If you’ve been a baseball fan in the last 20 years, chances are you have heard of Mike Myers. It’s because Myers was a pioneer, leading the charge in the shift to situational pitching in Major League Baseball in the 1990s.
The southpaw hurler blossomed as a valuable commodity because you could count on him in the later innings to get the important out vs. a left-handed batter. Thanks to a change in his delivery, Myers was one of the best at his craft. How good was Myers? Twice he led the MLB in appearances by a pitcher (1996, 83; 1997, 88) and he posted an 1.99 ERA in 78 outings for the Colorado Rockies in 2000.
Myers enjoyed a 13-year MLB career for nine teams from 1995-2007, but being a part of the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Championship team was one of his proudest moments.
Before his successful stint in the Big Leagues, Myers was an All-Big Eight pitcher for the Cyclones from 1988-90. He will be enshrined into the ISU Letterwinners Club Athletics Hall of Fame on Aug. 30 and I had a chance to sit down and talk with the Cyclone legend.
2013 Iowa State Letterwinners Hall of Fame Inductees: http://www.cyclones.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=677906&SPID=36520&DB_OEM_ID=10700&ATCLID=205693957
How excited are you to join the Iowa State Letterwinners Club Athletics Hall of Fame? “I was very surprised and shocked when I found out. It’s great to be remembered and recognized as someone who contributed to the team in a whole-hearted way.”
Tell us about your experiences at Iowa State? “It all started with Lyle Smith, who was the pitching coach at Iowa State at the time. When he recruited me in the spring of 1987, he came out and did a great job of selling the program to me in that I would have an opportunity to come out and contribute to the team right away. While I was there, Lyle was very vital in teaching me proper pitching mechanics – how to work out, how to prepare yourself for a start, how to get yourself ready to pitch on a day-in, day-out basis and how to compete. He was always there for me when I had a question. I was always trying, like all the freshmen, to out-work the guys that were already there. I wanted to get as many innings as the older guys did to prove that I belonged pitching in the Big 8 Conference.”
You changed to a sidearm delivery early on in your MLB career. What made you change? “I struggled early with the Florida Marlins, and Al Kaline (MLB Hall of Fame, 1980) called me on the phone and had a conversation with me. He told me that, as a hitter, he would struggle against sidearm pitchers for many reasons. He said it was the deception and some kind of funkiness that made it hard. One at bat, later on in a game, it sort of gives an advantage to the pitcher, and he suggested I should try it. I also had Sparky Anderson (MLB Hall of Fame, 2000) agree with him. I had two hall of famers right there tell me to change, so I’d be pretty stupid if I didn’t do it (laughs). I went and tried it in the bullpen, and the (Detroit) Tigers liked what they saw. I was able to throw a lot of strikes with it. It gave the ball a little different kind of movement. At that time, I was the only left-handed sidearm pitcher in the big leagues, so it became my own little niche. It was a big advantage for me, and it also doesn’t do as much wear-and-tear on the elbow. I was able to go up there and basically if my managers needed me to pitch every day, I could. I wanted to pitch every day that I possibly could. Every now and then they would tell me that I was getting a day off because I had pitched five or six days in a row, and I’d walk right into their office and tell him I didn’t need a day off because there was nothing wrong with the arm. I wanted to be out there to help the team as much as I possibly could.”
It had to give you a lot of pride knowing that you were the best lefty-on-lefty specialist in the Bigs? “There’s a lot of pride going into that one, but it’s also humbling because when you do give up a base hit, you’re giving up a hit to guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Mo Vaughn and Barry Bonds, everybody who’s on a poster. I was going out there facing these guys all the time and being able to say that I was one of the best at it. It was something that I tried to live up to on a daily basis. I worked to always be prepared. When a game was over, I would prepare myself for the next game. You had to, because the next night you would again face some of the best hitters in the league with guys in scoring position late in the ballgame where a win or a loss was on the line.”
Looking back on your career, was being on the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox team one of your greatest achievements? “Without a doubt it was. On the field, it was making my major league debut, but being able to celebrate on the field at Busch Stadium is one of the memories I will treasure. It was the first time the Red Sox were able to do it in 86 years. Making my debut and winning the World Series are the biggest highlights that I have. All I ever wanted to do was to go out there and prove myself as a Big League pitcher and win a World Series. I did both. It was very exciting and an emotional time to be in that victory parade. It was one of those things that only 25 guys can say they were a part of that team in St. Louis.”
Talk about being a part of one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when the Red Sox bounced back from a 3-0 deficit in the series to defeat the Yankees in the ALCS? “Coming back in game four after being down in the ninth inning when Bill Mueller hits a single up the middle was a great experience to be a part of. Mueller hit Mariano [Rivera] well his entire career, one of the only guys to ever do that. We came back to score a run there and we scored on him again the next night. We went extra innings (12 innings) in game four and then came back to win game five, and that’s when we thought we were going to win it, no doubt about it. Once we got past that, we went into game six with a lot of confidence, cockiness, pride, enthusiasm and little kid behavior. Once Johnny Damon hit that homer in game seven, we were yelling and got to celebrate out there on Yankee Stadium. It was awesome. After game four, we had a little sigh of relief, and after game five, we really started to get that feeling that we could take it from them.”
You appeared in three games in the 2004 ALCS, striking out four batters in 2.1 innings. Once you got to the World Series, most of the games were lopsided in favor of the Red Sox and your services weren’t needed. Does it ever bother you that you didn’t get a chance to pitch in the World Series? “I warmed up on three different occasions in game one. We had Tim Wakefield struggling early in the game, and then he ended up going deep. I ended up warming up in the second, third and fifth inning. But once it got that late in the game, I knew someone like Mike Timlin or Keith Foulke were going to finish it off. In game two, (Curt) Schilling went deep into the game, and Timlin and Foulke were the guys. Then in game three, it was Pedro Martinez. When you have those guys, you’re not expecting a whole lot of relief pitching to happen. Between myself and (Curt) Leskanic, we waited for opportunities warming up, but we still had a role to play. Looking back on it, do I regret not getting into the game? No, because if I did, the scores could have been completely different. Instead of being 3-1 in game three and four, maybe they use me in that situation to fill the gap for whoever was coming in next. It would’ve been nice to pitch in the World Series, but do I regret it? Absolutely not.”
How often do you wear your World Series Ring? “Right now, only on special occasions. After the 2005 season, I was still with the Red Sox, I get a phone call from Brian Cashman (New York Yankees GM and Senior Vice President) saying, ‘congratulations, you’re a Yankee.’ I took my ring off during the phone conversation (laughs). I’ve only put it on for special occasions since then. My kids like wearing it. I’ll bring it out to show friends sometimes, but other than that, it pretty much stays locked up in a safe.”
Do you still get a chance to follow Iowa State Athletics? “I watch all the time. I visit the website (Cyclones.com) pretty often, keeping up with the basketball and volleyball programs. The women’s basketball program has really made big strides, getting some national attention, which is great. I can’t say too much about basketball in the house because my wife went to Duke. The only time I get to talk smack about basketball is when my kids play each other. It was a short conversation after the Duke- ISU game in Chicago a couple of years ago.”
The 2013 Iowa State Letterwinners Club Hall of Fame is on Aug. 30 at the Alumni Center. It’s not too late to purchase tickets to the event. For more information, go to http://www.cyclonespecialevents.com/2013HOF.aspx or call 515-294-5022.