An Interview with Mike Scott

added 2/4/02 by Ray Kerby

Astro great Mike Scott is a living legend among Astros fans. He threw the most incredible game in franchise history, the pennant-clinching no-hitter in 1986. He's won the Cy Young award and was 20-game winner in 1989. The Astros retired his jersey in 1992. I am certainly glad that he was willing to answer a few questions about his career.

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Ray Kerby: Growing up in Santa Monica, California, when did you realize that you wanted to be a ballplayer? If you played other sports, why did you choose baseball?

Mike Scott: I didn't grow up in Santa Monica, I grew up in Hawthorne. I played basketball as well as baseball, I liked basketball better, but thought I had a better chance to go further in baseball.

RK: Did you have a favorite team? Who was your idol? Why did you like him?

MS: My favorite team was the Lakers and I liked watching Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

RK: Why did you go to Pepperdine University after high school instead of turning pro? Did you receive any professional offers?

MS: I wasn't drafted out of high school and didn't have a whole lot of choices after high school. Pepperdine was a beautiful school and ended up being the best decision for me.

RK: How did you react when you were picked in the 2nd round of the 1976 draft by the Mets? What went through your mind when you realized that you might end up pitching in New York City?

MS: I was surprised when the Mets drafted me because I hadn't heard much from them. I had heard from and talked to a few teams, but the Mets weren't one of them. When I was drafted, I was more worried about pitching for that Jackson Mets, and didn't even think about pitching in New York.

RK: You had a great year in the Texas League in 1977, leading the league in wins (14), innings (187), and complete games (14). What were you primary pitches at that point in your career? At what point did you start struggling to get professional hitters out?

MS: I threw a fastball, a curveball and a slider. The higher the level I went, the more I realized I needed an off speed pitch.

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RK: Do you feel that you were ready for the majors when you debuted in 1979? In your first major-league game, a 4th-inning relief appearance in Montreal, you promptly retired Larry Parrish, Chris Speier, and pitcher Stan Bahnsen. How nervous were you when you faced that first batter? How did you feel when you were walking back to the dugout after retiring 3 straight?

MS: Obviously I was nervous because it was my first outing, and I didn't know if I was ready or not until I got there. But I really can't remember how I felt, it was all kind of a blur.

RK: In your early days with the Mets, who were some of your mentors? How did they help you?

MS: I really didn't have any mentors with the Mets.

RK: The Mets seemed to give up on you after a 7-13 performance in 1982, dealing you to the Astros for utility infielder Danny Heep. What were your thoughts at the time on the trade and your future in baseball?

MS: I probably needed a change, I wasn't going anywhere with the Mets. The change of scenery was a good thing.

RK: After a 5-11 season in 1984, you worked with Roger Craig in the off-season on a split-finger fastball. Who arranged this meeting and how much time did you spend with Craig?

MS: Al Rosen, the General Manager arranged the meeting, I spent a week in San Diego with Roger Craig for about an hour a day.

RK: With the new pitch, you won 18 games in 1985 and became the ace of the staff. At what point during the season did you realize that the pitch was going to be effective for you?

MS: The first time I threw the pitch was in spring training and I was amazed at how successful the pitch could be.

RK: The 1986 season was filled with many magical moments: the All-Star game, the no-hitter, the playoffs. How did it feel to pitch in the All-Star game, less than two years after it seemed your career may be over? How did you prepare before and during the game?

MS: It was a great experience to have the All-Star game in Houston. You don't really prepare for the game, you just hope you get your inning in and don't get knocked out or embarrass yourself.

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RK: The division-clinching no-hitter you threw on Sept 25, 1986, has become the signature game for the franchise. Going into the game, everyone knew that the team had a great chance to clinch that day with you on the mound. During the game, when did you start thinking about a no-hitter? What was your toughest moment during the game?

MS: I started thinking about the no-hitter when, in the 7th inning, Ashby told me, "we're clinching the pennant anyway, just concentrate on the no-hitter." The toughest moment in the game came when Billy Doran made a great play behind me to a force a runner out at 2nd, I think that had the best chance of being a base hit.

RK: In your start immediately following the no-hitter, you pitched 5 perfect innings and kept the no-hitter going until a leadoff double by Will Clark in the 7th. Was the name of Johnny Vander Meer going through the mind with the possibility of becoming only the second pitcher in history to throw back-to-back no-hitters? With your continued pitching domination into the playoffs, how do you explain the incredible groove you seemed to be in?

MS: I didn't even realize the significance of Johnny Vander Meer' until people brought it up after the game. I guess it was just good timing that I got into a groove when I did and it worked out the way it did.

RK: Your two dominating starts in the 1986 playoffs were remarkable, earning you the bittersweet distinction of being the first player named MVP of a championship series while playing for the losing team. The defeat in Game 6 was obviously crushing. How did the team deal with that loss after the game, and did anything good come out of it for you?

MS: The loss was extremely tough for the team, and nothing good came out of it.

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RK: One big controversy that arose during the 1986 season and followed you for the rest of your career were accusations that you doctored the ball in order to pitch more effectively. The Mets handed over dozens of supposedly "scuffed" baseballs to the league commissioner during the 1986 playoffs to no effect. Don Sutton stated later that some pitchers on the staff scuffed balls while he was in Houston, but this was before you joined the team. Did you ever doctor the ball? Did anyone else on the staff? Or were you letting the imaginations of the opposing team get the best of them?

MS: I let the imaginations of the opponents' get the best of them.

RK: How did you feel about Roger Craig's criticism that you scuffed the ball, even though he taught you to throw the split-finger?

MS: Craig's players were complaining, so he did what a manager should do when his players are complaining-- he had the umpire check.

RK: On June 12, 1988 you were one out away from a second career no-hitter before it was broken up by Atlanta's Ken Oberkfell. That at-bat is surely etched in your mind. What do you remember about it? Did you have any choice words for him when he joined the team in 1990?

MS: I remember it was a clean base hit off a pretty good pitch, we laughed about it when he joined the team.

RK: Despite injury problems, you won 20 games in 1989. Can you describe the nature of the injury and how it affected your throwing? Why did you decide to not have it surgically repaired?

MS: In '89, I had a torn rotator cuff, it got progressively worse as the season went on. I didn't have surgery because I would've missed the whole season in rehabilitation. We tried strengthening it with only rehab but it didn't work. During the second half of '89 it just got worse.

RK: On October 3rd, 1992 the Astros retired your jersey along with that of Jose Cruz. What was your reaction when you found that you were going to be honored this way?

MS: It was a great honor and nice to share that honor with Jose Cruz, who I have always had a lot of respect for.

RK: Since retiring, have you tried to stay involved with baseball? What are you doing nowadays?

MS: For the last few years I helped coach the baseball team at Aliso Niguel High School. I have been doing a lot of traveling since retiring. We have made many trips back to Texas to watch my oldest daughter play volleyball at Baylor University. My nephew also went to Baylor and played on the baseball team there. My youngest daughter is involved in theater at her High School and I really enjoy watching her perform.

RK: Thanks for your time!