The Great American Pastime, baseball, took on a new meaning in the lives of Osborne County citizens as they followed the storied career of one of their own, Richard Haynes Wykoff. Richard, or “Dick” as he was universally known, was born August 10, 1903, near Beloit, Kansas. His parents, Charles and Ethel (Haynes) Wykoff, moved to Osborne two years later, where Dick attended the local schools.
Dick possessed a rich bass and while in high school he was persuaded to enter a regional vocal contest at Fort Hays State College in Hays, Kansas. Much to his surprise, he took second place. He was a member of the 1923 Osborne High School football team which went unbeaten in eight games and also lettered in basketball, baseball, and track. He once drop-kicked a football fifty-five yards against Phillipsburg.
In 1925 Wykoff tried out with the Class D Salina Millers, a professional baseball club in the Southwestern League. He signed a contract for $175 a month as a starting pitcher. His pitching record of 15-10 got him signed up for the 1926 season also. In 96 games Wykoff compiled a 25-6 record, while leading the league in home runs (28) with a batting average of .380. He also played eleven games as an outfielder, twelve games at second base, and thirty games at third. By then major league scouts had discovered this hidden talent, and in July 1926 the Cincinnati Reds bought his contract from Salina. It was the highest price ever paid for a Southwestern League player.
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“In Richard Haynes Wykoff . . . the Cincinnati Reds may have picked up another Babe Ruth or a Pete Schneider. Wykoff is primarily a right-handed pitcher, but most important of all, a jack-of-all-trades on the diamond. He specializes in clubbing the pellet at a terrific clip. Wykoff appears to be another Ruth or Schneider in the making for the simple reason that he can hit and play other positions in an emergency. He demonstrated his versatility in convincing style last season. he proved the second best pitcher in the Southwestern, and one of its most dangerous sluggers. The dynamite he carried in his bat made him so valuable that he was used in the outfield, at second base and at third base at various times during the campaign.
“As a pitcher all that Wykoff lacks is experience. He has all the necessary wherewithals of a successful moundsman, speed, control, a nice mixture of curves and a nifty change of pace . . . Wykoff, a lad of excellent habits – he does not smoke, drink, or chew – is five feet, ten inches tall, and weighs 175 pounds . . . .” – James J. Murphy in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 3, 1927.
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For the 1927 season Wykoff was farmed out to the Class A Springfield (Massachusetts) Hampdens where he won 19 games and was recalled by the Reds before the end of the season. In 1928 he was again assigned to Springfield with a one-year contract for $2700. That year he broke his knee for the second time (the first was in 1926), an injury that prevented him from having a long career in the major leagues. After his injury healed Dick finished the season with Class AA Columbus, Ohio, where he finished with a .385 batting average and lost an exhibition game to the New York Yankees by a score of 3-0 on a line-drive home run by Babe Ruth. He later said he threw a fastball just to see the great Babe hit a home run.
Having signed a contract worth $500 a month (a phenomenal amount in those days), Dick felt he could afford to take care of a family. On July 14, 1928, he married Grace Hudson in Osborne. The couple had three children, Julia, Mildred, and Gary. Wykoff spent the 1929 season with Columbus, and the 1930 season with Pueblo, Colorado. From 1930-32 he was with the Omaha (Nebraska) Royals, who went bankrupt midway through the season and the baseball commissioner ordered Wykoff released. After a short time back in Osborne he earned a spot on the roster of the House of David Bearded Aces, a traveling semi-pro team managed by the legendary pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. He toured with the House of David from 1933 to 1949, once pitching against Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Monarchs. In a game which showed the major-league caliber of both pitchers, Paige bested Wykoff by the score of 1-0.
In 1949 Dick retired from baseball and bought a farm located six and a half miles west of Alton, Kansas. He became a barber in 1951, opening shops in Alton and Osborne. In 1962 he moved his family back to Osborne, where he retired from his second career in 1970. He died June 12, 1983, in Hutchinson, Kansas, and was laid to rest in the Osborne Cemetery.