Catching Up With ... former Oriole Mike Boddicker
From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "
They scoffed at his size and made fun of his fastball, which moseyed up to the plate with the nonchalance of an on-deck hitter. But Mike Boddicker shrugged off the hoots and, as a rookie, pitched the 1983 Orioles to a world title.
A year later, he won 20 games – a feat no Baltimore pitcher has accomplished since.
Boddicker did it with smarts, not speed, and with guile, not gusto.
Never mind that Hall of Famer Rod Carew called his offerings "Little League slop" and said, "I feed my dogs better stuff than Boddicker throws."
The next time they met, Carew went hitless, stymied by a stream of slow curves.
Slop? Sure, but radar guns don’t measure savvy. It’s no coincidence that, in his 14-year career, Boddicker never served up a grand-slam.
"I just threw a lot of strikes and got people out," said the 5-11 righthander, who made the All-Star team, earned a Gold Glove and won 134 games in the big leagues. But even Boddicker had to laugh at his pitching repertoire back then.
"I was pretty blessed in my career, given the mediocre crap that I threw up there," he said.
At 52, Boddicker is still lobbing them in. A grandfather now, he pitches batting practice at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Overland Park, Ks., where he helps to coach his youngest son’s team.
In middle age, he still throws nearly 75 mph – "about the same as I did (at times) with the Orioles," he said.
It has been 27 years since the Iowa farmboy clawed his way to the majors and put the Orioles on the map. Boddicker went 16-8 that season and then shut out the Chicago White Sox, 4-0 in the 1983 American League Championship Series.
He followed up with a three-hit victory over Philadelphia in Game 2 of the World Series. He retired the Phillies in order in the ninth, getting Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt – two Hall of Famers and baseball’s all-time leader in base hits. Schmidt went down swinging.
Boddicker spent nearly six years in Baltimore, then was dealt to Boston for outfielder Brady Anderson and pitcher Curt Schilling in the summer of 1988. Despite the Orioles’ horrid start (0-21) and his own slump – he lost 13 straight games over the course of two seasons – Boddicker hated to leave.
"Saddest day of my life," he said of the time he was traded. "Driving away from the ballpark, I cried. I’d been with the Orioles my whole career. I was comfortable there, and the fans were great. So many times, walking off that mound, I deserved to be booed, and they didn’t do it."
Nowadays, he does occasional pre- and post-game radio shows for the Kansas City Royals. Boddicker will also assist on several Orioles’ TV broadcasts this summer.
Married 30 years, he lives an otherwise simple life.
"Tee shirt, jeans, sneakers, pickup truck, hunting, fishing and watching the kids. That’s me," he said.
He invested wisely. Boddicker owns five hunting farms in Iowa and Kansas, nearly 700 acres filled with deer and wild turkeys.
When not stalking supper, renovating his old house is a pet project.
"I just finished redoing the bathroom with a new tub, toilet and tiles," said the man with the World Series ring. "Why do it myself? I got tired of watching other people do shoddy work."
The baseball keepsakes are in the basement, gathering dust. The rest of the house resembles a taxidermy studio, filled with ducks, geese and mounted deer heads.
See the king salmon glaring down from Boddicker’s wall? He caught the 32-pounder while in Toronto, during an Orioles’ road trip, and had it mounted on the spot.
"Problem was, Toronto was just the first leg of the trip," he said. "I had to carry that fish with me on charter flights to New York and Boston, in and out of hotels and taxicabs."
Teammates just shook their heads, as they did when Boddicker was named Most Valuable Player of the 1983 ALCS – and chose, as his prize, a Chevy Blazer over a sporty Camero Z28.
"Hey, that Blazer had four-wheel drive," he said. "Great truck. I drove it and then gave it to my sister until it fell apart."
Credit: Baltimore Sun file photos