Mike Pagliarulo was selected by the Yankees out of the University of Miami in the sixth round of the 1981 Amateur Draft. Recalled in July of 1984, Pags served as the Yankee third baseman for the next five years before being traded to the San Diego Padres. He won a World Series with the Minnesota Twins in 1991, and played for the Baltimore Orioles, Seibu Lions in Japan, and the Texas Rangers before retiring at the conclusion of the 1995 season. A fan favorite during his time with the Yanks, Pags has been a frequent guest at Old Timers’ Day since his retirement.
Since retiring, Pags has worked in scouting and consulting. He founded the Baseline Group which seeks to provide business solutions for baseball and recently started the non-profit start-up Baseball Institute of Development.. He agreed to answer some questions from Matt Bouffard of Fack Youk. What follows are some highlights of the conversation. The full interview will run at Fack Youk in the near future.
Matt Bouffard: What’s it like being a former Yankee living outside Boston these days? Do you get any flack for that? Didn’t you grow up as a Yankee fan, and if so, how did that come about, and what was it like to be a Yankee fan in Medford during the 1970s?
Mike Pagliarulo: My dad was the biggest Billy Martin fan ever. We grew up in Boston and everyone was a Red Sox fan except him. When I was a kid I always thought my father was right except when it came to the Yankees. Well, after my first big league spring training where I met the big league guys for the first time; I said, “Dad you were right again!” The Yankee organization was built on class and respect and everyone I met there was the same way. Back in Boston I still caught heat, but nobody gives out that much crap without being scared!
MB: After coming up in mid-1984, you’re first full season with the Yanks was 1985. That was a tumultuous year: Yogi Berra was fired just 16 games into the season and Billy Martin returned for his fourth stint as Yankee manager. You guys spent all summer chasing Toronto, clawed back into the race, and went north of the border for the season’s final weekend needing a three game sweep to force a playoff. What was that pennant race like for you and what was the let down like getting eliminated that Saturday?
MP: Tumultuous is a word associated with New York. And it’s not a bad word. I’d like to refer to playing under certain scrutiny and pressure as the way it is supposed to be! We aren’t babies and people pay lots of money to see you play. I hate it when tabloids side with the poor player who’s under so much pressure while making 10 million dollars. That doesn’t appear to match.
1985 was the year in which I learned more about Mr. Steinbrenner than any other. I never realized how much he wanted to win until the last month of the season. One example was during September when we returned from a night game in Milwaukee. The game was late and the flight was delayed. We’d got into Newark airport about 6 AM and the Boss has limos waiting for everyone to take them home. We had a game that night. I couldn’t believe that such a cool and generous thing could be done without being in the press.