Old hat for Hatteberg
A's contributor recalls Sox ties
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Unlike most members of the 2003 Red Sox, Scott Hatteberg was there when Boston last won the American League East, under Kevin Kennedy in 1995. He made his major league debut in September of '95, hitting a pinch single off David Cone in Yankee Stadium.
Hatteberg was a semi-regular with the Sox when Jimy Williams went with Pete Schourek in Game 4 of the 1998 Division Series. He watched David Justice win the game and the series with an eighth-inning double off Tom Gordon.
He was there in 1999 when Pedro Martinez came out of the bullpen to pitch six innings of no-hit relief in Cleveland. Hatteberg was also there when the Yankees beat the Red Sox four times in five tries in the 1999 ALCS.
Just two years ago, Hatteberg was with the Sox when Joe Kerrigan took over for Williams and the Sox ended the season in disgrace. Those were the final days of the Yawkey/Harrington/Duquette era, when the Sox feuded like spoiled children while America recovered from 9/11.
"Implosion," Hatteberg remembers. "That was a bad thing."
Hatteberg goes all the way back to Lou Gorman, for gosh sakes. Way back in 1991, he was selected with a draft pick that was compensation for Mike Boddicker signing as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals. Hatteberg played with Roger Clemens, who played with Wade Boggs, who played with Carl Yastrzemski, who played with Pumpsie Green, who played with Ted Williams, who played with Lefty Grove, who played with Roy Johnson, who played with Danny MacFayden, who played with Ira Flagstead, who played with Mike Menosky, who played with Stuffy McInnis, who played with Babe Ruth.
This is a roundabout way of saying Hatteberg knows more about today's Red Sox than most of today's Red Sox do. He spent 11 years in the Boston organization before he was traded to the Rockies for Pokey Reese by Dan Duquette in December of 2001.
Hatteberg never played with Colorado. He was granted free agency two days after the trade, and Oakland general manager Billy Beane signed him less than two weeks later.
It was Beane and friends who thought Hatteberg should give up catching and play first base. When the Division Series starts tomorrow in Oakland, Hatteberg will be playing first base, batting fifth in the A's lineup.
Before he came to Oakland, he was a catcher. Now he doesn't even travel with the tools of ignorance. Hatteberg never has caught an inning with the A's.
"We're always trying to think of some wacko idea so that people can rip us," says Beane. "The first one to rip us in this case was Scott. We told him not to tell anybody about him playing first base. He's been great. He's also become friends with the GM, and that helps."
Last year, replacing American League MVP Jason Giambi, he batted .280 in 136 games, hitting 15 homers and driving home 61 runs. This year, he was good for .253 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs. Not exactly Giambi numbers, but the A's have kept winning.
"Scott's everyman a little bit," says Beane. "He's a critical part of our clubhouse. He's got leadership qualities. He's a guy that players gravitate to. He's a difficult guy to pitch to. He sees a lot of pitches. He's tough to strike out. He's become a very competent first baseman."
"It's baffling," says Hatteberg. "I would never have guessed this would happen. It's a crazy, crazy game. I'm learning a whole new part of the game. Just learning more about baseball. After all those years in Boston, I'm the old guy here."
So where's the catcher's mitt?
"It's not with me," he says. "If they call on me as the emergency catcher, I'll be borrowing stuff. I still have the glove, but it's gathering dust at home. There's been a couple of times when I was the emergency guy, but those days are over. Too bad because it would have been fun to catch some of the guys here. They're unbelievable."
Look for a little conversation around the first base bag when Nomar Garciaparra reaches in this series. Hatteberg stays in touch with former teammates Garciaparra and Trot Nixon during the season.
"I had so many good friends over there," he says. "It'll be good to go back and catch up. My time there was great. We went to the playoffs three times. '95 was great. I was a reserve. We had some great teams. I'm so glad I went from there to here. It prepares you to play anywhere."
Amen. The annoying theme song played at Yankee Stadium after every win features Frank Sinatra claiming that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. With due apologies to the Chairman of the Board, when it comes to baseball, the answer is Boston. If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere. And former Sox lifer Scott Hatteberg is making it in Oakland.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.