Scioscia fittingly hits milestone on Mother's Day

Scioscia fittingly hits milestone on Mother's Day

Scioscia fittingly hits milestone on Mother's Day
ANAHEIM -- Mike Scioscia has a deep aversion to addressing his work in the first person. Self-promotion never has been his idea of an admirable quality.

To discover what drives and motivates a man to win 1,000 Major League games as a manager, as Scioscia has done to become the 56th man to join a select group in the game's history, you need to look to others. Inside his office, everything he says is framed around the Angels' organization.

Revealing insights into his character can be gleaned from a rare personal interview Scioscia granted last year at this time to honor the woman who meant everything to him on Mother's Day: the late Florence Scioscia.

"The lessons I got at home that helped me out in baseball had nothing to do with playing the game," said Scioscia, who notched his 1,000th win as a manager (1,000-817) on Sunday when the Angels defeated the Indians, 6-5. "They were about the perseverance you need during hard times, [that] if you believe in yourself, you never quit.

"The lessons I hope the [young players] get here have hopefully already been instilled by their home life. But not everyone was as lucky as I was."

Florence Scioscia and her husband raised three children, each drawing strength from their strength. She lived a rich, full life before passing away from breast cancer in November 1983, having just turned 62.

That was two years after she'd watched her son play on a World Series championship team with the Dodgers, beating the Yankees in Game 6 and returning home to Los Angeles to see her 22-year-old son treated like a rock star at the airport.

This was 1981, five years after Scioscia had been taken by the Dodgers in the first round (19th overall) of the June First-Year Player Draft.

With his mother's disapproval, Scioscia -- who'd signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Clemson University -- moved rapidly from the Springfield (Pa.) High School campus through the Dodgers' system, reaching the Major Leagues in 1980.

He never forgot the words she left him with as he boarded a flight in Philly for Walla Walla, Wash., in June 1976 to launch his professional career at age 17.

"Mom said, 'Michael, if you want to be a leader, the first person you have to lead is yourself,'" Scioscia said. "That was pretty profound. She was telling me something that I think I've always carried with me."

He played 1,441 Major League games, earning World Series championship rings as a player in 1981 and again in 1988. In '88, he launched his memorable homer against the Mets' Dwight Gooden to turn the National League Championship Series the Dodgers' way.

The Angels made him their manager in 2000. His era has been, by far, the most successful in franchise history -- featuring a World Series title in 2002 and five American League West titles in six seasons, a run Texas ended last year.

Scioscia, who owns Manager of the Year Awards from '02 and '09, remains as committed and hands-on as ever, keeping his team focused on that day, that game, that challenge.

It is the way he was raised by the woman who brought him into the world and shaped the man he became.

"I was 5 or 6 when my mom's dad died," Scioscia recalled. "I remember him doing nothing but working. My grandmother was pregnant with my dad when she came over from Italy.

"Those first-generation American families wanted their kids to become Americans. They wanted us to get acclimated into American life and culture. My mom made sure she learned English. They were proud people, with a sense of duty that was unbelievable."

Scioscia's mother was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Temple University at a time when it was not common for women.

"She always wanted to teach," Scioscia said. "She felt a connection to it. She taught first grade for almost 40 years."

Born in Upper Darby, Pa., and raised six miles outside of Philadelphia in Morton -- a small town named after Declaration of Independence signee John Morton -- Scioscia absorbed his mother's lessons well.

Hired by then-general manager Bill Stoneman in 2000 after serving as manager of the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, Scioscia turned it into a stroke of good fortune -- with a lot of help from friends in his tight inner circle.

Having served the Angels for 31 years as a coach, director of player development and Minor League manager and instructor, Joe Maddon interviewed for the job and was subsequently hired by Scioscia as his bench coach following a long phone conversation.

"When he first got the job, I interviewed [at] the same time he did," Maddon said. "I did not know him, then he hired me.

"Getting to know him that first Spring Training, people were asking me different questions. Even at that time, I said, 'This guy's going to manage here for at least 10 years.' I said that because I was impressed with him, and I thought he would do a good job -- and that he fit into that situation really well.

"So, the 1,000 wins doesn't surprise me. The fact that he has been there that long doesn't surprise me, because I really saw that from the first day I met [him]."

Maddon, who departed after the 2005 season to become Tampa Bay's manager, called the work environment under Scioscia "great," noting, "Great group of guys. We had an outstanding staff that worked really well together. We had a good time. We laughed. And the players benefited."

That original staff put together by Scioscia included two other coaches who would follow Maddon into the managerial ranks: Bud Black and Ron Roenicke.

Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher and first base/infield coach Alfredo Griffin, former teammates of Scioscia with the Dodgers, remain from the original staff.

"All of us who have worked under Mike admire him a great deal," said Black, San Diego's highly respected field leader. "It's a tremendous milestone. It wouldn't surprise me, if he's willing, if he gets another 1,000 [victories]. His greatest strength is his daily consistency and his daily integrity.

"I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for him, and what I learned from him, and his encouragement to take on this challenge as a manager. I think Joe and Ron would say the same thing [about] what we learned, the things we talked about and, collectively, what we learned from each other during those years."

Roenicke and Black have taken those philosophies developed in the early years of the Scioscia era and run with them, literally, in their new jobs.

"He's the same guy he's always been," said Roenicke, who came up through the Dodgers' system with Scioscia. "He's got great intelligence -- for the game and other things. Along with that, he's got common sense. They don't always go together.

"He's very secure, very confident in his abilities. When he asked me to be his bench coach [after Maddon left], I told him I was bringing my own opinions. He said he didn't want a 'yes' man.

"He always has a reason for everything he does. You may not agree with it, and I may not agree with it. But he knows why he is doing everything he does. He has thought it out thoroughly."

Maddon was the 2008 AL Manager of the Year, and Black followed suit with a 2010 NL Manager of the Year award.

"He's a good listener," Maddon said of Scioscia. "He's willing to accept new ideas. He's very strong-minded and has his own opinions, but is will to listen to others, too.

"Mike is so well grounded. He's always about getting it right. In a difficult moment, a crisis, it goes back to how he was raised. You go through defining moments coming up in a large family. You have to deal with tragedies and difficulties often.

"That's where he has come from and why he has become the person he is today. He is all about taking care of what needs to be done -- and he'll take no credit for it -- because he sees it as just the right thing to do."

Scioscia's most difficult season was his most defining, even more so than the '02 championship run. He kept his team together, with help from coaches and veterans, after promising starter Nick Adenhart was killed along with two friends in first week of the '09 season in a crash caused by a man who would be convicted of drunk driving.

"Mike's always had the ability to keep his focus and create stability -- and he needed it [that season] more than ever," said Roenicke, who also played a soothing clubhouse role during the aftermath of the tragedy.

The Angels remarkably won 97 games that season, three shy of the club record they set in '08, and took the eventual World Series champion Yankees to six games in the AL Championship Series after sweeping Boston in the Division Series.

Hatcher, as close to Scioscia as anyone, can pinpoint a turning point in the club's direction. It came after the 2001 season, the Angels having finished third in the AL West two years running, a combined 10 games under .500.

"Mike was on the phone with me all winter, talking about what we needed to do offensively," Hatcher recalled. "When he sat down with the coaching staff [before Spring Training], he said, 'This is what to expect with Angels baseball.'

"He laid it all out. That's when he came up with the philosophy you see in action today. We had a corps of guys that he thought we could win with, playing a different style. Roenicke was the third-base coach, and Mike stressed to Ron that we were going to run the bases aggressively, go first to third, pressure the other team."

Hatcher, a driving force alongside Scioscia on the Dodgers' improbable run to a World Series crown in 1988, played every inning of his career with passion. His relaxed, easy style has provided a balance for Scioscia's grinding manner.

"I remember Troy Glaus and Tim Salmon saying, 'We can't hit a ground ball to second base,'" Hatcher said. "I told them, 'That's not what we're asking. Hit a deep fly ball to right field, and that'll move a guy over.'

"It was a more aggressive way to play baseball, a whole mindset. Mike believed in it and didn't go away from it. He never has. Now, you're seeing it in a lot of other places. Guys saw what it could do."

Griffin understands why the system works.

"Players love to play for Mike because he turns them loose," said Griffin, a top-flight shortstop in his time. "He likes to play an aggressive style, old-school baseball."

Bobby Abreu, the senior Angel, has played for a variety of managers and maintains none was quite like Mike.

"He lets you play," Abreu said. "That's the best thing about Scioscia. He trusts you, and lets you play the game."

With the security of a 10-year contract, Scioscia is in a rare position. Yet ask him about himself, and he'll quickly flip the "off" switch.

"It's about the players and coaches, the organization, the scouting and development departments," he said. "It's not about me.

"It's the competition, the love of just going out and playing the game. I love watching young guys develop, seeing experienced players put everything they have into it. I love the game."

Florence Scioscia would nod in approval, a teaching job well done.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.