Brosius Proved To Be Anything But An Afterthought On 1998 Yankees

3rd Baseman Enjoyed Career Year, Won World Series MVP

Ryan Chatelain
August 14, 2018 - 8:15 am
The Yankees' Scott Brosius hits the winning home run during Game 3 of the World Series against the Padres on Oct. 20, 1998, at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

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Note: This is the second article in WFAN.com’s weeklong series remembering the 1998 Yankees on the 20th anniversary of their world-championship season.

Sure, every World Series champion needs star players who can use their mighty swings or overpowering pitching arms to propel them.

But often the road to a world championship is paved, in part, by an unlikely hero, a player who only becomes a household name after delivering on the sport’s biggest stage. 

In recent years, relative nobodies -- at least at the time -- such as the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz and the Cardinals’ David Eckstein and David Freese -- helped elevate their teams to world titles. And as epically talented as they were, even the 1998 Yankees required a boost from one of their more obscure players to win the World Series and avoid the stain of becoming remembered as a team that amassed a gaudy win total but failed to capture the ultimate prize -- not that they really ever came close to that.

For the ’98 Yanks, that player was Scott Brosius.

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When the Yankees acquired Brosius in the trade that shipped pitcher Kenny Rogers to Oakland, no one could have foreseen the impact the 29-year-old would have on the Bronx Bombers.

Brosius was coming off a season in which he battled a knee injury and hit a career-low .203. But the Yankees needed help at third base after letting Wade Boggs walk in free agency, so they took a shot on Brosius, who had enjoyed a standout season just two years earlier, batting .304 with 22 homers.

After seven years in Oakland, Brosius knew his days were numbered there. And from the rumors he heard, he thought he was going to be traded to Anaheim. But then while he was on a family vacation at Disneyland, his agent called him singing “New York, New York.”

“Literally, after about five minutes of just kind of the shock of going somewhere different than I thought I was going, I just started getting fired up,” Brosius recently told WFAN.com. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’m putting on the pinstripes, and I’m going to go play for New York and a team that has a chance to win.'”

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Going from a last-place Oakland team to a Yankees squad that won the World Series two seasons before and was laser-focused on another title gave Brosius, as he puts it, “a shot of adrenaline.” He hit .300 with 19 home runs and a career-high 98 RBIs that year -- while batting predominantly eighth and ninth in the order, no less.

“It just shows how good that lineup was,” said Brosius, now the third-base coach for the Mariners. “You’re playing in games that matter. You’re winning games, and you’re getting opportunities just to play every day and help the team win. It was just kind of the polar opposite of the year before.”

He was also selected to his first -- and only -- All-Star Game that year.

That’s not to say there weren’t struggles for Brosius. He recalls slumping in August when bench coach Don Zimmer pulled him aside in batting practice one day.

“I think he kind of sensed that I was frustrated,” Brosius said. “He goes: ‘I can tell you’re kind of grinding right now, but just look around and understand how good this season has been and you’ve been a big part of this. And if you can’t enjoy a season like that, you’re never going to enjoy it, so just relax and have fun.'

“He was so right. For me, that was kind of a gift, that little nudge -- just look around and enjoy this. … And I kind of took that into the playoffs as well.”

And the playoffs were when Brosius first etched his place in Yankees lore. He was 8-of-17 (.470) and provided dagger after dagger in the San Diego Padres’ title hopes in the World Series sweep.

Game 3 was when he did his most damage, homering off starter and future Yankees teammate Sterling Hitchcock to lead off the seventh inning, and then one inning later depositing a Trevor Hoffman pitch over the center-field wall for a three-run blast that gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead. They would win 5-4.

Of the first homer, Brosius said: “I believe it was a 3-2 pitch and they had taken the lead, and so I think he (Hitchcock) was just making sure he wasn’t going to walk the leadoff man at that point. And got a good fastball to hit and hit it for a home run.”

Of the second: “Got a 2-2 fastball that, same thing, just put another good swing on it. And when I hit it, I hoped I hit it good enough for it to carry over the fence.”

Brosius was 3-for-4 that day. He also went 1-for-4 in Game 1, 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in Game 2 and 1-for-4 with an RBI in Game 4. He was voted World Series MVP, joining a Yankees fraternity that also includes Don Larsen, Whitey Ford and Reggie Jackson.

“It was so much fun,” Brosius said of coming through on such an enormous stage. “For me, as a kid, this is what you dream about, just playing in the World Series. And as a player, you just want to feel like you hope you contribute and be a positive part of the team winning it.”

Of course, three years later, Brosius provided more World Series heroics when his Game 5 two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth forced extra innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees would go on to win the game but lose the series.

While that home run at Yankee Stadium might be widely considered the signature home run of Brosius’ career, he says he cherishes what he did in 1998, especially in Game 3, more.

“’98 feels more special because we won,” he said. “’01 doesn’t feel hollow -- that’s not the right word -- but it (’98) is just more fulfilling, no question.”

In all, Brosius would spend four seasons in the Bronx, reaching the World Series each year, winning three championships and adding to the highlight reel of baseball’s most tradition-rich franchise.

“It’s storybook, no question about it,” Brosius said. “Just the timing, it was the coolest experience. Talk about getting off the train at the right stop.”

As for those ’98 Yanks, who starred Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, Andy Pettitte and others, and set an MLB record that still stands today with 125 combined wins in the regular season and playoffs, Brosius attributes their success to a rare combination of immense talent and an absolute hatred for losing.

“That was the one thing that stood out to me was really the first day or two of spring training when I came in new to the club, sitting around talking to Tino (Martinez) and O’Neill and different guys on the team, and every single guy to a man was talking about the same thing: ‘We’re getting back to the World Series this year,’” Brosius said. “Nobody was talking about any personal goals.”

Does Brosius have an opinion about where that team should rank among the greatest in baseball history?

“I don’t know what the 1920-whatever Yankees were like,” he said. “I do know this: We won a whole lot of games that year and we were able to top it off by winning the championship. And there’s a lot of teams that have had good regular seasons and were not able to finish the deal, so to speak. And I think it was hard to find a weakness with that team.

“So it’s got to rank up there. Wherever people want to put us, I just think it’s really awesome to be part of that conversation.”