Mike's older brother, Fred, remembers how the two of them, and their numerous buddies, played baseball during the youth. "It was in somebody's backyard," says Fred, "and it had bleachers and a scoreboard and everything. It was something else, what these guys built. They called it Decimal Park. They named it after somebody's dog was a piece of work, but that's just how it was for us growing up. Everybody knew everybody else, we were mostly Italian Catholics and we loved our ball. Sports of all kinds."
It was here, west of Philadelphia, a neighborhood called Stony Creek, in Delaware County — Delco to the natives — where Mike Scioscia became a baseball player and where the foundation was laid for his move into managing. It was where he made the decision that being calm was better than being emotional, that being quiet worked better than being loud. He learned to be sure of himself but not cocky, proud of his accomplishments but not boastful. And this wasn't always easy.
Mike has so many memories of trips to Philadelphia's old Veteran's Stadium with his family, as a youth.
"Most of my memories are going to the Vet as a kid, not necessarily playing," he said. "I'd go to 10-15 games a year. I'd go up to the 700 level for 50 cents. The challenge was, before the game started, to see how low you could get and sneak down as far as you could to get a better seat.
"That's what our summers, going to the ball games, were all about. It was a special place. I remember Connie Mack Stadium, too. But I remember walking into the Vet. It was just an electric stadium. It was loud. It was a special place and getting a chance to play there was a big thrill for me."
Scioscia said his favorite Phillie back in those days was Willie Montanez because "I liked his swing and I liked the way he played."
Scioscia also recalled his time at Springfield High School and spoke in particular of the influence of his high school coach, Ace Bell.
"He was an incredible influence on my life from the time I was a freshman in high school to the time I graduated," he said. "Even afterwards, I would come home and visit with him, just talking about baseball, talking about things. He had played professional baseball and had some great insights. I was blessed to be around some very influential people that helped me at certain stages of my career."
Mike's favorite catchers were Thurman Munson and Johnny Bench when he was a kid.
Fred and Florence Scioscia, who have both died, had three children. Fred Jr. was the oldest, an athlete of modest talent who was better at football than baseball. Gail, who put up with her brothers and their friends, and Mike, the youngest. Fred Sr. was a salesman for a beer distributor, while Florence was a grade school teacher. Fred Scioscia had been a baseball player himself, a pitcher on a semipro team across the state in Johnstown. His brother Lou, Mike's Uncle, was a football player at Duke.
Everybody remembers Mike's father as being forceful and boisterous. Mike's brother also remembers that their father "got real high and real low and I think Mike made a conscious decision at a young age that he was going to be different than my dad in that behavior. The way Mike is now, so calm all the time, I don't think that's an accident," his brother Fred says.
Their father, Fred, and mother Florence, are gone now. Florence died of breast cancer in 1982 and Fred of a stroke 10 years later.
- In the offseason after signing with the Dodger, Mike attended Penn State, working on a computer science degree.
ANNE AND MIKE
How Mike met Anne: Anne was living in Inglewood in May of 1981, going to school, learning to become an X-ray technician. She was living a student life, short on money and always looking for fun things to do on the weekend. She and a friend made plans every Saturday and Sunday to see a movie, to have brunch. Nothing fancy, always cheap. On a particular summer weekend in 1982, Anne's friend had good news. "Her family had Dodger season tickets and they weren't using them," Anne recalls. "We could have the tickets for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. For free."
Anne had been a cheerleader for the Thousand Oaks High football team. She wasn't much of a baseball fan. But she was enthusiastic. In the middle of the Saturday night game, Anne asked her friend a question: "Who's the receiver?" It wasn't a receiver, her friend told her. It was a catcher. His name was Mike Scioscia. "He's cute," Anne said. "I'm going to meet him."
Before Sunday afternoon games, Dodger fans were invited to get autographs from selected players. At the end of the Saturday night game, Anne heard an announcement that Scioscia would be one of the players available Sunday. He would be signing autographs. "It's meant to be," Anne told her friend.
Late Saturday night, Anne baked cookies. Tollhouse chocolate chip with Anne's improvisations on the recipe -- some extra vanilla, a little more butter. She brought the cookies to the Sunday game. Anne and her friend then marched off to the right-field bleacher area where Scioscia was to sign. Except he wasn't there.
"I was standing there with my plate of cookies and I guess I looked pretty pathetic," Anne recalls, "because a security guard asked who I was looking for. I told him. He said that it happened all the time, players needed treatment or extra work and another player came out to sign. But I wanted Mike. So the guard gave me his name and told me to see him after the game, that he thought Mike would like to meet me."
True to his word, the security guard escorted Anne down to the clubhouse area following the game. After Scioscia had showered and dressed, the guard introduced Anne to Mike. These sort of things sometimes happen to professional athletes, but it's not what you're thinking.
"I gave him the cookies," Anne recalls. "Mike took the plastic wrap off the plate and started eating."
"Yeah," Scioscia says, "I probably did. I never turned down food."
Mike asked Anne if he could walk her to her car. Embarrassed that she was parked far away, in the cheap lot, and because her friend was waiting in the car, Anne suggested she and Scioscia walk to his car. "When we got to the players' lot and Mike's car," Anne says, "I looked up and there were dozens of girls standing there waiting with cookies and cakes and brownies. I was so embarrassed. If I could have evaporated right there, I would have."
Scioscia didn't notice, and offered to get Anne tickets to other games. A couple of weeks later, Anne went to another. Then another. Then came a night out at the movies and then a dinner. "And then we were dating," she says. "Simple."
For five years Anne McIlqueham and Mike Scioscia were a couple. Anne went to Philadelphia and met his family. He was welcomed by Anne's parents in Ventura County. One day, Anne picked up Scioscia at the airport after a Dodger road trip. She thought they'd go out to dinner. He suggested the drive-through window at In-N-Out Burger, then eating at home. So they did. As they dined on Double Doubles and shakes, Anne says Scioscia pulled out "the little box" and proposed. The stadium security guard came to their wedding. They've been married since 1985, and still hold hands.
- Married wife, Anne, 1-26-85. They celebrated the birth of daughter, Taylor Florence, 12-12-91.
- Mike got the most out of his limited ability. He has an excellent baseball mind.
- When asked to name his favorite music artist (several years ago), Mike said, "It's tough to narrow down to one group. I'd probably say the Four Tops because they're from Philadelphia."
- Mike has a way of deflecting praise that comes his way, but baseball people recognize his contributions. He's the ultimate team player.
- Mike says he relaxes just by being around his house. "I enjoy playing the guitar. I watch football on television. I do things with my wife and children."
- Scioscia has built a beautiful home in Claremont, California, which is about the only way he appears to be different from the average man. He doesn't get into controversies. He treats veterans and rookies, as well as clubhouse attendants, with equal respect.
In his playing days, Mike often would come to the ballpark 4 or 5 hours before a game. He took extra batting practice, then rested his body and started his mental engine. Most times, he'd just go stand in the outfield and watch the opposing team's extra players take batting practice. He wasn't studying the opponent; just studying hitters in general -- watching who could hit the high pitch and how they do it.
END OF PLAYING CAREER
- In 1992, Mike was beset with a series of nagging injuries, from his ribs to his wrist. They aided his career-low: batting avg., homer and RBI total.
- Mike signed with the Padres, February 11, 1993.
- He was slowed by tendinitis in his throwing shoulder early in the 1993 season. By May, it was determined he would have to have arthroscopic surgery (May 18, 1993) to repair a torn rotator cuff, missing the rest of the season.
- After the 1993 season, the Padres released him.
- Mike signed with the Rangers, December 14, 1993. It was a minor league pact with an invitation to 1994 spring training. However, Scioscia began the 1994 season in extended spring training, rehabing his arm. But he finally announced his retirement in July 1994.
- During the 2002 World Series, Tommy Lasorda and Mickey Hatcher were standing around and collaborated to tell one of their favorite stories about Scioscia when he was Dodgers catcher. Former Dodger General Manager Al Campanis "was concerned about Scioscia's weight," Lasorda said, "so he ordered Scioscia to pedal a certain number of miles a week on an exercise bike." There was a mileage counter on the bike to keep Scioscia honest. Or so the Dodgers thought. This is where Hatcher entered the conversation. He said he was walking by Scioscia's apartment one day and heard the sound of the bicycle click-clicking along.
"Boy, Scioscia is really working that bike," Hatcher thought. He turned the doorknob, looked in and a big smile crossed Hatcher's face. "There was Scioscia lying on the couch," Hatcher said, "with a pizza in a box across his chest. And there was this Dominican kid pedaling away on that bike." And racking up the miles for the benefit of the Dodgers back home.
Scioscia says that his favorite player he has managed is David Eckstein.
"He was always the smartest guy on the field and was absolutely fearless playing this game," Mike said.
- There were plenty of steroids when he played. But Scioscia said that the only supplements he took were "cheesecake and fettuccine Alfredo," which "gave you an incredible amount of strength."
- Scioscia said he had never heard of steroid use coming up through the Dodger system in the late 1970s and had thought that the Nautilus strength-building system "was a boat. The way we trained was to play," he said. "It was around-the-clock baseball. That was what you did."
- Angels' coach Mickey Hatcher was asked about Scioscia, and said, "Anybody who really wants to understand Mike, I can say that I've never met a man who is more family-oriented. To do the things he has to do on the baseball side and the PR side, he always finds time for his kids and his wife. I think that is something very special about him. He keeps his cool. He's a very religious-type person. He's got a great personality to go along with it. There's nobody that I could ever say I met that's like that."
- In 1995, Mike returned to the Dodger organization as a roving catching instructor, working with their catchers throughout the system. Upon hiring Scioscia, Fred Claire, Dodgers' executive vice president said, "When Mike played for us, I would tell him, 'Someday you'll make a great manager or coach.' He would tell me, 'Fred, don't rush me.'"
- In 1997 and 1998, Mike became Bench Coach for the Dodgers.
- In 1999, he was Manager for Albuquerque (PCL-Dodgers).
- After 1999, Mike resigned from the Dodgers' organization "to pursue opportunities with other Major League organizations."
- On November 17, 1999, the Angels signed Mike to a three-year, $1 million contract as their manager. He replaced Terry Collins. Scioscia took over a turmoil-wracked team that bickered among themselves and generally just acted very unprofessionally in 1999.
- In 2002, Sciosica was named the American League Manager of the Year. He was the skipper of the World Champion Anaheim Angels.
- In 2002, Scioscia became the 17th man in history to win the World Series as a player and manager. Scioscia was a catcher on the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981 and 1988.
- July 19, 2013: Scioscia became the fifth active manager to amass 1,200 victories. Throughout the history of baseball, just 39 managers have reached the 1,200 win mark -- Connie Mack tops the list with 3,731 -- and 23 of them are in the Hall of Fame.
PLAYING CAREER NOTES
- As a high school sophomore, Mike hit .532.
Scioscia is the Dodgers all-time record holder with 1,395 games caught. In 1991, Mike set the Dodger team record for games caught in a career, passing Johnny Roseboro.
And he ranks among Los Angeles all-time leaders in walks (4th, 567), hits (9th, 1,131) and total bases (10th, 1,557).
- During his career, his strikeout to walk ratio was second in the Major Leagues only to Wade Boggs. Mike always walked more than he struck out -- in every one of his Major League seasons!
- Only one catcher in recent history had a batting eye comparable to Mike's: Yogi Berra. When it comes to low strike-out ratios, Scioscia was near the top of the list for all players who don't whiff.
- In 1983, he made a remarkable recovery from a career-threatening rotator cuff injury. He'd blown out his shoulder attempting to throw out Alan Wiggins at second base.
- An aggressive hitter, Mike made good contact because he had excellent bat control. Mike hit better when he worked the pitcher into a deeper count.
- He hit line drives to all fields and was great at the hit-and-run. He was also an excellent bunter who used the bunt as a surprise tactic to get on base.
- His drawback as a hitter: a lack of power. But he hit well with men on base and was a fine clutch hitter.
- He liked pitches from the belt level to the letters.
- One of the better contact hitters in the game. He was not a natural hitter, he worked into being quite competent at the plate.
- He hit righthanded pitchers well, but lefties got him out.
- Mike was the best plate blocker in the game -- immovable and fearless. He was tremendous at tagging out runners. Pitcher Tim Belcher said of Mike: "He's like a tree stump with a never-ending root system." For his career, he blocked the plate 134 times!
- Scioscia was also an excellent signal caller and had the total confidence of his pitching staff.
- A real leader on the field, with great work habits and a willingness to play hurt.
- He made so many trips to the mound, opponents called him "Mike Scioscia-ble."
His arm was only average, but he still nailed close to 40% of base-stealers.
- Scioscia was probably the slowest player around. Tommy Lasorda said, "If he raced his pregnant wife, he'd finish third."
Mike was also probably the most unselfish player in the game. He placed winning far above personal achievement.
- Scioscia was known as one of the best plate-blocking catchers ever when he played for the LA Dodgers from 1980 to 1992. To get that reputation, Scioscia had to endure a number of high-impact collisions. The one he remembers most vividly involved a muscular member of the rival Giants. "The one where I absolutely got hit harder than anybody else was [by] Chili Davis in 1986, when he was with the Giants," Scioscia said. "Chili plays hard, he's 6-3, lean and strong and looks like Apollo Creed. I saw stars. That was the hardest I've ever been hit, including my years playing football. It was a heck of a collision." And the result? "Oh, he was out that time," Scioscia said, laughing. "We were both out."
- Scioscia will not publicly flog a player, and he understands how to keep an even keel. He is also physically tough.
- "A lot of managing is getting along with people, handling people," Mike says. "If you can communicate with somebody, I think you avert a lot of problems. It's easy to tell a player something. It's tougher to listen."
- Scioscia has always been appreciated and looked up to not only by the players, but also by the clubhouse attendants and the guys who rake the field.
- Mike's demeanor on the bench rarely changes, whether the Angels are winning or losing by 5 runs.
- He provides large doses of positive reinforcement, almost always opting for a pat on the back instead of a kick in the rear. He keeps his players on an even keel -- not too high, not too low.
- He is aggressive, but not reckless. Sciosia likes to hit-and run, will call for the squeeze play.
- He handles himself like a veteran manager with many, many years of experience. Players are comfortable around him and respect him a lot because of his honest approach and open-door policy. He encourages players to take their personal issues and problems to him.
- Tommy Lasorda had a big influence on him. Others, too, such as Roy Campanella, Del Crandall and John Roseboro also had a big effect on Scioscia, who insists he has his own managerial style and doesn't model himself after any one manager.
- Scioscia is not afraid to be unconventional. On the road in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game with the opponent having the winning run on third base with less than two out, Scioscia will bring in one of his outfielders and go with a five-man infield. The strategy has worked several times.
- In 2002, Mike led all of the managers in baseball, using the hit-and-run -- 128 times with a 44.5 percent success rate.
May 4, 2007: Scioscia passed Bill Rigney as manager with the most victories for the Angels. Rigney, the man whose record Scioscia broke, managed the club in its first eight full seasons (1961-68), then was replaced by Lefty Phillips after 39 games of the 1969 season. Rigney's best finish in the eight-team American League -- division play was not yet part of Major League Baseball -- was third, which the Angels achieved in 1962. That was also the year of Rigney's highest single-season victory total, 86.
Clyde Wright, who pitched for the Angels from 1966-1973, recalls Rigney's toughness and says it was a different sort of toughness than Scioscia's competitive drive.
"Rigney would get on you and chew you out," Wright said. "He'd say, 'Why'd you do that. You know that's not right. I don't want to see that happen again.'
"Scioscia just looks at you."
One of Mike's former players, Orlando Cabrera, had some sincere praise for Scioscia.
"With all due respect to the other big league managers, Mike Scioscia is the smartest guy in the big leagues right now," Cabrera said. "Any team you give to him, he'll turn it into a team that wins a lot of games. He teaches you how to outsmart your opponent."
In 2009, Scioscia was named the American League Manager of the Year.
Before 2011 spring training, Mike told The Sporting News' Steve Greenberg:
"I have three very strong guidelines as a manager. #1 - You're absolutely going to practice the game hard. #2 -Prepare yourself mentally and physically every day to be ready for a game. #3 - You're going to play the game hard, the right way, understanding what your role is."
September 19, 2016: Mike has watched Mike Trout and Albert Pujols frequently break records, seemingly on a daily basis. But with an Angels' win over the Blue Jays, Scioscia made some history of his own.
Scioscia passed former Orioles manager Earl Weaver with career managerial win No. 1,481 and now stands alone at No. 23 on the all-time list. He needs 10 more to tie Hall of Famer Clark Griffith.