Kent Tekulve finishes career with hometown Reds
Kent Tekulve was just six appearances from passing Hoyt Wilhelm for most relief appearances by a major league pitcher when he was released by the Philadelphia Phillies in before the 1989 season.
Without a team just six weeks before the start of spring training, Tekulve drew interest from several clubs including the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. The submarine pitcher with his trademark prescription sun glasses choose to accept a spring training invitation from his hometown Cincinnati Reds as a non-roster player. As the club broke camp to head north for the season, Tekulve made the club and was signed to a one-year contract.
Despite being exclusively a closer throughout his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Phillies, Tekulve was slotted by the Reds as a set-up man along with Rob Dibble for bullpen ace John Franco.
Tekulve, who attended Hamilton High School and then Marietta College, surpassed Wilhelm’s mark with his 1,018 appearance on April 17, 1989.
Later in the season, Tekulve broke a long drought at the plate when got a hit on June 27. It was his first base hit since 1982 and broke a 0-for-29 slump.
However while Tekulve was breaking records and finding a bit of success at the dish, he struggled with his new role.
”After all those years of being in the middle of things, I wasn’t enjoying being on the fringe,” Tekulve said in a statement released by the team following his abrupt retirement on July 17, 1989.
With the Reds falling out of playoff contention and mired in the Pete Rose gambling investigation, Tekulve retired midway through the season. A day after taking the loss in a game against the Expos in which he surrendered three runs in one inning, he called it quits.
“The time is right for this to happen,” Tekulve said. “I’ve enjoyed the game my whole career and now I’m not enjoying it any more. I’m not able to do physically what I’ve been to do for the last 15 years.”
During his 37 appearances with the Redlegs, he went 0-3 with a 5.02 ERA and one save.