Former Orioles All-Star Mike Boddicker was watching this year’s World Series intently, partially because it’s his job. He does some TV and radio talk show analysis in Kansas City, where he played two of his final three seasons as a major-leaguer.
He also was watching it as a Kansas City Royals fan. He lives in Overland Park, Kansas, about a 20-minute ride from Kauffman Stadium, and said he and his family unquestionably root for the Royals. He was at Game 1 in Kansas City, won by the Royals in 14 innings.
“It was cold and rainy, I picked the wrong day,” he said laughing.
But as Boddicker, now 58, watched the Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win their first October Classic since 1985, he understood there was an obvious connection between his career and this World Series.
The New York Mets’ heralded young rotation featured four starters age 27 or younger, pitching in the World Series for the first time. Two, right-hander Noah Syndergaard, and lefty Steven Matz, are rookies.
And when you consider rookie starting pitchers in the World Series, it’s hard not to think about Boddicker, who set the standard in Game 2 of the 1983 World Series.
In fact, SportsOnEarth.com recently ranked the top 10 starts by rookies in the October Classic – using the Bill James-created metric “game score” as the determining factor – and Boddicker’s complete-game three-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies was chosen No. 1.
“I had it easy. I had it just a little different than these (Mets) guys because I was a rookie and I had Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor with me. There was no panic, no worry,” said Boddicker, who was 26 during the 1983 postseason. “They basically were tutoring me throughout the whole year on how to do it. These guys on the Mets, they didn’t have that wealth [of veteran advice].”
Boddicker didn’t throw particularly hard, but could change speeds, locate his pitches and perfected a “foshball,” which had characteristics of a split-fingered fastball and changeup. He said he looks at the arsenal of guys like deGrom and Syndergaard and is amazed with what they can do with a baseball.
“Their stuff is three times better than my stuff, all of them,” Boddicker said. “But they didn’t have anybody there to help them the way I did. They didn’t have a collage of tremendous, 20-game winners to fall back on for help. I was blessed with that.”
Boddicker didn’t need much help in the 1983 postseason. With the Orioles trailing 1-0 in the American League Championship Series, Boddicker blanked the Chicago White Sox through nine innings to even the series. He allowed five hits, walked three and struck out 14 batters while throwing 140 pitches, good enough to earn him ALCS MVP honors.
Pitching on five days’ rest, Boddicker again was charged to get his team out of a 1-0 hole against the Phillies and he responded with another complete game. He permitted one unearned run, didn’t walk anyone and struck out six while throwing a more economical 107 pitches. He was on turn to start Game 6, but the Orioles won the World Series – the last they have appeared in – in five games.
Boddicker’s final inning couldn’t have been much more impressive. Hall-of-Famer Joe Morgan hit a fly out, all-time hits king Pete Rose grounded out and then Boddicker fanned Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt for the final out.
“I remember striking out Mike Schmidt and that’s pretty much all I can remember of that game,” Boddicker said. “I don’t even think about that anymore.”
Boddicker said he doesn’t really remember being nervous during that time. The veterans kept him in calm, and all he wanted to do was pitch.
“As soon as I crossed the white lines to get out there, I was like, ‘This is so nice. I don’t have to deal with the media and the cameras and signing baseballs and all the other stuff there,’” he said. “Just play baseball.”
That postseason was arguably the cap of an excellent career that included 134 victories and a 20-win season in 1984, the last one in Orioles’ history. Boddicker placed fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting in 1984 and was third in AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 1983.
He never got back to the World Series again in a career that spanned 14 years.
By the way, Boddicker, he of the 140-pitch postseason start, said he had no problem with New York Mets’ manager Terry Collins sending 26-year-old Matt Harvey back to the mound – at Harvey’s request – for the ninth inning in Game 5 to finish off the potential shutout.
Harvey walked the leadoff batter, Lorenzo Cain, and then gave up an RBI double to Eric Hosmer before exiting. The Royals tied the game on a groundout against Mets closer Jeurys Familia and won in 12 innings.
“I would have allowed him to go out [for the ninth], but I would have sent him out there with one stipulation: You go one batter at a time. A guy gets on, and I’m coming to get you,” Boddicker said. “The problem is they didn’t go out and get him [after the walk]. I looked around my room and said, ‘Anybody else see this mistake, or just me?’”