Yankees Magazine: A Player To Be Named (World Series MVP) Later

In 1998, Scott Brosius overcame low expectations and personal hardships to become an integral member of a record-setting club

August 17th, 2018
Bob Rosate/MLB Photos

"Are you going to wave to them or what?" Derek Jeter was needling the new third baseman who, during his first home game at Yankee Stadium, didn't realize he had to acknowledge the Bleacher Creatures chanting his name during the famous "Roll Call."
"I just had no idea," Brosius laughs nearly 20 years later.
On that day in 1998, neither Brosius nor Jeter nor anyone else knew exactly what to expect from this grand experiment.
Brosius was brought to New York as a player to be named later in a trade that sent left-hander Kenny Rogers to Oakland. Initially, Brian Cashman, then the Yankees' assistant general manager, said no to Brosius. The third baseman had had one of the worst years of his career in 1997, and Brosius himself was questioning whether he even wanted to keep playing. A scout covering the California area for the Yankees assured Cashman that Brosius just had a down year -- if you gave him a chance, he'd produce good, if not great, numbers. He'd be a solid third baseman. So Cashman presented the details of the trade to GM Bob Watson, who approved the deal.

Brosius had a feeling he was going to be shipped out of the Bay Area that offseason, and he was at peace with that. By the time he had stuck on the big league roster in 1993, Oakland was at the beginning of a six-year streak of losing records. And even though Brosius had been getting better each season -- until '97 -- the team was going in the opposite direction.
"I enjoyed the good games I had, but they're kind of hollow if you don't win the game," he says. "It was difficult. There were a lot of young guys coming in and out, a lot of guys trying to establish themselves as players in the league, and so the winning part of it wasn't always the number one thought in Oakland."
The opportunity to start fresh somewhere was exciting, especially when the rumors of possible landing spots were mostly contained to the West Coast, where Brosius had spent his entire life. There were some scattered reports of the Mets having interest, but Brosius was adamant with his agent that New York was preferable only to Hades. Between the distance from his hometown of McMinnville, Oregon; the crowded city; the difficulty of getting around; and the reportedly hostile citizens, in Brosius's eyes, New York was the opposite of Oz.
"I did not like going to New York as a visiting player," Brosius says. "I mean, [Oregon] is so polar opposite of New York. So when the Mets were one of the teams that were rumored at the end of the '97 season, I'm like, 'I don't want to go to New York!'"
That November, when Brosius heard that the Angels seemed to have the inside track, the third baseman's mind was at ease; he was even excited. And so when his agent called to interrupt the Brosius family vacation to Disneyland in Anaheim with news of a trade, the veteran eagerly picked up the phone figuring he'd be able to just drive on down the road and introduce himself to the new squad.
"I said, 'Where am I going?'" Brosius recalls. "And he just starts humming [Frank Sinatra's song] 'New York, New York.' And I think he's playing around with me because of all of our conversations from the year before when I told him I didn't want to play in New York. I go, 'No, really. Where am I going?' And he keeps humming. He keeps singing it, and so I go, 'Which one? Which New York team?' And he goes, 'You got traded to the Yankees.' My first reaction was just shock because they were never mentioned.
"After about 10 minutes, the first initial shock wore off, and I kind of was like, 'Wow, I'm putting on the pinstripes. I'm going to New York. How cool is this?'"

"We didn't know exactly what Scott Brosius was all about. You pick up a press guide and you see numbers, and last year he wasn't that good." --Joe Torre, to The New York Times in October 1998
Excitement came first, but the nervous energy that accompanies high expectations wasn't that far behind.
The burden to do well didn't come from the outside -- as a player to be named later, any kind of return on investment would be welcome. Plus, waiting in the wings for the Yankees was a hot young third-base prospect named Mike Lowell. Doing well in 1998 was much more a personal mandate.
"After a season like [1997], you do some soul searching and you start asking what went wrong," Brosius says. "Even before the trade happened, I came home and I said to my wife, 'I was miserable this year. I'm going to quit the game before I have another year like that.' So I was going to change how I see the game and just try to have fun again, relax and enjoy being a big league baseball player.
"I knew '97 was not me; it was an aberration. In my mind I said I had to learn from it, but forget about it."
Brosius reported to Spring Training in Florida with a healthy mindset, but still there were concerns. In addition to not knowing what his role would be -- the Yankees also had veteran switch-hitter Dale Sveum at camp vying for the third-base job -- he didn't really know any of his new teammates. It was his first day at a new school, but the new-guy jitters didn't last long. In the Yankees' clubhouse, Brosius was immediately struck by the entire team's myopic focus on winning. Having been ousted early from the postseason the previous year, these Yankees were committed to returning to championship glory.
As opposed to the Oakland clubhouse, where rookies were trying to make a name for themselves and veterans were looking toward their next opportunity elsewhere, in Yankeeland the discussion circled around how many games they'd win, how good the pitching staff could be and how stacked the lineup looked.
Brosius was in heaven.
"Nobody was talking about personal goals," he remembers. "It was all about just winning, and I thought, 'This is so cool.'"
He clicked immediately with several of his new teammates, such as Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill and Andy Pettitte. And, coupled with how comfortable he felt in the winning environment, Brosius was able to establish himself almost immediately as a staple in the everyday lineup. His sure glove at the hot corner gave him an edge in Torre's mind, and his bat proved to be an added bonus.
Brosius broke camp as the everyday third baseman, and after two hitless games in the Yanks' opening series at Anaheim, he kicked off an offensive tear against his former team in Oakland.
On April 4, Brosius's third game with New York, he went 2-for-3 against the A's the first game of a 15-game stretch in which he batted .339, knocked in 12 runs and helped his team go 12-3.
For Brosius, his own success mattered less than that of the team. The Yankees' 1-4 start to the season launched a panic among the media the likes of which no five April games ever had or should. The players gathered to get to the bottom of the issue.
"The first week of the season obviously was bumpy, so we had a meeting," he says. "I just remember afterward going, 'We're so good. What are we worried about?'" <p. --="" 1998="" and="" confidence="" didn="" good="" his="" it="" lose="" misplaced.="" much="" not="" squad="" the="" to="" too="" was=""> "The focus on winning was just a shot of adrenaline for me, and it was fun coming to the park every day," he says. "Playing with energy, you had 40,000 fans at the Stadium every day, and they followed the Yankees even on the road. You're like, 'Yeah, this is the big leagues. This is what baseball is supposed to feel like.'"</p.>
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<p. --="" 1998="" and="" confidence="" didn="" good="" his="" it="" lose="" misplaced.="" much="" not="" squad="" the="" to="" too="" was="">"Scott was 4 when he first told me he'd play professional baseball. It wasn't a cowboys-and-Indians thing. He was completely serious." --Maury Brosius, Scott's father, to the New York Daily News in July 1998 </p.>
On the field, things were going better than anyone could have expected. This player to be named later was a key contributor to what was becoming a record-breaking club. His teammates sang his praises at every turn. But away from the chorus, back at home, Brosius was dealing with unimaginable hardships.
Maury Brosius, Scott's father and biggest fan, had been diagnosed with cancer. On the other side of the country, Scott was just trying to hold it together, using every nine innings as his own personal therapy session.
"It's when you're on the field where you can not think about all that stuff," he says. "Being away was hard, but in some ways maybe it was easier, too. Being on the field takes you away from all that real-life stuff."
For as much as he enjoyed playing the game, Brosius longed to be there for his father. But Oregon is a long way from New York, so the father and son made do with phone calls every day. Scott would call his father on the drive from his house in Westchester County to the Bronx, a 40-minute ride that allowed the men to catch up and talk about everything and nothing.
In July, when Scott was selected to the All-Star Game, he was thrilled to share the news during one of those chats. Maury had just recently had surgery as part of his treatment, but when Scott asked his dad if he could get to Colorado, there was no hesitation.
"He was like, 'I'll crawl there if I need to,'" Scott remembers, smiling. "That became kind of a celebration for us."
The elder Brosius still had more than a year left of celebrating his son and his achievements before passing away in September of 1999. But before that, Scott made sure his father saw him reach the pinnacle of his profession, and be singled out as an MVP on top of it all.

"He's got that glint in his eye." --David Cone, speaking to The New York Times about Brosius prior to the 1998 postseason
After a good showing in the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field -- Brosius singled, stole second and scored in the ninth inning of the American League's 13-8 victory -- the third baseman struggled. In his first 26 games out of the break, he batted .212 with just five extra-base hits, and he was pressing. A conversation with Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer helped Brosius see that he had forgotten his own mandate to have some fun in the game. He was trying too hard and not enjoying himself enough.
So Brosius relaxed -- and finished the season on a tear. He batted .329 in the final month of the regular season and went into his first-ever postseason with giddy excitement. "This was dream-come-true kind of stuff," he says.
After 114 regular season wins, the Yankees were expected to continue their near-perfect season by rolling through their October opponents with ease. And that's how it started, with Brosius playing a leading role.
In the Yankees' AL Division Series sweep of Texas, Brosius had four hits -- including his first postseason home run in Game 2 --and three RBI. The early success made the journey that much sweeter.
"It was like Zim said: If you can't have fun with this, then you're never going to have fun playing," Brosius recalls.
There was a brief pause in the fun when New York fell behind the Indians in the AL Championship Series, 2 games to 1, with two more games in Cleveland still to play. But even then, the players remained confident in who they were and what each member could contribute.
"There was no question there was a quiet intensity about Game 4," Brosius says. "We knew that no matter what, we had to find a way to win that game."
From third base, Brosius watched Orlando Hernandez dominate the Indians in Game 4. Then David Wells pitched the Yankees to the precipice of the World Series in Game 5.
Returning to New York for Game 6, Brosius helped punch the ticket. In the third inning, with the Yankees already leading, 3-0, he cracked a three-run home run to put the game out of reach. The Yankees won, 9-5.
"That celebration for me meant something," he says of the ruckus that ensued following the victory. "You hope for it. You dream about it your whole life. And then you realize, 'Wow, I'm actually going to get the chance to play in a World Series. This is pretty awesome.'"
"It was almost disbelief. You're thinking, 'Oh my, that's dead center. Does it have enough?' When you go out to center field against a great closer, that's something." --David Cone, to The Washington Post after Game 3 of the 1998 World Series
In the Fall Classic, Brosius was unstoppable. The 32-year-old batted .471 over the four-game sweep of San Diego, with the most magical of his eight hits coming in Game 3.
Back on the West Coast where it all began for him, Brosius stepped up to the plate at Qualcomm Stadium to lead off the seventh inning with the Yankees trailing, 3-0. He worked a full count against Padres starter Sterling Hitchcock, then launched the sixth pitch of the at-bat deep to left field for a home run.
The next inning, with the Yanks still down, 3-2, Brosius stepped up to the plate with two on and one out against All-Star closer Trevor Hoffman. He launched Hoffman's fifth offering just over the wall in straightaway center field, putting the Yankees ahead. Rounding the bases, Brosius pumped his fist in celebration.

"I was waiting to see if it made it over the fence or not," he says. "When it did, I think that's when the hands go up and it's that initial reaction of, 'Yes!' No question, that was probably my No. 1 highlight. It's almost better than you can dream it. When you're doing it in the backyard, it's OK, but when you're doing it in real life, that's pretty sweet."
One day later, Brosius and his Yankees tasted the ultimate sweetness, finishing off the Padres with a 3-0 win for the clean sweep. Brosius was named the MVP of the World Series.
From questioning his future in the sport to bringing home a championship ring, the awe is still present when Brosius takes strolls like these down memory lane.
"I think I said at one point afterward that it was like a storybook," he says. "If I had written this myself, I would feel like I had left out a chapter. It was just unbelievable. To be at the lowest point professionally one year to the next year being at the highest point, it's a pretty amazing turnaround."
The guy who didn't want to go to New York was the toast of the town, and he couldn't wait to re-up with the Yankees when his contract expired after the season.
"I wanted to come back, obviously," says the converted skeptic. "Who wouldn't after that season?"
Brosius played three more seasons in pinstripes, reaching the World Series each year and earning two more rings. After 2001, though, facing free agency, Brosius was ready to call it a career. Despite still feeling like he was able to produce, the father of three wasn't willing to uproot his family from Oregon to move to whatever team would sign him, or, alternatively, continue to spend months on end away from the people most important to him.
"I had experienced so much, and sure, to keep playing would have been great, but it wasn't going to change my life," he says without a hint of regret. "Some of it came back to that '97 season when I said I never wanted another season in baseball where I wasn't enjoying myself, and so spending four months of the season away from my family, I wasn't going to enjoy that, and I didn't want to do it."
Brosius hung up his spikes and became a stay-at-home dad for a while. But he inevitably made his way back to the diamond. First he coached locally in Oregon, but eventually he found himself in a big league uniform in Seattle, where he now serves as the Mariners' third base coach.
The memories of '98 are still fresh in his mind because that's when baseball became fun again. That's when the player to be named later etched his name into Yankees lore. It's when he was reminded that this game is something he still wanted in his life -- a feeling that burns strong to this day.
"As the season went on and we were winning a lot of games, I don't know if there was a specific time where you recognize it," he says. "Things just really worked out. From our living situation, the house Jennifer found, the place we rented, everything just kind of fell into place. It was just really comfortable from the start. There were a couple of times when things happened that just kind of stopped me in my tracks. You're just standing on the field, and you're thinking, 'Wow, this is pretty cool.'"
He still thinks it's cool, and now that his children are grown, he's free to live the baseball life he has always loved.
"Baseball is in my blood," he says. "It's all I ever wanted to do from the time I was just a little kid, so I can't imagine my job not involving baseball or being around it."