He came to the Chicago Cubs at a time when they were declining, in the post-Durocher era, and provided a strong arm for the Cubs increasingly mediocre staff. His best year was in 1977, when the Cubs made a brief run at the pennant and Reuschel won 20 games. In addition, Reuschel enjoyed one of the most memorable games for Cub fans on July 28, 1977, when making a rare relief appearance on two days rest, he entered the 13th inning of a 15-15 tie between the Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Reuschel retired two batters to end the top of the 13th. Then, he singled and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th, also picking up the victory in the 16-15 contest.
His older brother Paul also pitched for the Cubs for a few years while Rick was pitching, but was not nearly as effective as Rick and his career was that much shorter. Both of them were farm boys from Quincy, Illinois, with strong physiques and plain-spoken ways.
Both were known for being big. Rick, in particular, was listed as 6-foot-4 and 225, which makes him a few pounds heavier than his franchise-mate from two generations earlier, Hippo Vaughn. Rick could run surprisingly well for his size. He was frequently used as a pinch runner on days he was not pitching. He was also a fair - though awkward-looking - hitter, batting well over .200 several times, which is considered excellent for a pitcher.
Although he didn't look much like an athlete, he was respected by his peers. Larry Bowa of Philadelphia Phillies fame and himself a Cub for a few years, tells a story that reveals the mettle of the big guy. In the mid 70's, the Phillies had just been tatooed by the Montreal Expos in a weekend series in Canada and Bowa told a Montreal reporter in streams of colorable sentences that he wasn't upset at all because they were going to Chicago the next day and would beat up on the sad sack Cubs. The Phillies showed up the next day and had to face Reuschel who had apparently gotten a copy of the Montreal newspaper from some source. Reuschel said nothing but drilled Bowa in the ribs with his first pitch when the Phillies' shortstop stepped up to the plate. Bowa went down hard and got up slowly and walked down to first, chirping to Reuschel the whole time and calling him all sorts of obscenities. Reuschel let his actions speak for himself as he never said a word in reply. Leading off first base, Bowa then shouted repeatedly in similar obscene terms to Reuschel that he was going to steal second base. He never got the chance because Reuschel promptly picked him off before throwing a pitch to the plate. The proud but humbled shortstop from Philly picked himself up again from the dust and walked off the Wrigley turf to the hoots and jeers of the Chicago partisans. This was bad enough but it was to get worse for Bowa. As fortune would have it, Reuschel got a single the first time up with one out and Bowa saw a chance for revenge. He shouted to Dave Cash, Bowa's doubleplay partner and Spring Training greyhound racing amigo, that if "you get a grounder Doggie, give me a good toss and I'll hit that big ugly f***er right in his forehead." Luck seemed to be turning around for the Phillies shortstop as the leadoff batter did indeed hit a perfect double play grounder to Cash who, things actually going the same for Bowa that day, promptly juggled the ball before flipping it to Bowa. This bobble by Cash allowed Reuschel to come in high at second base and Bowa was spiked severely enough to have to leave the game bloodied. Sitting in the Phillies' dugout with his flesh torn open by the big guy who now stood on second base, Bowa did the math- he hit me, he picked me off, and he tore up my leg with his spikes. That was enough for the Phillies' shortstop. He knew Reuschel had gotten the best of him that day and promptly waved a white towel of surrender from the dugout in the direction of Reuschel before retreating to the clubhouse for treatment. Reuschel still said nothing but doffed his cap to Bowa in thanks for the tribute.
Rick was sent to the New York Yankees in 1981. That year, Reuschel made his first World Series appearances. The 1981 World Series marked the last chapter of the Dodgers-Yankees trilogy of that era, this one won by the Dodgers. Rick was ineffective in that Series, and it was assumed he was about done.
He returned to the Cubs and was on the roster in 1984 when they won the NL East and made the playoffs, but, somewhat controversially, he was not named to the playoff roster.
The Pirates traded Reuschel to the San Francisco Giants in late 1987 for Jeff D. Robinson and Scott Medvin. Reuschel, finally back with a contender, became the ace of the Giants' staff and helped the Giants make a late run to the National League West Division title, their first division title since 1971. He followed that season by winning 19 games for the Giants in 1988. In 1989, Reuschel won 17 games for the Giants as he helped lead them to the World Series (their first since 1962). In 1989 World Series. Reuschel was the losing pitcher in Game 2 (his only appearance in the Series) with an 11.25 ERA, five earned runs, and five hits given up against the Oakland Athletics.
Reuschel won the Hutch Award in 1985, and is also a winner of The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year Award. In a 19-year career, he had a record of 214-191 in 557 games (529 starts). Reuschel had 102 career complete games and 26 of those were shutouts. He allowed 1330 earned run and struck out 2015 in 3548 and 1/3 innings pitched.
He is also one of the Top 100 winning pitchers of all time.