Interviews | Scott Brosius
During the modern Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Scott Brosius was an indispensable cog in the Yankee machine. When he came to New York following the 1997 season, in which he hit .203 for Oakland, there were questions about whether he could be successful under the bright lights of New York. However, the humble and industrious 3rd baseman immediately won over fans during the ’98 season with his work ethic and infectious love of the game. In his best season in New York, he achieved career highs in runs (86), hits (159), doubles (34), home runs (19), RBIs (98), stolen bases (11), batting average (.300), and total bases (250), while earning a trip to the All-Star Game in Denver.
However, Brosius saved his best for October, a theme he would continue throughout his 4 years in pinstripes. During a Division Series sweep of the Rangers, Brosius batted .400 with a home run and 3 RBIs. In the pennant against the Cleveland Indians he batted .300 with 6 RBIs and just 4 strikeouts in 20 at bats, but the newest Yankee raised his play even higher in the Fall Classic, joining an exclusive fraternity of October legends. Against the Padres, Brosius was instrumental in the Bombers’ 4-game sweep, batting .417 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs, highlighted by his signature game 3 performance.
After the Yankees took the first 2 games of the series in New York, they entered a raucous Qualcomm Stadium against a team that was desperate to win game 3. The Padres built a 3-0 lead as the Yanks came to bat in the 7th, in need of a spark against Sterling Hitchcock. Brosius, as he would so often in the future, lit the match, cracking a full-count pitch to left for a solo home run, slashing the deficit to 3-1. One inning later the Yanks still trailed, 3-2, when San Diego went for the jugular, bringing in closer Trevor Hoffman for a 2-inning save with Paul O’Neill on 1st. As AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” pulsed through the stadium speakers, the fireballing righty, who had a Major League-leading 53 saves in ’98, charged out of the bullpen. He induced a fly ball from Bernie Williams, then walked Tino Martinez on 5 pitches to put runners at 1st and 2nd as a hero-in-the-making dug into the batter’s box.
Brosius worked a 2-2 count before silencing the boisterous crowd with a 3-run shot to left field that vaulted the Yankees into an improbable 5-3 lead. As he rounded the bases, he raised his arms above his head and floated around the bases after the latest, greatest home run in the fabled Fall Classic. The Padres never recovered from Brosius’ 2nd blast. They mustered a sacrifice fly in the 8th off of Mariano Rivera, and had a chance to tie it in the 9th with two 2-out singles off of the postseason master, but a strikeout by Andy Sheets sealed their fate, putting them into an 0-3 hole after a 5-4 Yankee win. The Yanks would go on to sweep the series and Brosius would join the likes of Don Larsen, Whitey Ford, and Reggie Jackson by earning the World Series MVP award.
In 1999, after winning his only Gold Glove, he helped the Yankees win a 2nd consecutive World Series crown with a .375 batting average in the Fall Classic. The fan favorite would win a 3rd title with New York in a victory over the crosstown rival Mets in the 2000 Subway Series, and would help the Yankees return to a 4th consecutive World Series, where his most dramatic October moment awaited.
One night after a miraculous game 4 comeback against the Diamondbacks, Brosius duplicated the magic with a 2-out, 2-run home run in the 9th inning that knotted the game at 3-3. The Bombers would eventually win game 5 on a 12th inning single by Alfonso Soriano. As workers continued to sift through the rubble of the Twin Towers and New Yorkers tried to process the atrocities of September 11th, Brosius and the Yankees helped us find something to hope and believe in again on those two nights, bringing a much-needed sense of normalcy back to our battered city.
Brosius retired after the 2001 season as one of the most beloved Yankees of the modern dynasty, a self-effacing man whose work ethic and passion for baseball won over both fans and foes, and whose postseason prowess placed him among select company in Yankee lore.
Scott, one of my Yankee heroes, was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions.
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1. What was your transition like from Oakland to New York at the start of the 1998 season?
No question it felt a bit daunting when I first heard about the trade. Having to move my family across the country to an environment that wasn’t warm and friendly as a visiting player made me wonder what it would be like. But I was so excited about the trade and to play for a winning team, and once I got to NY everyone with the team and the city made the transition very easy. I fell in love with NY right away.
2. You were at your best in October, winning the World Series MVP in ’98 and contributing to 3 World Series teams and 4 pennants. What allowed you to perform so well in such pressure-packed moments?
I guess those moments can do one of two things to players. They can either force you to put pressure on yourself and press too much, or they can make you focus and compete. For me I always viewed it as opportunity, a chance to do something I waited my whole life to do. I loved to compete so it just made me simplify my thoughts. I never worried about the negative, only expected the positive.
3. Game 5. 9th inning. You’re watching Kim’s pitch soar to left field. What is going through your mind?
I can honestly say the only thought going through my mind as I was rounding the bases was, ‘No way! No way did that just happen again!’ After Tino [Martinez] did it the night before, that’s all that kept going through my head when I was running.
4. What is your favorite moment from your time in New York?
It’s hard to have just one favorite moment, because we won three titles, but the dog pile in 1998 stands out because it was the first. You dream of winning a World Series as a kid growing up, but you never know if it will ever be a reality. To feel the reality for the first time was something special.
5. Who was your baseball hero growing up?
My idol growing up was Dale Murphy. Since Cable TV had just arrived, I had the chance to watch the Braves on TBS every day. Dale was from Portland and a great player, so I had all his posters up in my room. I wore number 3 in high school because that was his number.
6. You played under an incredible brain trust of baseball knowledge in Joe Torre and Don Zimmer. Have you consciously or unconsciously used some of their principles or techniques in your managing at Linfield College?
No question I have taken certain things from Joe and Don into my own coaching. From Joe I always remember how well he treated me as a person, not just a player. Even in the biggest pressure cooker in NY, he kept a perspective that while important, baseball isn’t everything. From Don I never forget his love for the game. He truly felt it was a privilege to be around the game. He told me once he never went to work a day in his life. I try to remember that when things get heavy during a season. They both had incredible baseball knowledge, but these other characteristics I try to make a part of who I am as a coach.
7. Where has life taken you since retiring in 2001?