Still Pitching: Musings from the Mound and the Microphone

Still Pitching: Musings from the Mound and the Microphone

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by Jim Kaat, Phil Pepe

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He pitched to Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn. His career spanned three commissioners, four decades and five times in six cities. Before he becomes elected to the baseball Hall of Fame, learn about the fascinating career of one of the most unheralded hurlers.


He pitched to Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn. His career spanned three commissioners, four decades and five times in six cities. Before he becomes elected to the baseball Hall of Fame, learn about the fascinating career of one of the most unheralded hurlers.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Kaat's acute knowledge shows in his candid yet politic analysis of the players he faced and the bosses for whom he has worked, including Pete Rose, for whom he served as a pitching coach, and his current boss, George Steinbrenner. If the book lacks spice -- there is no brawling, boozing or tale-telling -- that speaks as much to his good nature as to his commitment to the game. — Diane Cole
Library Journal
Kaat pitched for 24 years in the major leagues and holds the record for the most gold gloves (16) won by a pitcher. His lifetime statistics are quite admirable, but he remains on the bubble for the Hall of Fame. He has since become a well-known announcer for the Yankees. Here he tells the secrets behind his durability and offers plenty of insights on how baseball has evolved. Sports fans in New York and Minnesota (Kaat is a Minnesota Twin legend) will especially enjoy. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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Still Pitching

Musings from the Mound and the Microphone

By Jim Kaat, Phil Pepe

Triumph Books

Copyright © 2003 Jim Kaat and Phil Pepe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62368-161-6


An Age-Old Story

I was looking forward to the All-Star break. A little golf, some rest and relaxation, and then back to what I was certain was going to be another close, exciting race in the National League East.

It was 1983, and I was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, my fifth major league team. We had won the World Series the year before. We had finished three games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East, our division, beat Joe Torre's Atlanta Braves three straight in the National League Championship Series, then won the World Series from the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games by taking the last two games in St. Louis.

I had had a decent year. Pitching almost exclusively in relief, I was 5–3 with two saves.

Now I was in my fourth season with the Cardinals, longer than I had been with any team since the Twins. I hadn't pitched much in the first half — just 34 2/3 innings in 24 games, no record, no saves, but a 3.89 earned run average. And I was feeling pretty good about the second half, for the team and for myself.

We had gotten off to a slow start, but by the break, we were in the thick of the NL East race and we had some good veteran players — George Hendrick, Tommy Herr, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Darrell Porter, an excellent pitching staff with Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar, John Stuper, Dave LaPoint, and, in my opinion, the best closer in the game, Bruce Sutter — pretty much the same cast that had won the World Series. And we had Whitey Herzog, a manager with a knack for getting the most out of the talent he had.

I had been sold by the Yankees to the Cardinals early in the 1980 season. When I arrived, Ken Boyer was the Cardinals manager, but after I was there a little more than a month, Boyer was fired and Herzog was brought in.

I had played against Whitey when he managed, very successfully I might add, in Texas and Kansas City. Herzog was the most brilliant and the brightest manager I ever played for. The way he used me, and the way he ran a game, he was the best.

He was the manager in St. Louis for about two months when he was made general manager, so he left the field and went up to the front office and Red Schoendienst, the great Cardinals' Hall of Fame second baseman, took over for the remainder of the season. It was just an interim position for Schoendienst, who had managed the Cardinals for 12 years and had won two pennants and one World Series with those great Cardinals teams in the late sixties.

When the 1980 season ended, the organization announced that Herzog would serve as both field manager and general manager, so I would deal with Whitey when it came time to negotiate a new contract. I didn't have an agent. I always did all my own negotiations. With Whitey, it was a simple process. I'd go to Herzog at the end of the season and ask him, "What do you think? Do you think I can still pitch? You want me back?"

"Yeah," he'd say. "I think you can still do it."

Then we'd talk money. He'd say, "What were you making last year, $135,000? What do you think you ought to have?"

"Oh, I don't know, $175,000."

"OK, you got it."

That was it. Real simple. It took just a few minutes.

Herzog was getting tired of all the paperwork he had to do as general manager, so in 1982 he brought in Joe McDonald to take on some of the responsibilities as general manager. Whitey still made most of the personnel decisions, but McDonald was the guy who did the paperwork and negotiated contracts.

It was getting toward the end of the 1982 season. We hadn't won the division yet, but we were on our way to winning it, so I went to Whitey like I always did and said, "What about next year?"

"Yeah, I told Joe I want you back next year."

I went upstairs to see McDonald. "I just want to talk about next year," I said. "Whitey said he wants me back and he told me to come up and get a contract settled."

But McDonald started hemming and hawing. "Well, Andy Hassler is out there," he said. "And some other left-handers. I'm thinking about inviting you to spring training as a nonroster player." And I'm thinking, "What's going on here?"

I went down to see Whitey. "McDonald's giving me a different story," I said.

Time passed and we won the division and the National League pennant, and we went to the World Series and won the World Series, too. The season ended and I went home without a contract for 1983. During the winter, I was waiting to get a contract and McDonald finally acknowledged that I was going to be a roster player. He sent me a contract for the same money as the year before, $200,000.

I did some research and then I wrote a letter and sent it to McDonald pointing out that the average salary for a relief pitcher with at least six years of major league service was $435,000. I had 24 years of service and I was making $200,000. I wrote that I understood I wasn't going to go from $200,000 to $435,000, but I thought that after contributing to a team that won the World Series, $275,000 was a fair figure.

McDonald evidently went to Whitey and said that I was asking for $435,000 because I got a letter from Herzog scolding me. He said I was pricing myself out of the market. I tracked Herzog down by telephone and told him, "Whitey, that's not true. I told Joe McDonald what the average was and I told him exactly what I was asking."

That winter, the St. Louis baseball writers invited me to their annual dinner and I accepted. Just about that time, my dad's health took a turn for the worse — he eventually passed away on January 19 — but he was in a coma for a week before he died, so I called the Cardinals and told them I wasn't going to be able to make the dinner because I was in Michigan with my dad. Whitey thought I skipped the writers' dinner out of defiance because of the contract thing and that strained my relationship with Whitey a little.

We got the contract settled. I signed for the $275,000 I was asking, and I reported to spring training for the 1983 season. That winter, the Cardinals had signed a minor league free agent named Dave Von Ohlen, a left-handed pitcher. The season started and Von Ohlen was on the team, and the phone would ring in the bullpen, and where it had always been my call, all of a sudden, it was Von Ohlen's. I said to our bullpen coach, Dave Ricketts, that I could tell they were phasing me out.

I didn't pitch much in the first half of the season. It got close to the All-Star break and we had a couple of pitchers hurt. In the last game before the All-Star break, I was brought in to pitch the last three innings and clean up in a lopsided win. After that, I told Bruce Sutter, "I think I'm going to get to start some games in the second half. We're playing San Francisco and San Diego. They've got a lot of left-handed hitters and we've got some guys that are hurt."

When I got home the next day, the phone rang and it was Joe McDonald. He said, "We just got a chance to pick up Dave Rucker from Detroit, this left-hander we've had our eyes on for a while. We're releasing you."

"You're what?"

"Yeah," he said. "We're releasing you. We're going to go with the younger guy."

Going with a younger guy? Come on, Joe, I still hadn't reached my 45th birthday.

Make It Move

The best pitching advice I can give young pitchers is to learn to throw strikes with your fastball. I had a young pitcher named Andy McGaffigan in Cincinnati who boasted that he had four pitches. I said, "How many of them can you throw for strikes on 3–2 in a clutch situation? If you can't throw all four for strikes, maybe you have only one pitch."

I'd take him to the bullpen and say, "Throw 10 fastballs. See how many you can throw in the strike zone. I don't care if you hit the corner. I want strikes." Sometimes he'd throw four or five for strikes and I'd tell him, "If you're just trying to throw strikes and you can't throw more than four or five in the strike zone, what are you doing trying to hit corners?"

Pitching starts with being able to throw a fastball for strikes 90 percent of the time. Everything works off that.

People have asked me when a kid should start throwing curveballs. I don't know if there's any set age. When I was little, I didn't throw hard, so early on I started learning how to curve the ball. That may not be the proper advice to give a youngster, but to me it's more important for a youngster to learn how to throw a curveball, not when. The key to learning to throw a breaking ball is to use your wrist, not your elbow. Young pitchers hurt their arms by throwing with their elbow instead of using the wrist and finger pressure.

Greg Maddux is one pitcher today who still puts a lot of emphasis on finger pressure, spin, and the rotation of the ball. Everybody today tends to be power-conscious. In my day, pitchers were more spin-conscious. Make it move. Make it do this, make it do that.

A Ring to It

I was sitting in front of my television set, sipping a glass of wine and watching the 1997 American League Championship Series between Baltimore and Cleveland, when they flashed a trivia question. Cal Ripken Jr. had gone 14 years since he played in the World Series. "What player has the greatest length of time between World Series appearances?"

I turned to my wife, Mary Ann, and said, "I think I'm the answer to that trivia question."

The next inning, they gave the answer. I was right. "Jim Kaat went 17 years between World Series appearances, from 1965 with Minnesota to 1982 with St. Louis."

That's why of all the years I spent in baseball, the 1982 season with the Cardinals was my greatest thrill in baseball. I wear that 1982 World Series ring proudly. It's the only one I ever got.

My name came up again when Ray Bourque was a member of the Stanley Cup–champion Colorado Avalanche in 2001. They made a big thing of the fact that Bourque finally won a championship in his 21st year in the NHL. I got a call from the Elias Sports Bureau informing me that I waited longer than Bourque to win a championship. When I was with the Cardinals in 1982 and we won the World Series, I was in my 24th major league season.

Of course, not many get to play that long. Nolan Ryan, for example, played two years longer than I did. But he played in the World Series with the Mets in 1969, in his third major league season. Nolie pitched for 24 more years and never got to the World Series again.


Radio Daze

My baseball odyssey begins in the unlikely town of Zeeland, Michigan, situated in the westernmost part of the state, about 150 miles west of Detroit and 120 miles north of Chicago — in other words, far from the nearest major league city.

I was the youngest of four children of John and Nancy Kaat, an unplanned arrival. Mom and Dad were both in their late thirties when I came along. My sisters, Mildred and Esther, and my brother, Bill, from nine to thirteen years older than I, all married relatively young, so I grew up almost as an only child.

Zeeland was a Dutch enclave whose primary industries were chicken and turkey hatching and furniture making. In the area where I grew up, a lot of the towns are named after Dutch towns, such as Holland, Drenthe, Beaver Dam, and Zeeland. Dad worked in the local hatchery, and Mom was a homemaker. They were both born in this country, but their ancestors came here from the Netherlands. The name Kaat is Dutch and is pronounced "Cot," but early in my career most people pronounced my name "Cat," and I never bothered to correct them. In fact, one year they misspelled my name on my bubble gum card and it came out "Katt."

For obvious reasons, when I began playing professional baseball, I picked up the nickname "Kitty." It started in the spring of 1958 with a left-handed pitcher named Chuck Stobbs. At the time, Chuck was an 11-year veteran who had won 89 major league games but who was best known, unfortunately, for serving up the pitch in 1953 that Mickey Mantle hit clear out of Washington's Griffith Stadium. It became famous as Mantle's "tape-measure" home run that the Yankees' public relations director, Red Patterson, supposedly measured at 565 feet. I say "supposedly" because Mantle, himself, years later said he believed Patterson never left the press box. Whatever the distance, it was one of the longest home runs in baseball history, and it served to help create the legend of Mickey Mantle.

In my first spring training, everybody called me "Cat." Stobbs used to kid me about having a brother "Bob" and another brother, "Tom." There were three crusty veterans in camp — Stobbs, Russ Kemmerer, and Truman Clevenger — and when they saw me on the mound in fielding drills, I reminded them of Harry the "Cat" Brecheen and Harvey Haddix, the "Kitten," who were quick off the mound and good fielders. They started calling me the "Kitten." Because I was the youngest pitcher in camp, I became the "little Kitty Cat," and that's how that all evolved, and it's stayed with me to this day.

I once asked Mom what the word Kaat means in Dutch, and the closest she could come to a definition was "tennis."

It was my dad who nurtured my love for baseball. John Kaat never played the game professionally, but he was known in our area as "Mr. Baseball." He was the source for any baseball information, including scoring and umpiring disputes in the local softball leagues. Fast-pitch softball was the only organized ball in our town. Little League had not yet reached our corner of the world, and American Legion ball was for older kids, so softball was the popular game.

In the evenings, when dad came home from work, we played baseball trivia or talked baseball. Dad was so knowledgeable about baseball, some people in town urged him to try to be a contestant on the $64,000 Question, a popular television show in the fifties, but he never pursued it. He just loved the game for the game. He passed that love of baseball on to me, and I took to it like Gaylord Perry to a jar of Vaseline.

Because of the distance, I rarely got to see a major league game. I saw my first one in Detroit in 1946. It was a Wednesday afternoon doubleheader, the Tigers and Red Sox. I was only seven, but I remember a lot about it. Hank Greenberg hit two home runs. Ted Williams hit two. Hal Newhouser pitched the first game for the Tigers and hit a home run. Newhouser beat Joe Dobson in the first game. The Red Sox won the second game. Boo Ferriss beat Dizzy Trout. The scores were 16–3 and 9–4, and they played each game in about two hours and 10 minutes. There were 46,000 people in the stands.

Mostly, I got my baseball on radio. We were fortunate to be located in such a position that we were able to pick up Chicago and Detroit radio stations, so I could always get a game. Sundays were the best days. There were always doubleheaders on Sundays. After church and one of Mom's great dinners, I'd settle down and listen to Bob Elson, the "Commander," describe White Sox games, or Harry Heilmann calling Tigers games, or Jack Brickhouse and Bert Wilson on Cubs games. Later, when the Braves moved to Milwaukee, I'd pick up Earl Gillespie doing Braves games.

I collected baseball cards, read The Sporting News, checked the box scores of the major league games every day in the local newspaper, and had my radio. I was saturated with baseball and I loved it. And there was Dad. He loved baseball like no other person I've ever met. Connie Mack was his idol, his favorite team was the Philadelphia Athletics, and his favorite player was the great Robert Moses "Lefty" Grove, who had won 300 major league games in a 17-year career. Dad even drove to Cooperstown in 1947 for Grove's induction into the Hall of Fame, stopping on the way to visit Lefty's bowling alley in Lonaconing, Maryland. I regret to this day that I didn't make the trip to Cooperstown. I was only eight at the time.

It figured that I would also choose the Philadelphia Athletics as my favorite team. Psychologists might say it was my way of bonding with my dad, whom I admired, respected, and loved very much. If Dad's favorite player was a left-handed pitcher, mine would be, too. I chose Bobby Shantz, who won 24 games for the Athletics and was named the American League's Most Valuable Player (there was no Cy Young Award back then) in 1952.


Excerpted from Still Pitching by Jim Kaat, Phil Pepe. Copyright © 2003 Jim Kaat and Phil Pepe. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jim Kaat is the Game Analyst for New York Yankees games on the YES Network and WCBS-TV. After 20 years as a television analyst, Kaat has proven himself to be as good at his second profession as he was on the pitcher's mound. He was a member of the broadcast team that won the New York Emmy Awards in 1996 and 1998, respectively, for "Outstanding Live Sports Coverage-Single Program" for the coverage of Dwight Gooden's no-hitter and David Wells' perfect game. Kaat has covered all the primary events in baseball including: the 1988 Olympic baseball games (NBC), the College World Series (ESPN) and Major League Baseball playoffs (ESPN). During his 25-year pitching career (1957-83), Kaat was a member of six divisional champions, two pennant winners and the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. He was also the president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Kaat covers about 85 games a year for the Yankees and in his free time plays golf and enjoys horse racing. He and his wife live in Stuart, Florida. Phil Pepe is the author of 38 books on sports, including collaborations with Yankee legends Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford (Few and Chosen: Defining Yankee Greatness Across the Eras). His other book also released in spring 2003 by Triumph Books—Few and Chosen: Defining Cardinals Greatness Across the Eras with—Tim McCarver, the former St. Louis catcher ranks the five best players in the history of the franchise at each position. Pepe was the Yankees beat writer for the New York Daily News from 1968-1981, and is a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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Still Pitching: Musings from the Mound and the Microphone 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jim Kaat has had an amazing career. He has records that members of the Hall wished they had. If you enjoy the Yankees and consider yourself a Yankee fan--you must read this book.He is part of the tradition they call the NY Yankees.