In honor of the announcement of baseball's return, a throwback from 2019. | Following a phenomenal World Series win, Chuck Cottier, formerly with the Seattle Mariners and currently a scout for the Washington Nationals, talks with Shon about the Nat’s history-making 2019 season, his incredible 60-plus year career working in major league baseball, and his passion for the game – of golf, that is.
Announcer: The Golf Show on 710 ESPN Seattle. Shon Crewe (00:05): He's had a tremendous 60-plus year baseball career in roles as player, manager, and scout, to include time with the Seattle Mariners from 1982 to 1986, as both third-base coach and manager. He currently serves as Scout and Special Assistant to the General Manager for the 2019 World Series Champions, the Washington Nationals, and I'm thrilled to have him on The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe today. Chuck Cottier, it's such a pleasure. Thank you so much. Chuck Cottier (00:31): Oh, well, thank you, Shon. It's my pleasure to be on with you. Shon Crewe (00:35): Well, and before we get going, I want to put some context as to why Chuck Cottier is doing a golf show, and the simple answer is you and I met a while ago playing golf, and you offered that if the Washington Nationals won the World Series, you would do an interview with me. And of course, I wasn't going to pass up that opportunity. Chuck Cottier (00:51): That's right. I hope my interview's better than my golf playing. Shon Crewe (00:54): (laughs) No, your game is great! Well, let's get into it. Let's talk about the season. At one point, the Washington Nationals had a 19-31 record, also only a one-tenth of a one percent chance of winning the World Series. You know, it's almost as if this team achieved the impossible. Chuck Cottier (01:14): You're right. You know, but you look back and then 19-31, that was in May, and we had a lot of injuries. We were not playing good baseball. Everyone was pointing fingers, this should be done, and everybody should get fired, you know. But of course, credit to the players. The players have to play the game, and if they play well, then usually, you have a good outcome. But Mike Rizzo, our general manager, Shon, comes from a scouting background from his father. His father was a Major League scout for a lot of years, and he got Mike started in the scouting business, and he's carried that all the way through his career, right up to becoming general manager and president of the Nationals baseball team. So I give him credit for going out and getting these different players to fit the puzzle, to complete the puzzle, and all of a sudden, we started catching fire, and that clubhouse was a happy clubhouse. You can see the dancing on the bench. You could just see the expression on every player's face that 25 guys were pulling together. And that continued right up till when the playoffs started, our first game against Milwaukee, and I remember during this season, we were playing the Mets, and they had us down seven runs, going into the ninth inning, and they were hot. They were coming on pretty strong. We were fighting them for a wild card position. And we came back and beat them in the bottom of the ninth after being down seven runs in the ninth inning, and boy, all of a sudden, I think these guys started really believing in themselves, and they went out, and they started playing like champions, and that carried from the end of the season all the way through the playoffs. Shon Crewe (03:05): Well, Chuck, you said that in your more than 60 years of working in baseball, this team and this season were unlike anything you had ever seen. How would you describe it? Chuck Cottier (03:15): You know, we were up and down. The first part of the season with all the injuries, we had guys that had never played together at the Major League level, and we didn't play good baseball. So having said that, whenever you bring guys off of the injured list and put them back in the line-up, you don't know how they're going to react. I mean, it takes a little time to get your timing for the hitters, the pitchers to get the feel of all their pitches, and just to play together as a team. And I'd never seen a team that went through as many different kind of difficulties as our team did this year, and all of a sudden, when it started coming together, it was just amazing. Shon Crewe (03:59): I know there was a lot of talk at one point about the fans and whether Washington is truly a baseball town. I would think now that there isn't any doubt, but how important were the fans in all of this? Chuck Cottier (04:10): No, the fans are huge, and whenever you're coming out there as a player… you don't go back, of course, as far as I do, Shon, (laughs) but I played for the old Washington Senators and some nights, there would be 2,700 in the stands, there might be 3,000 if the Yankees came in. There was 50,000, so that was back in the '60's. But you can see that that town loves baseball. And the old ownership, before they moved to Minnesota, was Clark Griffith, and he had some players that were, as far as names were concerned, some of the top names. He had the Killebrews and the Bob Allisons and the Pascuals and the Pedro Ramos', Roy Scherer. I mean, these guys were great baseball players. And that town, whenever you put a product on the field that has a chance to win a game, they're going to come out and watch you play. And Washington D.C. has always had that mentality as far as baseball fans. Shon Crewe (05:17): Well, and you mentioned your career, and that's probably the perfect time to segue because I'd love to talk to you a little bit more about your career. I know that you were signed right out of high school at the age of 17. You had lettered in four sports, obviously baseball being one of them. But I'm curious, how did you get discovered? Did they scout you in high school? Chuck Cottier (05:34): Yes. Well, the little school that I went to, the little high school in Grand Junction, Colorado, we only had one high school, but we had a great American Legion program, and we had similar to Little League, but it was call Old-Timers League. So the team that I played on when I was 11-years-old, we won our first state championship down in Durango, Colorado. And then, only having one high school, whenever we got into the seventh grade, all the kids in Grand Junction from all the other elementary schools played together. So we were together for six years, all through the Old-Timers League, the Legion, American Legion, and also high school. So we also won the state championship at each level that I played in with all these guys being together for six years. And we had a manager that was our American Legion manager, Maxie Carroll, and he was a Bird Dog Scout for the Baltimore Orioles, and he took a special liking to me when I was a freshman in high school. And he would always say, "Chuck, I'll be by …" and I was working at a gas station, and he said, "I'll be by to pick you up at lunch. I'm going to go take you out and get some ground balls and throw you some batting practice." So I had that support, not only from him but from my family, because they wanted me, of course, to go to college. I had a chance to go to a lot of colleges on a baseball scholarship. But when I was nine years old, I told my mother, canning tomatoes, that I wanted to be a Major League player. So with the support from my family and with him being one of my managers at a young age, that's what got me started. Shon Crewe (07:24): You made your Major League debut in 1959 playing for the Milwaukee Braves. What stands out to you about your first Major League game? Chuck Cottier (07:32): I remember I called home, and I said, "Mom, do you remember when I was nine, what I said?" and of course, she did. You know, but just being on the field and looking around and seeing players that… of course, we didn't have television back then, that was 1959, but I remember the first game we played against St. Louis, Stan Musial. Well, my mother was a Cardinal fan and Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst were her favorite players. And there I am, her son, on the same field, playing against one another. And so it's almost like you're in awe at first. And in that, you've got a little button inside your chest, and I guess it's your heart, and you're in awe until that little button clicks and says, "Hey, you know what, I belong here." And rather than look around and see all these other people that you've heard and read about, all of a sudden, that little button clicks and you say, "You know what, Chuck, you're here. Now let's see how good you are, but you belong here." And that was the most satisfying moment that I ever had, Shon, whenever that clicked. Shon Crewe (08:48): Aw, well, and you played alongside some big names. Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, to name a few. I mean, these guys would've been veteran players at that point. What was it like coming on as a rookie, playing with these guys? Chuck Cottier (08:58): Oh, it was great, you know, and then, it was a little bit different, but I was fortunate enough to have a couple of the veteran players kind of take me under their wing. And then, you know, you played to win the pennant. There were no playoff games, so that was extra money. And back then, the minimum salary was $7,500 a year. So a lot of the guys that were married, I stayed single my entire playing career, you know, the two highest-paid players in '59 I think were Warren Spahn, which was on my team, and Willie Mays, which was [red] for Giants, and they were both making $90,000 a year then. So you played because you loved the game, and the money was a factor if you get to the Series, but that's the only way you made your extra money. So the veteran players, if you go out and you keep your nose clean and do your job, they will support you and back you and, you know, just taking you out to dinner and saying, "Here kid, put your money away, I got this," and just making you feel part of the team. And I was very fortunate that that happened to me, because really, we almost had an all-star team in '59 with the Braves – got Crandall and Adcock and Johnny Logan and Eddie Mathews and Henry Aaron and Billy Bruton and Wes Covington – you know, those guys. I mean they had been there and done it, they had won the World Series two years prior to me coming up, and then we fought all the way through that '59 season to try to win our National League, and we got beat out in a playoff game, two out of three, against the Dodgers. So I came very close to being a World Series player, but I got to experience that excitement and that thrill of being on a great team and playing good that first year. Shon Crewe (10:57): Well, and then fast-forward to where you are today with your third World Series win. I mean, what an incredible career. Okay, I have to get in at least one question about the Seattle Mariners since you were here for nearly four years. What's your fondest memory, and what would you say you enjoyed most about your time with the organization? Chuck Cottier (11:14): When I joined the Mariners in 1982, they were an expansion team, and we had a farm director named Harold Kelly, and he was a great, great scout. He was great with young players, projecting them to become Major League players. And we had a bunch of good players. Really, my first year, Rene Lachemann was the manager and I was his third base coach, and probably, other than a couple of the old veterans we had, all those kids that were playing at the Major League level probably should've been back in AAA, getting their playing time and their reps in before they did come to the big leagues. But they all turned out later to become great players at the Major League level, but we were just a young team. They went out and played hard every game, they had fun. That's an enjoyment. Whenever you're a manager scouting, is to how your players react when they come to the ballpark and how they go about playing the game. Shon Crewe (12:21): We're talking with Chuck Cottier of the 2019 World Series Champions, the Washington Nationals, on The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe. Okay, we're a golf show, so I've gotta at least ask you a few golf-related questions. Maybe we can do this as a little more of a lightning round, but first questions, when did you start playing golf? How did you get into the game? Chuck Cottier (12:39): I started caddying when I was in junior high, on a little golf course back in Colorado. And just from caddying and getting to play, be on the golf course, that's when I started, whenever I was in junior high. Shon Crewe (12:53): Okay. Do you have a handicap? Chuck Cottier (12:55): Just a ball now and my swing. Shon Crewe (12:58): Okay. (laughs) Chuck Cottier (12:02): But you know, when I met you, we played with a good player, Chris DeGrazia. He's one of the top left-handed amateurs out there in the northwest, and he and I have been playing golf together for 30 years. And it's amazing; you know, the older he gets, that ball keeps coming back to you. (laughs) It used to be fun out playing with him, because I could stay up with him and we had great times, and he has continued to really be one of the top players. Basically, he's a tournament player. Shon Crewe (13:34): Yeah. He's on another level. (laughs) Chuck Cottier (13:35): But I still love to play the game, just whenever you can hit it any farther than I hit it. And incidentally, when you and I played, I remember those drives of yours that were out past mine. Shon Crewe (13:48): Oh no! (laughs) Chuck Cottier (13:49): So I just have to depend now on, you know, up close to the green and then a chip and a putt. That's it. Shon Crewe (13:58): Well, you're a great putter. That part of your game is great. Chuck Cottier (14:00): Oh well, thank you. It's fun playing with you, Shon. You've got a great swing. Shon Crewe (14:03): Oh, I love playing with you as well. All right, let me ask you this, what's your all-time favorite course to play? Chuck Cottier (14:09): I think Cypress would be there. Pine Valley. I think those are two of the favorite ones I've ever played. Shon Crewe (14:17): Okay. How about here in the Pacific Northwest? Chuck Cottier (14:21): In the northwest, you know a course I really like to play is up in Mount Vernon. Eaglemont. Shon Crewe (14:27): Oh yeah. Chuck Cottier (14:29): And of course the country clubs; Broadmoor's a nice course, Seattle Golf Club is a nice course. We're really blessed with a lot of nice golf courses up here in the northwest. Shon Crewe (14:40): Yes, I will absolutely agree with you on that one. Have you ever had a hole in one? Chuck Cottier (14:45): Yes, I had one in a tournament when I was a coach for Terry Francona with the Philadelphia Phillies, and it's funny because when I hit the ball, he said, "That's gonna go in," and it was an elevated green. I said, "Get out of here," and all of a sudden, he said, "It went it. It went in." I said, "Terry, get outta here," because he's a really good jokester, and so it did go in. And the prize for that hole was Strata golf balls, $1,500 of Strata golf balls.
So after the tournament ended, we played with the sponsors and of course, afterwards, they have a dinner and, you know, they give away the prizes. So I said, "Terry, do you really wanna stay for the dinner?" and he said, "No, let's go." So we were walking to the parking lot to get in the car, and this guy came running out, and he said, "Chuck, here, we gotta give you the certificate for your hole in one." I said, "You know what?" I said, "Give it to somebody in there. Go ahead and give it to them." I said, "I don't need it, but thank you." He said, "No, no, no, no, no. Here, I need your address." So he took my address and we left. Terry and I left. And I come home, and I drive in the driveway, it was probably the middle of December, and the tournament was right after the season had ended in September, back, in Philadelphia. So here was I driving on the driveway, and I look, and here's all these cardboard boxes. And I said to my wife, I said, "Did you order something?" She said, "No, did you?" I said, "I don't ever order anything." So anyway, that was the $1,500 worth of Strata golf balls. It was 72 dozen. Shon Crewe (16:32): Oh goodness. (laughs) Chuck Cottier (16:33): Well, I'm a Titleist guy. I opened them up, and I called my buddy up at the driving range here in Lynnwood, and I said, "Look, I've got 72 dozen of golf balls. You can have them all. Just give me a couple of Titleist." He said, "Bring a sleeve of them up. Let me take a look at them." So I took a sleeve up. I hadn't even opened them. So he opened them up. He said, "Chuck, sorry. I can't do anything for you." I said, "What? 72 dozen, you can have them. Give me one sleeve of Titleist." He said, "Chuck, your name is stamped on every ball." (laughs) So I gave them away. You know, it cost more money giving them away than if I'd have had to go out and buy them. With the shipping, golf balls weigh a lot whenever you send them back east and give them away. (laughs) Shon Crewe (17:33): (laughs) Oh, I love that. Oh goodness. Well, so I guess my last question for you, are there any golf courses that you still want to play. Any bucket list courses? Chuck Cottier (17:43): On my bucket list? Shon Crewe (17:43): Yeah. Chuck Cottier (17:45): You know what, any course now. Shon Crewe (17:47): Oh really? Okay. (laughs) Chuck Cottier (17:51): Given the way I play, it doesn't make any difference. (laughs) It used to be the longest, the toughest course, but now it's just so the greens are not sand, their grass, and the fairways are cut short. That's all I care. Shon Crewe (18:02): That's true, right? Just getting out and playing, and I'm looking forward to getting out and playing with you in a couple of days. So I appreciate you being so generous with your time. I can't thank you enough. Chuck Cottier (18:10): Oh, and thank you, Shon. It's a delight just to be in your company, and I love to watch you play. You're a good player, and I hope we can play a lot of rounds together. Shon Crewe (18:20): Oh, that sounds great. I'll look forward to seeing you soon. That was Chuck Cottier with the 2019 World Series Champions, the Washington Nationals. Thank you for joining us. It's The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe on 710 ESPN Seattle.