Royals Corner: You attended Twin Lakes High School in West Palm Beach, Florida, before enrolling at Palm Beach J.C. for your first two years of college and then Florida Southern University for your last two. Before we talk about college, you were drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in the 36th round of the 1974 draft but chose to attend Palm Beach. Was it ever tempting to sign with the Reds?
Andy McGaffigan: No, it wasn’t really because the offer was so minimal that truthfully, even the scout said, “I don’t think he’ll sign, really.”
My Dad was pretty influential with me on this and said, “It doesn’t seem like a very great opportunity because if you don’t get a bonus and you aren’t making money, and you blow out your arm, you don’t have a career or a degree to fall back on.”
So, it was flattering, but not very tempting when the real numbers came out.
RC: After two years at Palm Beach J.C., you were again drafted, this time in the 5th round of the 1976 draft by the Chicago White Sox, but again, you didn’t sign. What made you choose to bypass pro ball a second time and attend Florida Southern instead?
AM: Well, it was basically the same thing. By that time I was offered scholarships to 12 or 14 different schools, and even though it was the fifth round, it was the January draft, so it wasn’t a very lucrative offer. It was basically almost the same offer the Reds gave me earlier – basically $500 a month and a chance to play baseball. And I had scholarships to Miami and Florida and Georgia and Clemson and Mississippi State and all these bigger baseball schools, and obviously Florida Southern too.
So, I told the scout, “I’ve got $35,000 or $40,000 worth of scholarship money looking at me. And you’re going to give me $500 a month and no bonus? I’d rather go get a degree.”
It was flattering and encouraging, but it wasn’t very tempting.
RC: You said you were picked in the January draft this time… What was that?
AM: There were two drafts back then – one in June and one in January. Basically, the January draft was for guys that got halfway through a semester in their freshman or sophomore years, and it was kind of an opportunity to pick up a kid who may have been really disgruntled or having a great year, and maybe wasn’t really desirable academically. It gave those types of kids another opportunity instead of waiting around until the June draft.
RC: While at Florida Southern, you compiled a career record of 16-2 to go along with a 2.79 ERA, and you helped lead them to the NCAA Division II Championship during your senior season of 1978. How fun was that season?
AM: It was awesome. We had a great club and my head coach at the time was Joe Arnold, and he played some minor league baseball. He was a real scrappy guy as a player in his own right and managed the same way. He had a team meeting early on in my senior year before the fall season even started, and he says, “You’ve heard a phrase that you can’t win ‘em all. Well, why can’t you?”
You know, so that kind of raised our expectations on what we might actually be able to go and pull off. I think that year we were 48-6 or something crazy like that.
It was a Division II school but it was very solid baseball, and we played a lot of D-I schools. The competition was very tough and obviously, very competitive in that it allowed me to get drafted pretty high as a senior. It was a good time.
RC: You were taken by the New York Yankees following your senior season in the 6th round of the 1978 draft and of course, signed. How exciting was it being picked by the legendary Yankees?
AM: It was pretty impressive. It actually turned out to be wonderful for me because the Yankees had a very strong organization. They had great coaches and this wasn’t true with many organizations, but we had a manager and a pitching coach and hitting coach at every level, and a full-time trainer. That was kind of rare at that time.
George (Steinbrenner) was really very good in having a strong minor league system and he basically used it as a feeder for his desire to sign major league players. So, that made it difficult as a minor league player, to move up the ranks and actually make it to the big leagues, because basically, we had a big league ball club in AAA. And, it was George’s opinion and philosophy that if one of his players in New York went down, it was a quick phone call to bring a guy up to that position that has had major league experience.
RC: Were you surprised the Yankees selected you, and what do you remember about the moment you found out?
AM: Actually I was surprised because every game that I pitched, there was a Dodgers scout that was always there, every time I was on the field. So I thought the Dodgers would take me, but what I didn’t realize was that the Yankees’ Scout, Brian Butterfield, who is the bench coach for the Blue Jays now, was my second baseman for Florida Southern my senior year. And his Dad Jack was with the Yankees at that time, so that was kind of the link.
But anyway, it wasn’t like I had my head in the stands all the time, but I did notice a couple of scouts. Never any Yankees, though. So yeah, it was a big surprise.
RC: You split your first summer in pro ball between Oneonta (A, Short Season) and Fort Lauderdale (A) in 1978, and then spent 1979 in West Haven (AA). In 1980, you repeated at the AA level, this time with the Nashville Sounds, and were the Southern League Pitcher of the Year after going 15-5 with a 2.38 ERA. That Sounds team won 97 games and has been called the 69th best minor league team ever by milb.com . You were Managed by Stump Merrill, and the best hitter on your team was Buck Showalter, who hit .324. Future Royals Steve Balboni and Pat Tabler were also on that team. What are your favorite memories of that summer?
AM: Well, it was a challenging year at first because I began as a starter, and I struggled, and they moved me to closer. It ticked me off because I always viewed myself as a starter, and I viewed it as a demotion. So I got pretty angry and finally began to get my head out of my butt and start pitching the way I should have been all along – very aggressively, going after hitters early in the count and not falling behind and trying to be too selective with my pitches. And, what really happened was that I kind of came into my own right there. I learned that you have to go hard from pitch one and give it everything you’ve got.
And, even from getting ready to pitch, I learned that you’ve got to always work hard; run, do your sit ups and be very prepared.
So what happened was that when I got in the bullpen, a light came on in my head, and I ended up winning I think 12 in a row out of the bullpen and finished in the rotation. I had a great year because I was very focused, and Pat Dobson (pitching coach) was very helpful with my mechanics, and it didn’t hurt having a team that could score a lot of runs, too.
RC: Like we said, Pat Tabler was on that team, and you later played with him on the 1990 Royals. Did you get to know him very well?
AM: Yeah, Pat and I are good friends. I haven’t seen him in a long time, but I played with him coincidentally in not only Nashville, like you said, but also in A Ball, too, in Fort Lauderdale. Then, he got traded away.
But yeah, he is a great guy – he was a very underrated player and he didn’t get a chance to play real regularly at the big league level, but he could hit and I thought he was a good teammate, a lot of fun.
RC: You began 1981 with Columbus (AAA) and went 8-6 with a 3.23 ERA in 17 starts. You got called up to New York when the rosters expanded in September and made your big league debut on September 22nd against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium, pitching 3 innings in relief for Dave Righetti. You retired 9 of the 14 hitters you faced and threw three scoreless innings. What do you remember about that day?
AM: It was fabulous. You walk into Yankee Stadium, first of all, and you’re like a kid in a candy store. You’re in the locker room that Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and all the greats played in. You walk out onto the field and it’s literally like, you can’t stop grinning. It’s just such fun just to be there and have the pinstripes on, and sit next to Tommy John, Reggie Jackson, Dave Righetti, etc. It’s just a culmination of a lot of years of hard work and sweat and blood… it was just the best.
RC: Two days later you made another relief appearance, this time replacing Ron Guidry, and threw 4 innings while striking out two. They always say big league pitchers remember their first strikeout – can you name who it was?
AM: Let’s see… Shoot… I ought to know this. Who was it against?
AM: Yeah, it was Baltimore and it was Eddie Murray, right?
RC: You got it!
AM: I remember!
RC: Not a bad guy to get for your first big league strikeout! You finished the 1981 season with 2 appearances at the big league level and headed into 1982 with the Yankees at Spring Training. However, on 30th, you were traded with Ted Wilborn to the Giants for Doyle Alexander. What do you remember about the moment you found out about the trade?
AM: I was very frustrated, because I had just finished maybe the worst spring training any person could ever have… I’m serious! If it was going to happen to a player, it was going to happen to me that spring. I would give up a grounder that would hit a bag, that looked foul but it’d just knick that bag and go fair.
Or, guys would be dropping balls in the outfield because they were trying to learn and play a new position, but only when I pitched.
It got so bad that Bob Watson, who was our first baseman and a great guy, late in spring, after a guy got a bloop, broken bat single, he came over on the mound, and we were in Pompano Beach, playing Texas, and he says, “Man, you’ve got some bad luck this spring. But you hang in there.”
It was very frustrating; I knew I could certainly compete on that level. It was like I had the job but I couldn’t put it together that spring. And then I got traded out to the Giants, and that was really kind of a shock at first, because I’d always envisioned myself being a Yankee. And I was going to play for the Yankees and be an American League guy, and now all of a sudden I realized in very vivid detail that you know what, I am a commodity. And the game kind of changed for me at that time; not for the worse, but some of the rose colored glasses came off and you recognize it’s a business and an industry. You’re a product, you’re just like a bag of potatoes – if somebody wants you more, they’re going to sell you. That’s the game, right, wrong or indifferent, so you can’t take it personal, it’s business.
RC: You spent 1982 between Phoenix (AAA) and San Francisco, and the entire 1983 season with the Giants, where you played under the legendary Frank Robinson. What was he like playing for?
AM: He was hard on a young pitcher. I remember coming out of pitchers’ meetings and every hitter that we would go over, the way they were talking, this guy is Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner and Babe Ruth all rolled into one. And I’m thinking, “I’m screwed, I can’t get these guys out, I’ve got to be perfect on every pitch.”
So about the first half of the year, I just pitched scared. I didn’t have confidence that I could get these guys out because I was listening to everybody else instead of getting back to what I knew to be true about me, in my delivery and ability to throw.
I had a breakout game in Philadelphia one night, though. I think I threw four innings, and I think I struck out 7 or 8 guys. I ought to remember that, but it was one of those moments where I said, “You know what, I’m not going to pitch like everyone else. I’m going to pitch how I know how to pitch.”
And from then on, I didn’t look back.
RC: Spring Training began in 1984 and you were preparing to join the Giants for a third season. However, on March 31st, you were sent to the Montreal Expos to complete an earlier trade. Were you surprised you were the “player to be named later”?
AM: Yeah, I really was, and I found out in a bizarre way.
We had already broken camp and were in San Francisco. My wife and I were in a hotel getting ready to get our apartment, and we were in the hotel restaurant and I was reading the newspaper, and we were going to be playing the A’s, and I was reading it, and there are rumors and statements in the paper that I might be traded. And I told Jill, my wife, “We might get traded,” and she said, “Really?” and I said, “It’s always a possibility.”
So we go to Oakland and we’re in there taking batting practice, and I remember I was standing down the right field line guarding a pitcher that was getting some bullpen work done. And Herm Starrette (pitching coach) came up to me and said, “Well Andy, I’m really going to miss you.”
And I looked at him and said, “What do you mean Herm?”
And he said, “Oh.”
And he didn’t realize I didn’t know. So he said, “Skip needs to talk to you.”
So I learned that I was traded from the pitching coach, who didn’t know that I didn’t know.
I went into the locker room and there was Frank Robinson and the GM (Tom Haller) and the traveling secretary, and they told me I had been traded.
And honestly, I’m thinking, “Wow, I’m going to the team of the decade that should have been, the Expos.”
In the early 1980’s, they were perennial winners, and everybody thought that this was a club that should be in the playoffs and World Series. We had a horrific year in ’83, and I’m thinking, “I just went from a team that almost lost 100 games to a team that might be in the playoffs and World Series. I caught lightning in a bottle.”
I met the Expos in Houston and I had a pretty good start there. It was a great group of guys.
RC: You were with Montreal from the beginning of 1984 until July 26th, when you got traded again, this time to the Reds with minor leaguer Jim Jefferson for Dan Driessen. Were you getting sick of being traded by this point?
AM: Well, you know what, it’s just the way the game is. I was surprised to be traded that year. But you can look at it one of two ways. Either the team that traded you didn’t want you, which is negative, or you can be positive and realize that the team you’re going to wants you.
I’m kind of an optimist so I chose to look at the positives. I thought, “If they don’t want me, I don’t want to be here. I want to go where somebody wants me.”
And actually, my wife was two weeks overdue with our first child when we heard we were traded to Cincinnati. So I called the General Manager, who was Woody Woodward, and I told him, “My wife is two weeks overdue with our first child and I don’t know when the baby will come.”
And he said, “Don’t worry about it, we’re on the west coast,” and they were probably 26 games out, so it wasn’t urgent.
He said, “As soon as the baby is born, just meet us in Cincinnati.”
My daughter was born on the 31st of July, and August 1st, I was in Cincinnati.
RC: You spent 1985 entirely with the Reds organization, between Triple-A Denver, where you started the season, and Cincinnati, where you came up on July 25th. One cool thing about Cincinnati was that you got to play with and under Pete Rose, who was a Player/Manager. What was it like playing both with him and under him?
AM: Pete Rose is obviously an icon as a player; great work ethic, unbelievable hitter and always hustling. He just ran and worked so hard. And then when he came over to Cincinnati to be the player/manager, he brought a whole different dynamic – that’s a hard position to be in – it’s difficult.
For example, he was playing first base at that time and if he came over to the mound to talk about anything like a first baseman ordinarily would have, they treated it as a mound visit. So he couldn’t go over there and do the stuff that any normal first baseman could do for fear of having it counted as a trip to the pitchers mound. So that’s a very difficult position to be in.
But I thought he was a decent manager, I didn’t think he was bad. He was certainly knowledgeable enough and was a student of the game.
To me, most really good managers at handling pitchers well were all catchers. I truly believe that. The best managers I played for were all catchers. Buck Rodgers was the best of all of them. He was fair and handled pitchers well.
RC: In the winter of 1985, you were again traded, this time in a six-player trade that sent you back to the Montreal Expos, who had traded you away less than a year and a half earlier. What were your thoughts on this trade when it happened?
AM: I couldn’t believe it - I was dumbfounded. But it was just another opportunity; my wife and I had a positive experience in Montreal as a player. It was tough as an American playing there because it was very expensive. Taxes are crazy high in Canada and especially in Quebec, so you almost took a pay cut by going there.
But this time around in Montreal it was a different Manager, Buck Rodgers, and I just wanted to go and play somewhere that I could contribute and be a part of a good team. And that’s exactly what we had in Montreal – a bunch of young, hungry players who enjoyed playing and weren’t afraid of playing the Mets. We had three great years in a row, we finished in third just out of the real money those three years and the fourth year, we didn’t have a terrible year, although not quite as strong.
RC: Montreal would finally end up being home for awhile, as you spent 1986-1989 with the Expos, and with no minor league stops. You played the entire four seasons under Buck Rodgers, and it was during this time where you made the transition to middle reliever, a place you’d stay until later on with the Royals. Were you excited about becoming a reliever after starting most of your life?
AM: I was able to fall into that niche very well because physically, I was able to throw a lot of innings and have a lot of appearances. It was kind of the same situation as 1980 in Nashville except that this time, I realized that this was a spot where I could really flourish. If I needed to go three innings to get a save, I could do that. If I needed to come in to face just a couple of lefties or righties, I could do that. And actually, I think my left handed batting average against in my career was actually lower than righties and thus, Buck used me in many instances where you’d normally throw a lefty against a lefty because I had a change up and a good moving sinking fastball. And I could get my slider in on guys – so I looked at it as a great opportunity.
RC: Since it’s been awhile since many of us saw you pitch, can you refresh us about what you threw? That reminds me now that you described your pitching a bit.
AM: Sure. I threw a fastball, a slider and a changeup. I had two different kinds of fastballs – a cross seam, which was straighter, and I used that to run it in on lefties, and a sinking fast ball that ran away from lefthanders, down and away. I don’t really remember how fast – I know I threw in the low 90’s, probably 92 or 93 at my best. But I didn’t walk a lot of guys. So, two different kinds of fastballs, a slider and a changeup.
RC: You hear pitchers all the time say that its nice to be a reliever because every day when you come to the park, you know you could pitch, and its easier to stay sharp and focused. What are your thoughts on that?
AM: I 100% agree with that. In fact, the difficulty I had as a starter was keeping the mental edge from start to start to start. You may pitch on Monday, and then you’re not in a game until Friday or Saturday. And so I just found it very difficult to keep the focus, as you had said, from one start to another. Physically I could do it, but as a reliever, it was like I was always on high idle. I was always kind of halfway revved all the time. I could come to the ballpark knowing that I might be in this game again tonight. And I had the ability physically to do that. Some guys can’t because of mechanics or injuries that keep them from being available most nights.
RC: In 1987 and 1988, you made a combined 142 appearances and had ERAs of 2.39 and 2.76, respectively. 1987 was probably your best year, as you had 12 saves and tied for 8th in the NL in appearances (69). How much fun were those seasons in Montreal, and what was it like pitching there?
AM: It was incredibly fun all those years. I really felt that I knew I belonged in the big leagues. I knew I was good enough then to be one of the better players in the league, and that sounds kind of braggish, and I don’t mean it that way, but it’s like your day job, whatever it may be.
You’ve been doing it a long time, and you’re not in fear or awe of that job, because you know you can do it and you know you can do it well. You take pride in prep and performing well. And that’s the way I felt. I felt as if I had as good of stuff as anyone in the league and I had proven I could get good hitters out in tough situations. I felt I belonged and wasn’t “just one of those guys.”
And when you feel that way, there’s a certain aura of confidence that grows and builds. And we had a lot of guys on those teams that were like that.
Tim Burke, for example, who is my best friend. We complimented each other so well – we played catch everyday and played catch in the bullpen. We hung out and knew each other. Other guys, too, like Mike Fitzgerald, my catcher. I bet I didn’t shake him off five times in four years. Just a wonderful receiver and was able to think along with the pitcher. I’d be thinking a certain pitch and he’d put the fingers down at the exact same time with what I was thinking. You almost start grinning because you’re synched up so well. And having a good team behind you that can catch it and throw it, and when we’re hitting, we’re going to get our hits and runs. We knew we’d be in most games and we’d win most of them. It was just so much fun.
RC: You hear it so often, especially today, that certain pitchers only like throwing to certain catchers. Does having a catcher you’re “on the same page with” really make that big of a difference?
AM: Sure it does, believe me. If you’re always fighting with a catcher, you have problems. See, some catchers were more agreeable than others. And I looked at it this way - it was my name in the box score that would have a loss, win or save by it, not the catcher’s name. So I look at a catcher as someone recommending or suggesting pitches – that’s his job. If you trust their recommendations, then that’s one thing. But if there’s an element of doubt, that’s another.
And honestly, a lot of catchers were so block headed about wanting it their way, this pitch or that pitch. If I want to throw a fastball in on a right handed hitter but the catcher calls slider away, and I shake him off, and then he calls curve ball, and I shake again, and then he calls fastball away, and shake him off again, by the time you’ve shaken him off three or four times, you begin to have a lot of self doubt yourself. It gets to become a tug of war and battle of wills. As a veteran pitcher, that’s very frustrating. As a young pitcher, you don’t really know the hitters and you have to rely on the catcher to a certain extent. That’s when you have to hope the catcher knows what they’re talking about, and sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t.
RC: Interesting. Your last two years in Montreal were 1988 and 1989, and it was this time where you began having a tender right elbow. You spent time on the DL both seasons. Did you ever consider having surgery and do you feel like the problem may have stemmed from moving to the bullpen?
AM: No, not at all. In fact, in ’89, I know I was on the DL at one time, and the day they put me on, we played I think 23 innings that night.
But the reality was, I wasn’t hurt, I was just struggling and having an off year, and they put me on the DL to make room for Marquis Grissom. Now, my elbow was a little sore, yes, but it wasn’t so sore that a day or two off wouldn’t have helped the situation. But what was very frustrating was that they put me on the DL and that very night, I could have really been used in that 23-inning game!
I had bone spurs during my career, every pitcher does, and sometimes they’ll flare up a little bit, but it wasn’t ever a permanent thing. Nothing that required surgery – sometimes some anti-inflammatories and a little rest, but nothing significant.
RC: You went to Spring Training in 1990 with the Expos again, but were traded back to the Giants on April 7th for Steve Hecht. You made four appearances with the Giants before being released on April 30th when the major league rosters had to be reduced. A few days later, on May 9th, you signed as a free agent with the Royals and were sent to Omaha. What made you choose to sign with the Royals?
AM: They were the first ones that came calling. Again, another opportunity to get back to the big leagues, and I felt like I was certainly capable of pitching there, and I felt like I was prematurely released with the Giants. I don’t think I got a good opportunity with that club, and I think there were some politics involved there. I have nothing to base that on, but I think I was released early and it was a financial call instead of a win/loss. That’s just the way the game plays, though.
So when the Royals gave me a chance, I gladly accepted it and went to Omaha. And in the meantime between the Giants and Omaha, I was back here in Lakeland (Florida) and I was throwing out at Florida Southern College, and I kind of rediscovered things. In pitching, there are a lot of things you do in a delivery that can add up to either doing it well or throwing a little bit off. And I was able to rediscover a couple of things in my delivery.
So I went to Omaha and threw the ball great, and when I got called up, I threw it great some more.
RC: You appeared with Omaha in 10 games, all in relief, and went 2-1 with a 3.71 ERA. You had your contract purchased by Kansas City on June 8th, 1990. Before we talk about that, what do you remember about your times in Omaha and pitching at Rosenblatt Stadium?
AM: It was fun. It was a nice stadium; the Midwest, you can’t beat it. Great history there at Rosenblatt. It was kind of humbling again going back to AAA after being in the big leagues so long, but I just looked at it as a great opportunity to regroup myself. The Royals weren’t exactly tearing up the league and I looked at it as a great chance to get back to the big leagues, but I had to perform.
RC: When you were called up to KC on June 8th, were you expecting that?
AM: Getting called up to KC was great. Pitching in Kansas City was very similar to pitching in Cincinnati. The Midwest, good and faithful fans, just good people that wanted you to do well. They knew the game and appreciated effort and it was a good situation. I was thrilled.
Actually, I remember Mike MacFarlane, in my first or second appearance, he comes up and goes, “The Giants released you?”
And I said, “Yeah.”
And he said, “What are they thinking?”
It was really gratifying to hear that, because I knew I could still pitch.
RC: The 1990 Royals were expected to win the World Series by Sports Illustrated and that year is remembered for Ewing Kauffman making a big splash in free agency by signing Mark and Storm Davis. The Royals had the largest payroll in baseball that year and it was Kauffman’s one final attempt at winning a championship. Things obviously didn’t go as planned and when you made your first appearance with the Royals on June 13th, the team was 23-35. What do you remember about the mood in the clubhouse and around the team when you first came up?
AM: Well… There were a lot of… I wouldn’t say malcontents, but there were a lot of guys that were frustrated. When you’re on a losing team, it’s hard to keep a good attitude and be a team player, because then you start looking at personal stats. And that’s always tough to work through.
Basically though, we had a lot of good guys on that team. I remember we had obviously George (Brett) and Bo (Jackson) was there, and MacFarlane and Storm (Davis) and Mark (Davis) and Kevin Seitzer and Mark Gubicza and Kurt Stillwell and Frank White and Steve Farr and Willie Wilson. But it was frustrating on a couple of different levels.
You had a lot of guys, like the year before in 1989, Monty and Steve were the closers, and they did well. And then, all of a sudden, you bring in Mark Davis, and they’re going, “What the heck?” And rightfully so, I could see their frustration.
But Mark Davis had some pretty good statistics with San Diego and I don’t know what happened to him that year, but I think he was hurt and came back too soon.
And Storm Davis was coming off of a great team and had kind of a disappointing year, self admittedly, and there were a couple of guys that got hurt. Sabes got hurt, which is why I got called up, and he ended up having surgery that year. There were just a lot of guys that were having off years, and it’s frustrating when that happens. So you just kind of muddle through it and try to do the best you can for your own personal stats and hopefully make it through until next year.
RC: You provided some big time relief in 1990, as in your first 12 games with Kansas City, you posted a 1.60 ERA over 45 innings. Probably your best outing that year came at the Metrodome, when you earned your only save by going 3.1 scoreless innings. Do you remember that game at all?
AM: I do, but not in great detail. I know I started and relieved that year.
Actually, I’ll tell you the funniest thing about 1990 – the first start that I had, which was in Toronto. I was in the locker room, and its like 10 minutes before the game started, and I had just hung up the phone talking to Tim Burke in Montreal. And we were just talking and I was standing around in my t-shirt and shorts, and I was getting ready to get dressed because I was a reliever. My game started when the 5th or 6th inning came around. That was historically when I’d be called upon.
So, I just hung up the phone and sat down, was putting on my socks and somebody came in the locker room and said, “Get dressed, you’re starting the game.”
I think it was Kevin Appier who pulled a peck muscle or something. And I was like, “What?”
And they said, “You’ve got the ball.”
And I said, “Okay.”
So, I threw on my uniform real quickly and I ran out to the bullpen. And I think the game was just about to start, and so I had just a couple of minutes to warm up. Thankfully, I could do that, because that’s what I did all my career. I was able to get loose quickly and warm up and be ready to come into the game. And I think I started the rest of the year.
RC: I hear a lot of pitchers who pitched in the era that you did say that it was a big advantage for a pitcher to switch leagues, because it didn’t happen near as much back then. Being with the Royals was the first time you had been in the A.L. since 1981. Do you feel like that helped out with your success at all in 1990 or is that overrated?
AM: It didn’t hurt, but the bottom line is, an American League guy, he may not have known how I pitched, but after the first couple of times you go around the league, there’s no real super surprises, because we had ESPN back then and we did watch ball games. And basically, a slider is a slider. Some are better than others but it’s not like I had a secret pitch. They knew I was basically a fastball, slider and change up pitcher. So it may have helped, but it wasn’t a huge advantage.
RC: Did you ever play with a more talented group of players in your big league career than the 1990 Royals?
AM: It was right up there, but it wasn’t anymore talented with the team I played for in Montreal. We had a great team there. We had Andres Galarraga, Tim Wallach, Mike Fitzgerald, Tim Raines, Hubie Brooks, Andre Dawson, the list goes on and on. I’ll stack those teams up against about anyone.
But, there were some great players in that Kansas City locker room, no doubt. Bo Jackson was a pure athlete above anyone else I’d ever seen in a baseball uniform. George Brett had a lot in him still, and we had some good players, we really did. But again, it’s not all about individual players, there’s got to be some chemistry there. There were some guys playing hurt and guys not having career years, but the potential was there. It was just hard.
RC: What was it like playing under John Wathan?
AM: John was again, another catcher. I thought he was an excellent manager. He had the respect of the players, because he was one of the guys. That can be difficult, though, too. He played with Frank and Willie and George, and sometimes it’s hard for players that turn managers to have that separation from being one of the guys to, “Hey, he’s my skipper.”
That’s a tough transition to make early on, but I thought John was very good and I thought he handled pitchers well, and I thought he managed the game well. It’s just hard to manage guys and figure out when you have so many guys that aren’t playing great.
Hal McRae the next year kind of had the same deal as John. But I thought both guys were good to play for, very good managers.
RC: Following the 1990 season, you were granted free agency, before re-signing with the Royals in December. What made you decide to come back for another year?
AM: Well, I thought that I had an opportunity to build on what I had done with the Royals before. I thought I had a chance to make a big league ball club, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else. Because at that point, if I left, I’d probably have to go to Japan or Italy or wherever. It would have been like starting over again, and I was just hoping to reconnect with the Royals and make the club.
Plus, it made sense from a Spring Training perspective, too. I live in Lakeland and at that time, Spring Training was in Haines City, which is 30 minutes away. I wouldn’t have to move for that and it made sense, it was the most logical move.
RC: You began the 1991 season back in Omaha and came up to Kansas City one final time in June. You made four appearances with the Royals, all in relief, finishing with a 4.50 ERA before the Royals released you on July 16th. How tough was that?
AM: Well that was difficult because again, I felt like I could still pitch well. It just wasn’t working out the way I had intended it to play out. But it’s just the way the game goes though – you get tagged or labeled or whatever it is, as expendable, and my salary was not huge, but it wasn’t small. And if they could release me and save some cash, they could call up a young kid from AAA who may or may not be able to get guys out. If you’re in a pennant race it’s one thing, but if you’re not in contention really, then there’s not a lot at risk there. So that’s kind of what transpired.
RC: You signed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers on August 4th and finished out the 1991 season at AAA Denver, but never appeared in the big leagues with the Brewers. Did you know your career was over following the end of the 1991 season?
AM: You know, I thought I could still throw. I still believe that even in the right set of circumstances, I could have continued to pitch, but there were some things going on off of the field that kind of changed my perspective. My Father In Law was dying of a brain tumor and it was very traumatic on my family. My wife was very close to her father and mother, and I knew that if I was going to make another run at the game, I knew it was probably going to entail going back to the minor leagues. That meant less money, more travel and perhaps even ending up in Japan or something. That would have been difficult on my family. And so after not receiving any real legitimate offers in the spring of 1992, I just decided that, “I’m capable of doing other things than throwing a baseball.”
I feel like I had a great career and I did most everything I wanted to do in the game. I would have loved to have played another 5 or 10 years, but I had some good years and I was blessed to basically be injury and surgery free. And to have been associated with so many wonderful people in the game – what a blessing.
Anyway, I decided I wasn’t going to drag my wife along in the minor leagues and put her through that, and we just kind of shut it down.
RC: You obviously spent your best years in Montreal, but what are your favorite memories of Kansas City, both on and off the field? Did you have any favorite places to hang out or go in KC?
AM: Hallbrook Farms, the golf course. It was started or owned by the folks that own Hallmark Cards. It’s down on the south end of the perimeter, the loop. I like to play golf, and it was an excellent golf course.
I think some of my most fond experiences with Kansas City were just the fact that it was in mid-America. There was a restaurant there named… it was a breakfast place… I’ll think of it in a minute… But I remember I used to go to breakfast there and the people there were Royals fans. And I remember on more than a few occasions I would go and eat, this was after my wife and kids were back home to go back to school, but I’d go and eat, and they had the same waiter and waitresses, and more than a few times, they wouldn’t let me pay for my meal.
People in Kansas City were just really genuine and friendly. The road trips were easy because you’re in the middle of the country. So the longest road trip is three hours. Whether you’re going west or east, it was easy travel.
And one other thing sticks out about Kansas City. We were in Seattle, and I remember this clear as day, talking about fans and how people are interesting. The game was over and I remember getting onto the bus. And I remember watching people looking for Bo, they wanted to see him. I remember people looking right past George Brett in order to catch a glimpse of Bo Jackson. And I thought, “Wow. Here’s a future Hall of Famer.”
And obviously Bo was very talented, too, but I thought, “Man, isn’t this a fickle society we live in?!?”
RC: Have you been back to Kansas City since you left in 1991?
AM: I have not. I’ve just been busy, enjoying my family. I would love to go back, though.
The thing about Kansas City and that ballpark specifically, at least back then was, man, it was so hot! That turf was so hot, it was unbelievable! I remember standing out on the turf during BP and standing in the shadows of the light towers. As they moved, I moved. I didn’t chase balls or run anywhere, I just stayed in that shadow!
RC: Finally, what has Andy McGaffigan been up to since 1991, and what is he doing today?
AM: Well, when I retired, I took about a year off and just kind of figured out some things that I wanted to do and pursue. I started working on a golf business, putting on golf tournaments for non-profits around the country. That was enjoyable, and I did that for five or six years. Then I started working with Northwestern Mutual, and I’m in my ninth year. I love it, and I’ve got clients all over the country. I help people make great decisions on their finances – it’s really a meaningful career for me.
By the way, I remember what the name of that breakfast place in Kansas City was now -Pete’s. They had great pancakes. I think it was a franchise – there may have been another one in Atlanta. But they had these awesome pancakes called Dump Cakes. It was just a good place to eat.
But again, the folks there in the Midwest are great fans because they know the game and understand it and appreciate it. That’s a big part of enjoying the game as a player, to know that your efforts are appreciated and understood and recognized.
RC: Thanks a lot for your time. Anything else you’d like to add?
AM: The biggest thing was I just considered it a real privilege to play the game. I think I played the game the way you’re supposed to play it – and that’s show up early, stay late, be the first guy on the field, the last guy to leave, work hard and do your best. I just felt like personally, my faith was such a big part of my career. I felt like my ability to play the game was a gift from God and the ability to do it to the best of my ability was in honor of him giving me that ability to play.
So, I just considered it a blessing from the lord to play as long as I did and to do as well as I did. I am very thankful.