Richard Alexander Ankiel was born on July 19th 1979, in Fort Pierce Florida. The six foot lefthander attended high school in Port St. Lucie, Florida Spring Training home to the New York Mets.
He began his career as a pitcher, getting signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 1997 draft.
He won double figures in his first two minor league seasons, winning the Baseball American Monor League Player of the Year in 1999. After making a one game debut in 1999 he was on the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals NL Central Champions staff.
Ankiel was runner up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA (9th in the NL) & 194 strike outs (7th in the NL). During the regular season he faced the NL Champion New York Mets just once, pitching seven innings allowing just one run on two hits getting no decision in a 4-3 loss. But it was in the post season everything fell apart for Ankiel.
Post Season: He started Game #3 of the NLDS at home against the Atlanta Braves. He lost all sense of control, setting a record with five wild pitches in the same inning. No one has ever thrown more than three in agame or two in a single inning. He walked six batters in 2.2 innings, allowing four runs on four hits before getting yanked from the game. The Cards bats saved him as they won it 7-5.
In the NLCS against the New York Mets his control didn't get much better. In Game #2 at Shea Stadium he never got out of the 1st inning, as he served up ywo runs on one hit & three walks. He walked Edgardo Alfonzo then served up two wild pitches to Mike Piazza, hitting the back stop no where near the strike zone. Todd Zeile hit a sac fly scoring Alfonzo with the first run.
He then was wild again, much to the amusement of the Shea fans, as they cheered when he got one in the strike zone & laughed aloud as he hit the backstop. After walking Robin Ventura, Benny Agbayani doubled in Piazza. The Mets won it 6-5.
He returned in Game #5, in the final game, as the Mets were leading 6-0 and ready to clinch the NL Pennant. Broadcaster Tim McCarver told the television audience he hoped the Mets fans wouldn't be too hard on Ankiel if he had more troubles.
At Shea, centerfieldmaz was there in the Mezzanine section, as the fans, all revved up in anticipation of the pennant clinching, let Ankiel have it, loudly.
Ankiel walked Mike Bordick, who advanced on Mike Hampton's sac bunt. After Timo Perez struck out, Ankiel lost control worse than ever. He sailed one over the catchers head as Shea erupted in laughter. Another wild pitch followed as Bordick scored another run, as the Shea Faithful went wild. He walked ALfonzo & was relieved, receiving a huge ovation as he left the field.
In 2001 he went 1-2 in six games but walked 25 batters in 24 innings & saw his ERA balloon to over seven. He was sent down to the minors not returning until 2004 for just five games. In the off season he made the surprising announcement that he was retiring fromp itching & converting to the outfield. He hit 21 HRs with 75 RBIs in just 85 games between A ball & AA.
In August of 2007 he returned to St. Louis as an outfielder. In his first game back he hit a three run HR off Doug Brocail in a 5-0 win. Two days later he hit two HRs against the Los Angeles Dodgers, driving in three runs in the 6-1 win. All of a sudden Rick Ankiel was back, this time as a slugger. In 47 games he hit 11 HRs with 8 doubles & 39 RBIs while batting .285.
In 2008 he had his best year hitting 25 HRs with 21 doubles & 71 RBIs. He struck out 100 times batting .264 making eight errors in the outfield (fourth most in the NL). His strong arm, made him one of the best throwing outfielders in the league. On more than one occasion he has thrown perfect strikes from the outfield corner to home plate.
The next year he fell off to a .231 average with just 11 HRs striking out 99 times. He was granted free agency & would go on to play for five different teams in the next three years.
In 2010 he played with the Kansas City Royals (27 games) & Atlanta Braves (47 games) seeing action in as pinch hitter in the NLDS loss to the Dodgers. In 2011 he saw action in 111 games with the Washington Nationals batting .239.
In 2013 he began the season with the Houston Astros, and became the first Astro player to hit a HR as an American League team. But after 25 games he was released while hitting .194. On May 13th he was given a chance by the New York Mets who were in need of an outfielder.
Ankiel debuted with the Mets on May 13th, batting seventh & playing centerfield going 0-3 with a walk & run scored in a 6-3 win in St. Louis. On May 15th he hit a two run HR off Seth Maness, in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals.
Three days later he hit another HR, a two run shot at Wrigley Field. On May 22nd he had a three hit day in a 7-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, driving in two more runs. Ankiel had two hits with an RBI & a run scored in the four game subway series sweep over the A.L. New York team.
He was batting just .209 & after going hitless in the next five games he fell to .188 & was granted free agency. In March of 2014 he announced his official retirement.
In his eleven year career he hit .240 with 462 hits 76 HRs 101 doubles 251 RBIs & a .302 on base % in 653 games.
In the outfield he had 32 assists with a .979 fielding%. On the mound he was 13-10 with 269 strike outs 130 walks & a 3.90 ERA in 51 games.
Trivia: Ankiel is only the fourth player in history to make at least 40 starts as a pitcher and hit 40 home runs.