Rich Loiselle

Rich Loiselle

January 12, 1972
6' 5"
225 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-07-1996 with PIT

BR bullpenRichard Frank Loiselle (January 12, 1972 in Neenah, Wisconsin), is a retired professional baseball player who played in the Major Leagues from 1996-2001. He was a pitcher over parts of six seasons (1996-2001) with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For his career, he compiled a 9-18 record, with a 4.38 ERA, 178 strikeouts and 49 saves.

1997 would be no season like any other in Pittsburgh baseball history.  They were coming to the end of the Jim Leyland era, the last 4 years being very disappointing, and the team was up for sale again and in trouble of being sent away to another city.  GM Cam Bonifay had sliced the payroll down to $9 million dollars, less than what Albert Belle made at the time, and the franchise was certainly at a crossroads.  Fail this season and there was a distinct possibility the team could be headed for greener pastures somewhere else.  The odds unfortunately were that the team was going to fail being it looked no better than an AAA team as far as talent goes.  The biggest hole on the team was the closer, which was essential the club fill if it had any hopes this campaign.

To  the rescue came a huge 6’5” 225 pound Wisconsin native that the Bucs got from the Astros the season before in exchange for veteran Danny Darwin by the name of Rich Loiselle.  Loiselle by trade was as starter who had started three contests in his short trial in 1996.   He would be the tonic the Bucs would need as new skipper Gene Lamont put him in the pen, eventually naming him his closer.

Loiselle was one of if not the most important cog in the Bucco “freak show” that season, coming out of nowhere to lead all major league rookies in saves with 29 and appearances with 72, both franchise rookie records.  For his efforts, Rich would finish 4th in the Rookie of the year voting and made the Baseball Digest all-rookie team.  His 29 saves were the 4th highest total in Pirate history.

Not only were his numbers impressive, but being that he was a catalyst to the amazing Pirate story that season, contending for the Central Division crown until the last weekend of the season, a season that more than wildly fulfilled anyone’s expectations, one could say that Loiselle was in fact the savior of the franchise in Pittsburgh.  Without his efforts there would have been no wild ride in 1997, no contending, attendance would have been down and the chance that the team would leave was greatly increased.

Unfortunately for the Wisconsin native, this story would not have a happy ending.  After leading the club again in 1998 in saves with 19 that year where he went on the disabled list with back trouble, he then would strain his elbow in 1999 eventually leading to major elbow reconstructive surgery that ended his ’99 campaign.  The surgery took until early in the 2000 season to heal, but shortly after he came back, Loiselle developed bursitis in his right shoulder and ended up on the DL again.

2001 was no kinder to Rich as he would only pitch in 18 games with an 11.50 ERA, never regaining his 1997 form. Loiselle never got the opportunity to fulfill the promise of his rookie season to this point, he will always have the knowledge that he was the savior of baseball in Pittsburgh, and that is an accomplishment that many Pirate fans will always appreciate.

Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1996

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Andruw Jones
Jason Kendall
Scott Rolen
Bobby Abreu
Vladimir Guerrero
Nomar Garciaparra
Livan Hernandez
Luis Castillo

Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia

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