, pitching three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit from the 9th through the 11th innings after Bernie Carbo tied the game with a grand slam HR. Catcher Carlton Fisk won the game on his classic, dramatic walk off HR in the bottom of the 12th.
Quotes: Dick Drago as told to the Providence Journal: Bernie hit that ball into the center field seats, and I just remember kind of jumping up and down on the bullpen mound when it happened to tie the game up, and I'm thinking to myself, "Okay, all of a sudden I'm in a game that's tied up in the sixth game of the World Series, and I'm coming in to pitch and everything is now on the line.
So all of a sudden my game face has to change and I have to get that little fire in you. I faced three future Hall of Famers, back to back to back. I think it was Rose, Bench and Perez in the top of the ninth, and retired them in order ."
On July 20, 1976 he served up the final HR in Hank Aarons career, his HR #755 in 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium. Drago would pitch with the Red Sox through 1980, winning a best ten games (10-6) with 13 saves in 1979. He finished his career with the Seattle Mariners in 1981.
In his 13 year career, he was 108-117 with 58 saves in 519 games (189 starts). He struck out 987 batters while walking 558 in 1875 innings pitched.
Retirement: Drago now lives in Tampa, Florida. He helps promote a baseball book as a fundraiser called "Glove of Their Own".