"There’s always guys who have shit years and maybe they were going through a divorce or lost a child or something.”
If you’re one of the millions who collected baseball cards when the hobby exploded in the late 1980s, Tim McIntosh is a name you’ll remember.
When the 1991 issues were released, McIntosh labeled a Rated Rookie by Donruss, a Future Star by Topps and a Rookie Prospect by Score. To young card collectors, this Triple Crown meant you had to stock up on Tim McIntosh cards. They would eventually fund your early retirement!
There was plenty of reason for McIntosh to be so highly touted. A third-round draft pick by the Brewers in 1986, McIntosh enjoyed success on the highest levels of the sport leading up to that spring.
He was a star at the University of Minnesota, a batting champ in the Cape Cod League, where he’d ultimately end up in their Hall of Fame and was consistently an outstanding run producer coming up through the Brewers minor league system.
McIntosh may not have turned into Mickey Mantle, but he played five Big League seasons and had a stint in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters before moving on to a career in scouting.
In fact, while scouting for the Yankees, McIntosh was the first scout to file a report on a certain reigning American League MVP who hit 62 home runs in 2022. His report, as well what other scouts saw, may surprise you.
Today, McIntosh is back in Minnesota where he is a successful realtor who still cherishes the stories and memoires from his time as a Big Leaguer.
We’re lucky that he’s here to share them with us, so please join us as we go Spitballin’ with Tim McIntosh.
Thanks for joining us, Mr. McIntosh! Let’s go back to the beginning to start. What was baseball like for you as a kid growing up in Minnesota?
I was born and raised in Minnesota, but moved away when I was 13. I moved back and got into real estate and got on Facebook and reconnected with my old buddies and it was like the gang got back together. You always think you remember how it was when you were a kid, but then I hear my buddies say, “Remember how far you hit that ball into the woods?” They’ll tell all these stories about playing ball as kids and there were so many. We went to school together, played baseball together and that’s all we wanted to do. I was fortunate enough to play on a travelling team in Minnesota, which there weren’t a lot of back then. We were called the Minnesota Little Gophers, the only travel team in the state and I actually played against Roberto Clemente’s kid in Puerto Rico. We’d play in California and Canada and it was around that time that I realized, “Holy shit, I’m pretty good!”
I would say so! You played college ball at the University of Minnesota. Was that something you always wanted to do having grown up there?
I applied to just about every Division I school, at least all the big boys. I mostly got letters saying that I could walk on. I got recruited to New Orleans and University Indiana, but I was still a momma’s boy and thought I’d rather stick close to home. In hindsight, it was the best thing I could have done. The Head Coach I had, John Anderson, is still the Head Coach there to this day. I actually am at this brokerage selling real estate because his wife works here as well. He’s been a part of my life since I left high school.
I went from playing for the Brewers where we had to share flights with civilians because Bud Selig was so damn cheap to feeling like I was on Air Force One with the Yankees.
It’s a great program. Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield, among others had gone through the program and were stars in the Majors when you were at Minnesota. Did you look at guys like that and think you could follow that path?
When I was at the University of Minnesota, I realized the culture John Anderson had built. He played with Paul Molitor and they were very similar. There was a great picture of Dave Winfield on the athletic department wall. He’s pitching and has this huge afro. The hat is barely on his head, he has an outfielder’s glove on and his leg is up over his head. They say he always threw the first pitch over the batter’s head to scare the crap out of everyone.
We barely had anyone from out of state playing at the University of Minnesota, but had a lot of good players. Before I had got there, Terry Steinbach had just signed. They just came off a Big 10 championship. Greg Olson from the Braves had played there. After I was there they had Danny Wilson and Denny Neagle. We were always kind of a Midwest powerhouse.
You had an amazing season playing in the Cape Cod League, winning the Thurman Munson Award. You’re in the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame too! Can you talk about how important that was to helping your draft stock?
It was kind of like when I made that 13-year-old travel team as a kid. Because of Terry Steinbach, Coach Anderson got a call from coach John Mayotte. Terry was like me, he could hit, but he didn’t really have a position at the time. Coach Mayotte asked, “Do you got any more of those raw hitters?” Coach Anderson said, “Yea I do, but I don’t know where you’re gonna play him.” I got sent out there and was teammates with Joey Cora. We actually got inducted into the Hall of Fame together, which was really cool.
Scott Coolbaugh was on our team. Scott Servais and John Vander Wal were supposed to be on the team, but they played for Team USA that summer. My old scouting nemesis who played at the University of Michigan, Hal Morris, played for Harwich that year. When I look at who played there in that era, it was so many big time players. In hindsight, I’m thinking that it was pretty impressive that I held my own with these guys.
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 1: Tim McIntosh #26 of the Milwaukee Brewers looks on before a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 1, 1990 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. The Brewers won 4-3. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
You were drafted by the Brewers in the third round of the 1986 draft. What was your draft experience like?
My draft year, the Brewers picked Gary Sheffield in the first round, Greg Vaughn went second round and they picked me in the third round. Darryl Hamilton was in that draft. I had a great freshman year, an average sophomore year and was on fire my junior year. There was a catcher down in Mankato named Fritz Polka, and now that I scouted, I get it. He was 6’2” and left handed with a cannon for an arm and had ridiculous power. He went in the second round and I went in the third. My college coach had told me I might go in the first round, so I was pissed at the time. But having that scouting experience, I can see that I went right where I should have in the third round. I didn’t think about being drafted though. I don’t even recall scouts in the stands. I’d get letters once in a while, but it wasn’t that big of a deal back then.
You made your Major League debut against the Twins. What was that like being a Major Leaguer for the first time and it coming against the team from your home state?
The first game was a memorable one because it was awful. I got called up because Charlie O’Brien was taking over for BJ Surhoff, who had gotten in a fight and got suspended. I sat there for two weeks. Talk about nervous. Sitting there for two weeks just thinking about getting into the game. Finally, they just said, “OK, you’re playing tomorrow.” Sure as shit, Mark Knudson loads the bases.
I put down a slider and he throws a fastball and it crosses me up. Hits me right in the stomach. Bob Uecker is on the radio telling people I just “took one to the boiler.” Al Newman was on third and he came running home. Al Newman didn’t wear a cup. I turn to throw and guess where I hit him. Years later, I had the picture of him sliding into home holding himself with a grimace on his face and showed him. He was like, “That was you?! Goddammit that hurt!” But that was my first game and it was terrible.
SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 04: Tim McIntosh is seen during the 2012 First-Year Player Draft Monday, June 4, 2012, at MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Paige Calamari/MLB via Getty Images)
Your first Major League hit was a pretty good one. Want to share that story with us?
It came against the Yankees and it was a home run. I was out in the bullpen warming someone up and it was a blowout, so they wanted to take Robin Yount out. The phone rang and I had my full gear on. They said, “Tell Mac he’s hitting for Yount.” I had to take all my gear off and put it in the bag. The bullpen was all the way out in right, so they open the gate and I have to run all the way along the fence. I was gassed by the time I get into the dugout. I can see the umpire rolling his finger saying, “Let’s go!” I was looking for my helmet and batting gloves and just panicking.
The guy I faced [Steve Adkins] I had faced in AAA, so I knew him. First pitch was a fastball and I wasn’t even close. I was still sucking air. I had to back out and catch my breath. The second pitch, this ding dong throws me a changeup and I hammered it to left center. I was sprinting and Don Mattingly was playing first. It had been raining and I stepped on first and slipped. My helmet fell off but I caught myself. Mattingly throws his hands up and is like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?!” I made it to home plate and Dave Parker was on deck. I had to jump to high-five him. Johnny Adams, our trainer, convinced me I was getting a standing ovation. I went to the top of the dugout and took my helmet off and started waving. Then I realized nobody was standing. Everyone in the dugout was laughing. That was Johnny’s shtick. After the game, Bob Uecker came into the clubhouse and was like, “What the fuck is going on? Mac is taking a standing ovation and we’re getting our asses kicked by the Yankees! That was the first time I almost swore on the air!” That was my first Major League hit. It took a couple years before people stopped making fun of me.
What an awesome story on so many levels! You mention Yount and Dave Parker and we talked about Paul Molitor before. What was it like being teammates with some of the best to ever do it?
There were enough times where you complain about running the bases or tagging up at third. I remember thinking one time, “You know, if Paul Molitor does this every game and does it with intensity, what the hell am I thinking?” He played hard all the time, Robin Yount too. I saw both of them get their 3,000th hit. They’d both show up to the ballpark looking like raggedy old guys. They had that wiry muscle. They’d get into those old Jacuzzi tubs that looked like they had an outboard motor in it. They’d come into the clubhouse limping, but first pitch they were balls to the wall. They were such professionals and I was fortunate to be around those guys. Then when I was on the Yankees, I was fortunate to be around Joe Torre and Mariano Rivera. They roomed me with Mariano when I first got called up. Wade Boggs was there. He could drink 60 beers and be in the clubhouse the next day for early BP.
February 26 1999: Catcher Tim McIntosh #70 of the New York Yankees poses for the camera on Photo Day during Spring Training at Legends Field in Tampa, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet /Allsport
We have heard those stories! What was that experience like being on the 1996 Yankees?
It was unbelievable. I went from playing for the Brewers where we had to share flights with civilians because Bud Selig was so damn cheap to feeling like I was on Air Force One with the Yankees. We had a bar in the middle of the plane! I remember once we stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming to refuel and someone came on the plane with about 35 pizzas. The Yankees were first class. I was there for just two months, but what an experience.
After your career you became a scout with the Yankees. How did you get into scouting?
My buddy Ronnie Brand said I should call New York every once in a while and check in with Robby Thomson and that’s what I did. Robby wasn’t there so they took a message and put it on a sticky note. Lynn Garrett was the amateur director and he happened to see my name on the note. He told them that when I called back to transfer me to him. They were looking for a scout in Northern California and that’s where I lived. When I talked to him he told me they had 100 applicants, but if I was interested I’d move to the front of the class and get the job. I said, “I don’t want the job!” He said, “Trust me, you want this job. Call your wife.” So I did and she said, “Take the job. One, you’re driving me crazy and two, we need the insurance.” So I was in the right place at the right time. Knowing the right people and never having burned a bridge worked out for me.
Good advice to live by there. In doing research for this, I came across an article about you scouting Aaron Judge in high school for the Yankees. Can you talk about that?
He was playing for my ex-father-in-law’s high school; this was literally in my back yard. I got a call saying, “This Judge kid from Linden is getting a lot of action. Check him out.” I was like, “Where did he come from? Nobody heard of him before this year.” I drove out and sat with my brother-in-law, who knew the family. Honestly, he wasn’t very good. There were some scouts on him though, so we had to keep an eye on him. My cross-checker was in town and my gut told me that if Judge gets popped and I don’t have him looked at, my ass is in trouble. I asked him to take a look at Judge. He was pitching and not even playing a position. We watched him and he said, “Wow, that’s pretty rough. Put him in the system anyway because I’ve seen crazier things happen.” My first report was that he was big and athletic and he should go to college because he didn’t have the strength.
Then there was another game at Linden and Boston’s top cross-checker was there with me. He said to me, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with this big donkey? They flew me out from the East Coast to see this?” I told him they better put him in their system because everyone was talking about him. Hal Morris was working for the Pirates at the time and he was there too.
Years later I saw this guy from Boston in Brooklyn and yelled down to him, “Hey, how’d we do on Judge?” He said, “Shit, I’m lucky to have a job!” We all missed on him though. He just wasn’t ready at the time. You could not have predicted what he is doing now. We watched him take BP and he couldn’t hit one out of the high school field in BP.
Were there any other guys you scouted who were late bloomers like that?
I had to go back five times before I saw Joc Pederson hit a home run. Marcus Semien was another guy. I thought he’d be a decent minor league player and that he wasn’t that great. Turns out that, yea, he’s a pretty damn good player. Scouting is not easy. These guys today think they can just look at some numbers and figure it out. Good luck.
This has been awesome. I appreciate you sharing your stories with us. Last question I have for you is about today’s game. As someone who was in the game for a long time in different roles, what do you think about the way the game has changed?
I go back to what Joe Torre said years ago saying that there are no analytics that can measure what’s in a guy’s heart. Take a look at Scott Brosius. He was playing on Oakland hitting in the middle of the lineup and he was supposed to be the dude and he just wasn’t. My mentor, Ronnie Brand, was a big scout with the Yankees and he was an undersized player. He had that playing experience and presented to Brian Cashman that the Yankees should get Brosius. He said he was a better fielder than he got credit for and we could plug him in at third. He thought if we hit him at the bottom of the lineup it would take the pressure off him and he’d be able to perform and solve the third base problem. Tom Gamboa, who is an awesome guy, said to me, “Timmy, when I saw the Yankees signed Scott Brosius my first thought was that whoever signed him was going to lose their job.” Then look what he did for the Yankees, winning World Series MVP. He had all these superstars around him so he didn’t have to worry. He just hit in the bottom of the lineup and played baseball. There’s always guys who have shit years and maybe they were going through a divorce or lost a child or something. There’s a human aspect to it that former players understand. I think of a conversation I had with Danny Wilson about some player coming over. I saw him at a Minnesota alumni event and he said, “Mac, we saw that and all knew he wasn’t going to work out in New York. Those are different lights in New York.” Today, they don’t find that stuff important and I don’t understand that. That stuff can play a huge role.