"I wouldn't have wanted to be Rick this spring," said Mark Rosenblum, Wisconsin third baseman and a friend of Reichardt. "His life was not his own. He was always surrounded by people, always had to be someplace doing something. At the Minnesota game a photographer made Rick stand on top of the Minnesota dugout while about 50 scouts lined up and posed with their tongues hanging out. The Minnesota fans booed and threw things. Rick was awful embarrassed. But if he didn't do it they would have said he was a lousy guy and a stuck-up kid."
"I've been subjected to that kind of attention for years," Reichardt said. "I've learned to take it with a grain of salt."
Such attention, publicity and adulation has twisted the values of many young men and made them arrogant and unbearable. With Rick Reichardt the attention seemed to turn him in on himself and on his family. He has five younger sisters and three younger brothers, and he is very close to them. At the University of Wisconsin he left the dormitory after his freshman year and moved into his grandfather's house, where Rick had the entire second floor as his hermitage. Rick did not join a fraternity. "There was too much noise in the dorm," he said. "I'm not a very social person, and I don't think I would have been much good to a fraternity. The house I live in in Madison, it's just me and my gramps."
"When he first came to school he was a loner," said Wisconsin Football Coach Milt Bruhn. "Rick would never have a date. He missed his big family. He has a friend in Madison who has several kids, and Rick would go over and play with them. I think he has been coming out a little more lately, but Rick was a very confused boy this spring. So many people were after him, and he didn't know what to do. He came to me and had a confidential talk for an hour. He wanted to know how we would feel if he signed a baseball contract. I told him he would have our blessings as long as he did whatever he thought was right. Naturally, we wanted him back for his senior year of football. He could very easily be an All-America. He has great hands, has moves the pros like, and he'll go into heavy traffic and fight for the ball. But I wanted him to do whatever was right for him."
The decision was a difficult one for Reichardt. He felt that he had an obligation toward the University of Wisconsin and toward his football teammates. The bonus money was attractive, but Rick's father, Dr. Fritz Reichardt, is an orthopedic surgeon and the family has no financial problem. On a warm, bright afternoon last month, while debating with himself over what he would do, Rick hitched the family boat and trailer to one of the two family cars and drove through Stevens Point, a quiet little town of 20,000, to the Wisconsin River. A mild breeze stirred the dark water as Rick slid the 20-foot runabout off the trailer and started the 50-hp motor. Rick took the wheel and cruised up-river, keeping carefully to the channel as barns, farmhouses, green meadows and black tree stumps swept past.
"If I go back to school," he said, thinking aloud, "they want to put me up for All-America, and I'd be so busy that I couldn't study. That's one thing. I've already played in the Rose Bowl [as a sophomore defensive halfback] and on a Big Ten championship team, so what more is there? The only thing about being an All-America would be my own pride, to see if I could make it. Frankly, I wasn't very happy about last football season. I played right half, but I was a flanker most of the time. I only carried the ball about 20 times. I'm 6 feet 3 and 220 and was the fastest man on the team, and I love contact and love to run with the ball, and I have a great knack for punt and kickoff returns. That's not just speed, you know. Some guys have a knack for it. So I would want to run with the ball more.
"I spent a lot of time on the bench. When I was in the game, I did remarkably well. I'm not being immodest when I say that. It's just a fact. In the Illinois game, I caught seven passes in the first half. In the second half they didn't throw the ball to me once, even though I was open constantly. I'd come back to the huddle and say, 'Well, we missed it again, huh?' The quarterback [Hal Brandt] and I arrived at Wisconsin at the same time and we were both big guns in high school, and we were sort of jealous of each other, sort of rivals. But we played baseball together this spring [Brandt was the Wisconsin first baseman] and now we're pals, and our relationship would be different if I played football this year.
"Several pro football clubs have told me I'll be their number one draft choice ["Reichardt," said Kansas City Chief Scout Don Klosterman, "has the moves you expect to see in a guy 5 feet 9 and 170. He could make it as a running back, flanker or closed end."], and there are parts of football I wouldn't trade for anything, especially the hitting. But I love to hit the baseball, too.
"I guess what I ought to do is sign a baseball contract if I can get what I want," Rick said as the speedboat plowed past a beach where several girls lolled in the sun. "I don't mean just a big bonus The baseball rule is you have to take the bonus in one lump, and if I got $200,000 I wouldn't really get but $55,000. What I want is a longtime assured future, like a job. The Phillies have talked about helping me get into medical school at Temple. That would be important to me. It worries me what to do about the responsibility I feel toward helping the Wisconsin football team to win, but if I do play football again I'm risking an injury that could knock me out of baseball altogether."
After an hour on the river, Rick drove over to a Little League ball park in Stevens Point and gave away 20 bats the Chicago White Sox had given him. Then he returned to the Reichardt home, a two-story, beige frame house with a sundeck on Soo Marie Street. Dr. Reichardt's new white Cadillac was parked in a driveway. In the backyard a couple of the younger Reichardt children were playing baseball. The Reichardts own nearly an acre on Soo Marie Street. Behind the house the family has built a baseball diamond, and it is not uncommon for the neighbors to see the Reichardt family of nine children plus father and mother having its own private game of scrub. Inside the house the phone was ringing, and the call, of course, was for Rick. Friends had heard he was back in town, and he arranged a gathering for that night. Rick put down the phone and looked at the family dog, a black Hungarian sheep dog named Bibber. One of the sisters said she wanted to put Bibber in a dog show. "No you won't," said Rick. "That's too snootyish."