Gov. Admits Baseball Tale Untrue

Bill Richardson, New Mexico Governor, 2-22-03 AP

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is coming clean on his draft record. The baseball draft, that is.

For nearly four decades, Richardson, a prominent Democrat frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, has maintained he was drafted as a pitcher in 1966 by the Kansas City Athletics.

But an Albuquerque Journal investigation found no record of Richardson being drafted by the A's, who have since moved to Oakland, or any other team. Informed by the newspaper of its findings, the governor acknowledged the error in a story published Thursday by the paper.

"After being notified of the situation (by Journal reporter Toby Smith) and after researching the matter ... I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's," Richardson said.

Richardson included the fact in a brief biography released when he successfully ran for Congress in 1982. The Clinton White House mentioned it in a 1997 news release, when Richardson was about to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Over the years, several media organizations have reported it as fact, including The Associated Press, the New York Times and New Republic magazine, along with political almanacs.

Richardson, who was a star right-handed pitcher in high school and played at Tufts University, maintained, though: "I was actively scouted by several major league teams."

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, reached Thursday by the AP, said he was unsure whether the governor wanted to comment further on the article. He said he would try to reach Richardson.

In his statement to the Journal, Richardson claimed that "as a high school player, and later after playing in the prestigious (amateur) Cape Cod League, and during my time at Tufts, I was approached by scouts who offered to draft me, under the condition that I agree ahead of time to sign a contract, if drafted. I could not agree to sign a contract, and therefore was not drafted by any of those interested teams."

Richardson later developed arm trouble, removing any possible pro career. Before that, he said scouts had told him he "would or could" be drafted.

"In my mind, that meant I had been drafted," Richardson said.

Paul Reichler, an attorney in Washington, D.C., was sports editor of the Tufts student newspaper in the 1960s and remains friends with Richardson. Reichler confirmed there was "so much interest in him" as a pitcher.

"But maybe his desire to be drafted was so strong that he convinced himself that it actually happened," Reichler said.

The governor told the Journal that the draft process of the 1960s was "rudimentary" and insisted his name had appeared on "a draft list of some kind" created by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He named two scouts, Dick Hanlon from the Dodgers and George Owen from the Pirates, whom he said had told him his name would be placed on a list making him eligible for the draft. Both scouts are deceased.

Back in the summer of 1967, Richardson played for the Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers, a team comprised of standout college players. Next to his name on a faded team program are the words, "Drafted by K.C."

"When I saw that program in 1967, I was convinced I was drafted," Richardson said. "And it stayed with me all these years."

Arnold Mycock, general manager of that team, said biographical information for the programs was supplied by players or their college coaches.

On the biographical sheet Richardson completed for Tufts in his junior year, he wrote, "Drafted by Kansas City (1966), LA (1968)." He said he wrote those words because he believed them to be true.

"I never tried to embellish this," he said. "I never tried to mask it."

Since his election as governor in 2002, Richardson has remained active in foreign policy, appearing frequently on national television to offer opinions and entertaining diplomats in Santa Fe, including ambassadors from China, South Korea and Japan. Last month, he visited North Korea on a diplomatic mission at the invitation of the regime in Pyongyang. He is running for re-election next year.
  • Scott Benjamin

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