top of page

Michael "Mike" James Boddicker.

Thirty years passed following Hal Trosky’s retirement before the second Major Leaguer from Norway, Iowa debuted: Bruce Kimm. Following Kimm’s retirement in 1980, the 1981 season marked the debut of yet another successful Norway player: pitcher Michael James Boddicker. "I don't think I was anything special in Norway," said Boddicker, and perhaps not even in his own family. Mike told the Des Moines Register that his older brother, Butch, was a better player. "I really just wanted to pitch one day in the big leagues. All the way through the minors, there were always kids better than me as far as physical ability. I knew what I wanted to do - and as long as I stayed healthy, learned and kept getting better - I had that chance." Mike’s high school record included guiding the Cedar Rapids American Legion squad to three Legion World Series appearances. He also helped Norway High School capture two state titles under coach Jim Van Scoyoc. His record as a pitcher, for his four year high school career, was 76-13. His 1,122 strikeouts were a national scholastic record, and his earned run average (ERA) for the quadrennial was 0.64. He was nearly as proficient with a bat, hitting .397 in over two hundred games, driving in 221 runs, and stealing 72 bases. According to former Norway High School head coach (and current brother-in-law) Jim Van Scoyoc, "Mike had some goals and was very poised. He always seemed to be in control of the situation. He was a dominant pitcher and on top of it, he was a good hitter and a good third baseman.”


Throughout his professional career he would remain a proud son of Norway. "I know they were all proud of me and my accomplishments," Boddicker said of his family and friends in Norway. "I'd be the first to tell a reporter who said I was from Cedar Rapids, 'No, I'm from a small town outside Cedar Rapids.'" Boddicker’s assertion notwithstanding, he is irrevocably and irrefutably linked to the Cedar Rapids baseball story. Despite being drafted by the Montreal Expos in the eighth round of the 1975 amateur draft, the right-hander instead opted to attend the University of Iowa. Despite the offer that would realize his dream of playing professionally, and with a salary considerably higher than the $4.50 per hour he earned working in a grain elevator in the winter, Boddicker chose to return to college. It was during his time at Iowa that he began dating Lisa Charipar, the daughter of his old coach. As Steve Wulf noted in Sports Illustrated: “It’s funny the way they started dating. I ran into Mike at a game in Norway, and he asked me how Lisa was, and I said she’d just got finished with the dentist and wasn’t feeling too well. That night he went and visited her, and pretty soon they were going out.” Lisa, now without wisdom teeth, wasn’t great company that evening, but the relationship took off from there. They were eventually married and soon added sons Cory and James and girls Stephanie and Brittany.


Mike Boddicker’s three-year college career left an impression on the University of Iowa's record book. His six career shutouts are the most in school history. As a freshman in 1976, in addition to leading the hitters with nine doubles, he posted what is still their single-season record with a 0.79 earned run average. As a sophomore he led the pitching staff with eight wins, eighty-four strikeouts, and sixty-five innings pitched. As a junior he led the Hawkeyes with a .350 batting average and nine doubles at the plate, and sixty-eight strikeouts on the mound. The 11.5 strikeouts per game led the NCAA. His time in college also gave him the opportunity to develop a new pitch. Unable to master the forkball grip, he developed a compromise pitch that broke like a screwball. As Boddicker described to Steve Wulf in 1983: "It looks like a fastball, but it's slow and it sinks. Even the ones they hit, they don't hit very well." Orioles’ pitching coach Ray Miller called it a combination of a ‘dead fish’ (changeup) and a screwball, hence ‘foshball’. Boddicker’s performance convinced scout Joe Bowman and the Baltimore Orioles to draft him in the sixth round of the 1978 draft. The twenty-year-old pitcher reported to the Orioles’ rookie league team in Bluefield, in the short-season Appalachian League, but after nineteen innings as a reliever (and a 0.47 Earned Run Average) he was promoted all the way to their AA Southern League team in Charlotte, North Carolina. After allowing only 42 hits in 65 innings, and notching ten wins, Boddicker was promoted again, to AAA Rochester (International League), where he won his lone end-of-season start.


The next season, 1979, the Orioles returned Mike to AA Charlotte to gain some experience in a less pressurized environment, but his 9-3 record in fourteen starts effectively forced the organization to return him to Rochester. Boddicker spent the 1980, 1981, and 1982 seasons on the cusp of the Major Leagues. Although the majority of his time in each of those years was spent toiling for Rochester, the Orioles called him up for ‘spot duty’ on occasion. On October 4, 1980, he made his major league debut, pitching 7.1 innings, striking out five, but also giving up five earned runs to the Cleveland Indians in his first major league loss. The next year he made but two appearances, with no decisions, and in 1982, the 24 year-old pitched just over twenty five innings for Baltimore and earned his first big league victory.

Despite his obvious ability, and Major-League potential, there simply was no room in the Orioles’ pitching rotation. In 1982, Earl Weaver’s starting rotation included established starters Jim Palmer, Scott McGregor, Dennis Martinez, and Mike Flanagan, so a young right hander like Boddicker had no role to fill. He might have remained with the Big-League club out of spring training but would have idled in the bullpen. The time in Rochester allowed him to refine his craft, to prepare to answer the proverbial door should opportunity knock and knock it did. On May 17, 1983, in the opener of a double-header against the Chicago White Sox, Boddicker appeared for an injured Mike Flanagan.


With an aging Palmer nursing both a dead arm and an array of minor-but-nagging injuries, the club had recalled Boddicker from Rochester on May 5, mostly to sustain some pitching depth, and had already scheduled the young pitcher to start the nightcap against Chicago. The club, however, had obviously not anticipated Flanagan’s injury.


Boddicker made the most of his opportunity. Of his sixteen wins that year, five were complete-game shutouts, complemented by his 2.77 ERA, with the latter ranking second in the league. "Mike went from a longtime Triple-A pitcher to, really, the ace of the staff in a very short period of time," Flanagan stated.


Even more amazing was Boddicker’s post-season performance, which comprised two complete games, one each in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and one in the World Series, and each following an Orioles' loss in the respective series opener. In the ALCS, again against the White Sox, he became the first rookie in league history to throw a playoff shutout, striking out fourteen in the process and earning the ALCS Most Valuable Player award. It was a brilliant display of pitching surpassed only by his World Series shutout of the Philadelphia Phillies. In that game, which ultimately contributed to a series win by Baltimore (as of 2021, it remains that city’s most recent World Championship), Mike allowed the Phillies only three hits in his 4-1 victory (the single Philadelphia run was unearned). It was the first time since 1919 that a rookie had held the opposition to three or fewer hits in a World Series game. "He kept them off balance the whole game," remembered Jim Van Scoyoc. "It was very emotional for me. After the ballgame, he walked toward the dugout and looked up toward us. He held his hand out with his thumb in the air. I wish I had a picture of that." In the final inning, Boddicker capped his performance by retiring three future Hall-of-Famers: Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Mike Schmidt (swinging strikeout on three pitches). Boddicker entered the 1984 season under the palpable burden of Baltimore’s collective expectations. He did not disappoint. Although the team was unable to defend their championship, Mike won twenty games that year, the only pitcher in the American League to reach that milestone, led the circuit with a 2.79 ERA, and finished fourth in the voting for the Cy Young award. It was, in short, not a bad encore for a pitcher who, until two years ago, had tired of shuttling between minor league cities. In 1986, Boddicker was placed on the disabled list due to a torn ligament in the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. Unable to snap his trademark curve, his ERA skyrocketed to 4.70. The next two seasons were not much easier, as the All Star pitcher was the ace of a struggling team.


Although he posted double-digit ‘win’ totals in 1985, 1986, and 1987, on July 29, 1988 he was traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Curt Schilling and outfielder Brady Anderson. The 1988 season had marked a low point in Orioles franchise history, as the team needed twenty-two games to achieve their first victory. With a more capable squad behind him in Boston, Boddicker posted a 7-3 record over the final two months, and in October found himself back in the American League Championship series against the Oakland Athletics. Mike hated to leave: "Saddest day of my life. 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." In November 1990, despite healthy contract offers from Boston, Minnesota, and Toronto, the free agent wanted to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. Playing there had been another boyhood dream, but General Manager Dal Maxvill – for reasons unknown – never returned agent Ron Shapiro’s calls. The next team on Boddicker’s list, the Kansas City Royals, offered him a deal, and he signed with them before Christmas. The Royals were relatively close to Norway, were managed by fellow Eastern-Iowan John Wathan, and had a competitive roster that included George Brett, Bret Saberhagen, Danny Tartabull, and Brian MacRae. The signing made sense to the Boddickers. Over the next two seasons he managed to win thirteen games despite battling an occasional dead arm. In 1991 he was placed on the disabled list to make room for pitcher Mark Gubizca’s return but came off soon after. If the baseball experience wasn’t ideal, the family fell in love with Kansas City, and remain there today. On April 26, 1993, Boddicker was sold to the Milwaukee Brewers. After ten starts, on June 13, Boddicker pitched his final professional game. Tired of fighting an unwinnable battle against age, he retired. Mike Boddicker posted a career record of 134-116 in the Majors, with an ERA of 3.80, and he did so without a dominant fastball. "I just threw a lot of strikes and got people out. I was pretty blessed in my career, given the mediocre crap that I threw up there," he modestly told the Baltimore Sun in 2010. But the numbers don’t lie. He was a steady, often brilliant, pitcher, one who played ten consecutive seasons in which he pitched at least 200 innings. "As a starter, that's what you're trying to give. You can't control errors. You can't control how many runs they're going to score for you. All you can do is keep them close and give them a chance to win it at the end." Brian Klingaman of the Sun caught up with Boddicker in 2010. He wrote: “A grandfather now, (Boddicker) pitches batting practice at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Overland Park, Kansas, 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. He will try his hand at broadcasting, with the Orioles for a test-run, and he does occasional pre- and post-game radio shows for the Kansas City Royals."

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page