Born May 5, 1950, Richard Wayne McVay was the youngest of four children.  His father worked for Penick and Ford, a starch plant in Cedar Rapids, while his mother, Helen, remained at home and raised the two boys and two girls.  Dick began playing baseball at “age seven or eight”, he later recalled for a reporter, and joined the Norway Little League program in 1962, at age twelve.  Initially a third baseman, the boy quickly discovered his gift for pitching, and in one remarkable stretch that year tossed four consecutive no-hitters.

By age fourteen, McVay was playing baseball with the town team and both baseball and basketball for Norway High.  His arrival was the catalyst of the rise of Norway’s “Giant Killers”, coach Bernie Hutchison’s dynasty that won championship after championship against the largest schools in Iowa.  As a pitcher, McVay won an astonishing sixty-nine games, and lost only three (two of those were suffered while a freshman), a rate of more than fourteen wins per season at a time when the entire scholastic schedule might include only twenty games.  

The first championship, in the Fall 1965 season, was also the first for Norway High School.  Rick Ryan won that game, but both McVay and Bruce Kimm started in the field as freshmen.  The following fall, 1966, Dick and fellow pitcher Terry Brecht beat Collins 13-0 in the district finals, and followed that two days later by topping Holy Cross Leo 4-2 in the first round of the tournament on McVay’s game winning triple in the eleventh inning.  Dick also pitched nine innings (the maximum allowed), giving up one hit while striking out eighteen.  Norway repeated as state champions with an anti-climactic 4-2 win against Goldfield.

The next spring, again in the state tournament, McVay tossed a one-hitter (with sixteen strike-outs) against Council Bluffs Jefferson, a result that reverberated throughout the state.  Dick walked no one that day, and retired the final twelve batters he faced.  His dominance was so complete that he struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings, and had at least two strikeouts in every inning except the sixth.  At the time, the city of Council Bluffs had a population of approximately 55,000, while Norway a mere 516.  Norway High School, with only one one-hundredth the population from which to draw players – in contrast to the larger school – had shocked the Iowa baseball world.

The win put Norway in title game against Mason City (a school ten times larger than Norway High) the next day.  McVay relieved Terry Brecht in the third inning and struck out the side.  He completed the improbable championship run by, fittingly, striking out the final three batters of the game in a 4-2 victory.  Those wins, and the third state title, caused the Cedar Rapids “Gazette” to anoint the team the “Giant Killers”.
Also that fall, with McVay enroute to a 30-1 record as the ace of Hutchison’s rotation, the Des Moines Register’s Chuck Burdick wrote “It’s been quite a few years since anyone dominated the state tournament the way Norway’s Dick McVay did…”.  Mr. Burdick, it seems, was given to understatement.

In October 1967, after starring for a Cedar Rapids American Legion team that had advanced to the regional tournament earlier in the year, McVay pitched Norway to their third straight Fall Championship when he struck out fifteen while hurling a no-hitter in the final against Marian (Stacyville).  He finished his high school baseball career in April, 1968, when he and Terry Brecht each struck out six in a 19-4 win against Decorah in the championship game. 

It was McVay who drew many of the major league scouts to Norway in the late 1960s.  Once in the stands, those same scouts were exposed to a cadre of players that might have, otherwise, gone undiscovered.  Those teams, coached by Bernie Hutchison and featuring a battery of McVay and Bruce Kimm, also produced future professionals Steve Stumpff and Max Elliott.

Upon graduation from high school in 1968, McVay was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 4th round of the 1968 draft (79th player chosen overall).  A few days later, on June 23, he signed a contract with Cardinals’ scout Mike Ryba.  Ten days later, the July 3rd issue of the Cedar Rapids “Gazette” reported that 3,000 turned out to watch McVay make his professional debut with the Cedar Rapids Cardinals, an 8-3 win over Dubuque (Midwest League).  The stadium ticket office had been flooded by local demand, and induced a thirty-minute delay to the start of the game in order to seat all of the patrons. Despite warming up twice, McVay struck out five batters in first three innings.  

On July 10, 2,444 filled the seats to see McVay toss a complete game 8-hitter, with seven strikeouts and only three walks.  That only whetted the region’s collective appetite for his next start.  On July 19th, Cedar Rapids faced the Red Sox affiliate from Waterloo and re-matched McVay with Terry Williams, a former high school rival from Dubuque.  The two had most recently competed in a May 1968 playoff game in the state high school tournament.  Both had gone nine innings, the maximum allowed, before Norway finally eked out a 2-1 win in the tenth.

The game was covered in the August 3, 1968 edition of “The Sporting News”, perhaps as much for the post-game excitement as for the actual game.  3,506 spectators paid to watch the Cedar Rapids Cardinals and the Waterloo Hawks and the two pitching stars.  Resuming where they’d left off, Williams struck out six, and gave up just nine hits and two walks, while McVay yielded three hits (and four walks) while striking out eight. Unfortunately for Cedar Rapids, two of the hits off McVay were homers, so the Cardinals lost 4-2. 

Immediately following the last out, however, “The Sporting News” reported that a fan jumped the fence and punched (future major league) umpire Joe Brinkman in the jaw.  The assailant, it was later reported, was McVay’s father.  The Midwest League fined the Cardinals $250.00, but offered to return the fine at the end of the year if there were no more incidents (there were none).  The league also hinted at criminal assault charges, but the elder McVay was steadfast and did not recant.  Brinkman, various accounts agree, blew the call at first base.  It proved to be a mistake that put on what would become, after the next batter’s base hit, the winning run.
Over four thousand showed up to see McVay win his third decision, this time over Burlington on July 24, bringing the ‘gate’ at McVay’s first four starts in Cedar Rapids to more than 13,350, a mark well above the national minor league average.  Later that month, the eighteen-year old’s long baseball summer closed when he was named to the Iowa Daily Press Association “1st Team All-State” for 1968, along with high school battery-mate Bruce Kimm.  His professional career had started well, too, as he finished that year with a 5-4 record and a 4.01 Earned Run Average in eighty-three innings.

McVay impressed the Cardinals’ major league organization, and they sent him to the Florida Instructional League in November, and then invited him to spring training in 1969.  The Cards were no ordinary team, either, as defending National League champions that had fallen one game short of a world title just five months earlier.  That spring Dick got his taste of the major leagues, playing alongside Bob Gibson and the other St Louis stars and pitching to established veterans like Tim McCarver.   Clearly, it appeared, this prospect was destined for the big leagues.

Assigned to Cedar Rapids out of camp, McVay pitched well, and by the end of May was 2-0 with fifteen strikeouts in Midwest League play. Within weeks he was promoted all the way to Class ‘AAA’ Tulsa of the American Association, a level just below the majors.  There, in his first appearance, he threw two innings in relief, struck out two, and earned his first ‘AAA’ win.  The previous summer, the “Gazette”, had again profiled Dick, and he’d noted, “You can’t throw the ball by pro hitters.  You have to work more on hitting the corners of the plate.  Both the hitting and pitching are a big step up from the high school ranks.”  At this point in McVay’s career, however, he appeared to have made that step easily.

As the arm went, however, so went the pitcher.  Later in 1969, he was sent to the Arkansas Travelers (‘AA’ Texas League) to absorb some more innings, and he continued to keep his ERA below 3.00.  At some point, however, he injured his pitching arm.  The next season, playing with the Modesto Reds of the California League (‘A’), the twenty year old pitched eleven games and posted a 4-1 mark (2.20 ERA), but for a fast-baller, there is no ‘substitute’ pitch.  The magnificent arm did not respond, so even as he split 1971 between Modesto and Cedar Rapids, all he could do was hope for a miracle that never came.

With the arm “dead”, Dick walked away from professional baseball in 1971, and moved back to Norway, where he and wife still live (in 2010).  He’s a member of the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and his life and career fill an extraordinary chapter in the history of Norway baseball.