Philadelphia Inquirer - March 18, 1980

He’s not on the Phillies’ radar screen

 

By Jayson Stark, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Dave Rader ought to go on one of those TV shows that feature remarkable people doing unexplainable things.

 

Dave Rader could then explain to America how a guy becomes The Invisible Baseball Player.

 

There is a locker at Jack Russell Stadium with his name on it. He has been seen in an occasional box score. He's even in the press guide and everything.

 

Despite all of this, there is powerful evidence that Dave Rader is not really there at all.

 

Dallas Green has said again and again that he wants the Phillies to carry two catchers this year. And he has never made it classified information that neither of them will be Dave Rader.

 

And so Rader comes to the ballpark, plays in games, warms up pitchers, talks and walks and takes showers. But even though you see him, he is not there. He has become the most invisible figure since Topper.

 

One thing you can say about him, though, is that when it comes to being invisible, Dave Rader can do it all. Maybe this is because he has had so much experience at being invisible.

 

"I had the feeling last year that the Phillies knew I was there, but they never saw me," Rader said. "Come to think of it, maybe they didn't know I was there."

 

Whether they knew it or not, Rader played only slightly more baseball last year than Queen Elizabeth II. He got into only 31 games. He got to ttle plate only 54 times.

 

Green looked at those numbers and figured that if a guy could play that little, maybe it might make more sense to have another infieldcr around. Or another outfielder or pitcher. Or, in other words, anybody but Dave Rader.

 

"Dallas has been good," Rader said. "He called me in the first day of the spring and said he plans to carry two catchers, and he wanted to let me know right away. I appreciate that. I like honesty in people."

 

Trouble was, this honest information just made Rader's invisibility official. It didn't help him cope with the special problems a man faces when he is invisible.

 

For example, how much food should you have on hand when you might be traded to Seattle by Thursday?

 

"When my wife goes to the store," Rader said, "we don't buy food for two or three days. We buy it one day at a time."

 

OK. How about clothes? Should an invisible catcher risk unpacking?

 

The answer, Rader said, is no. Everything he and his wife brought with them, he said, "is still packed up in the camper."

 

Or at least it was until Sunday. On Sunday, Rader's wife wrecked the camper. She drove it into an overhang at a hotel.

 

"You know, I was going to take that camper off the truck, too," Rader said. "But I was afraid that any day I might be traded."

 

Which brings up the problem of living quarters. Invisible catchers can't rent plush beach houses on the Gulf. So Rader and his wife are living in a friend's trailer on a farm in Tarpon Springs. Should be no problem breaking that lease.

 

It is also risky to rent your permanent home in San Diego when you're invisible. Never know when you might need it, you see.

 

"I rented it," Rader said. "But I've got a clause in there that if, for, um, some reason, I have to come back, the tenants have to get out. The guy I rented it to calls me once a week."

 

On the field, Rader's life isn't much easier. How do you prepare for the season when there is a heckuva chance you will spend the season as a real-estate salesman?

 

"All I can do is go out there and play and get in shape like I'm still going to be here," said Rader, who is only 31, a year younger than Bob Boone. "I think I can still hit. I think I can still catch. There's a few clubs I think I could play for.

 

"The whole thing, though, has made me, I don't know, very anxious, or any other word you'd want to throw in there. Disappointed? No, not disappointed. Depressed? No, not depressed. Frustrated? No, not frustrated. I'm just anxious to see what's going to happen."

 

There is not much else he can do. He started an exhibition game Sunday, had two hits, even stole his first base as a Phillie ("another facet of my game that people dont know about"). But would anything he did down here affect Dallas Green's thinking?

 

Green just shook his head in the negative. No words needed when you're describing the fate of an invisible man.

 

 

NOTES: The Phillies drubbed the Red Sox in Winter Haven, 9-3, yesterday. Keith Moreland drilled a triple and two singles, and Larry Bowa and Greg Gross knocked in two runs each.... Dick Ruthven pitched three excellent innings, even threw a couple of quasi-screwballs. "It's not really a screwball," Green said. "It's a turnover pitch." Ruthven said he developed it last year when he couldn't throw a breaking ball.... Dickie Noles got rocked a bit (one run, three hits, one walk, one wild pitch) in his two innings. And Green said he was concerned because he is "cutting the ball," meaning that he is "leading with his elbow. It's not a good thing for a fastball pitcher."