Doug Sisk II
"This guy had been biting me and the entire front of my jersey was soaked in blood.”
By ROCCO CONSTANTINO
(Part one of this interview can be found here)
One of the things about the 1986 Mets that made them so special, besides their historic success, was that they had essentially the same roster for the entire season. The lineups remained the same except for a couple of lefty-righty platoons; and the roles of the pitching staff were all but carved in stone.
The big four starters each made 30 starts and Rick Aguilera served as a swingman between the rotation and pen. Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell each saved over 20 games and low-leverage relief outings usually fell to Randy Niemann.
Although the starters usually pitched deep into games, when they weren’t able to the man whom Davey Johnson called on was Doug Sisk, who logged 70 innings out of the pen in ’86 and pitched to an ERA of 3.06.
Sisk is our guest again this week for Part II of a two-part Spitballin’.
Last week we covered his path to the Majors and the early part of his Mets tenure. This week’s stories revolve mostly around that magical 1986 season.
As with anytime the 1986 Mets are brought up, the stories are genuine and crazy. Enjoy this look back at a magical season as we go Spitballin’ with Doug Sisk.
Glad to have you back for this week’s Spitballin’ where we’ll mostly cover the 1986 Mets. I think I’d like to start with Game 6 of the NLCS, that 16-inning game with the Astros. Can you take us through your thoughts about that game?
I warmed up a couple times that game, but more or less just to add to the thought process of the Astros. That was Jesse’s game; he wasn’t coming out. He was running on fumes, but he was our guy. I had one guy I might have faced, Glenn Davis, the big first baseman. In my mind, that’s what I was set for and I wasn’t going to let anyone down. It was fun to watch, except for the home run that Billy Hatcher hit. You know, there were some rumors the next year in Spring Training that bat broke and some funny stuff came out of it.
The Astros cheating? Never! We kid. Anyway, speaking of that – the Mets hitters have spoken at length about Mike Scott and scuffing the baseballs. What were your thoughts on that?
It’s the Gaylord Perry thing. What you don’t know, you think about. I thought the hitters thought about that too much. I’m not getting on the hitters because I don’t hit. Everybody was pulling balls out of the game and they all had scuffs in the same spot and it was a spot that would lead to that kind of activity on pitches. Mike Scott threw hard. When he was with the Mets, he threw hard but it wasn’t working out for him. Then whatever happened when he went to Houston turned him into what he was. If he was cheating and scuffing the balls or if the catcher was doing it, then so be it. There was something going on, as far as our hitters were thinking. I can’t say for sure because I never saw any of the balls. As far as having to face him in Game 7, I’m glad we didn’t have to do it.
You never brought your good car to Shea because they would key your cars out there. You had fans following you home and figuring out where you lived.
On to a few World Series questions. First, what were your thoughts going into the World Series?
We won the division by so many games and we clinched it so early that we went through the motions the last month of the season. Then we had a rough go of it with Houston. You can’t turn it off and then turn it right back on. You have to go full bore all the time and we learned a lot about that. You have to be balls to the wall all the time. We had gone through an emotional championship series and so did Boston. Hendu [Dave Henderson] hits that one out off of Donnie Moore and that was it. We were a very talented team and the Red Sox had their talent too. The Red Sox had something we didn’t though. They didn’t like us. They didn’t like the press we got and didn’t like that they were underdogs. I think that steered them into hyperspace against us. I really do. The Mets fans expected us to win the World Series. From Spring Training everyone expected us to be champions and that put a lot of pressure on us. But after the first two games, everything loosened up and we played the way we could. But then again, we had that play at first base and if that play is made, who knows what happens next?
Let’s lead right into the Buckner Game. Rick Aguilera had been pinch hit for earlier that inning, so were you next in line on the mound if that play was made? Also, did you see the play happen? Take us through your experience of the Mookie-Buckner play.
That whole game was such an emotional game for both sides. The Red Sox thought it was over. They even had the sign flashing on the video board congratulating them. When that ball was hit to first base, I was like “Oh God, where’s my jacket?” I always thought the coverage we had all year helped us. We had been on so much national TV all the time and we were used to the big stage. You never want to play a game where you want the ball to be hit to somebody else. The most ultimate thing to want to do on a baseball field is to have the ball in your hand in the seventh game of the World Series with a chance to win it. What I’m saying is that every person on our entire team wanted to be that guy in the big spot. You can’t go in scared or nervous. You have to go along with what Davey Johnson was thinking and then get yourself mentally geared. Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco had already pitched and Aggie was pinch hit for. I was ready.
I saw the play happen. I was warmed up already and sitting up on the big chair we had in the bullpen. I saw the ball hit and the place just erupted. Running through the tunnel to get to the clubhouse, we could feel the whole stadium shaking. I never felt Shea Stadium shake that way.
I think with all the incredible moments that have been relived throughout the years, some of the pitching performances get overlooked. Not just in Game 6, but in the entire postseason. There were some huge performances from both teams.
You know though, some of the guys you thought were going to do great jobs struggled at times. Dwight Gooden struggled in the World Series. Nolan Ryan struggled in the NLCS. Sid Fernandez was our savior. Davey didn’t want to use him much because he was a lefty fly ball pitcher and the balls fly over the wall at Fenway Park. But Sid was the one who had that great relief appearance. There were a lot of people who you didn’t think would be a big deal, but they became a big deal.
In Game 7 when Jesse was out there to close it, they had Dwight in the bullpen warming up. He was going to be the next guy if something happened with Jesse. It’s funny because around the seventh inning, there was an announcement to fans that they were not to tear up the field if we won. They destroyed Shea when we clinched it [in the regular season]. They tore up the mound, ripped out home plate and big patches of grass. So for the World Series, the police went out along the warning track on their horses. The horses walked around and made their presence known. Then they came into the bullpen area, which they were using as a staging area. Well, Dwight was warming up and he was throwing the ball so Goddang hard that it was popping and scaring the shit out of the horses! The horses were jumping around, but Jesse finished it off. None of the bullpen guys got to run out onto the field. We went straight into the tunnel to the clubhouse.
As a kid, I remember every player on that team being so much larger than life. What was your experience like as the toast of New York?
You never brought your good car to Shea because they would key your cars out there. You had fans following you home and figuring out where you lived. Everyone was trying to get a piece of you in New York. Dwight was having a tough time even getting to the ballpark. One day, he was shopping in Queens and when he came out of the store, there were thousands of people around his car. He couldn’t even get to it and didn’t get to the park on time. We told him, “Doc, you gotta get rid of your license plate!” It was a personalized plate that said “DOC 16.” There were so many people trying to get a piece of the action. It wasn’t until the winter that the White House invited us to visit with President Reagan. The rumor was they were afraid of what the Mets would do to their new china.
That’s great. Has to be pretty cool to meet the President, especially after a big win like that.
Yeah, it was great. Two years later President Bush came into our clubhouse a few times in New York. We also had President Nixon in the clubhouse a lot. Actually, President Nixon’s bodyguard went to high school in Tacoma where I live. His name is Mike Endicott. One day they told us that President Nixon was coming and there would be dogs sniffing around. I came back to my locker and there was a guy sitting on my stool with an earpiece in. He said to me, “Are you Doug Sisk?” I said I was and he introduced himself. He said, “I’m Mike Endicott, President Nixon’s bodyguard. Would you like to meet him?” Of course I said I would. Nixon got caught for what he did, but I was a big fan of his. Endicott brought him over and he went through my life like he’d been briefed. Nixon said, “How is it living in the Pacific Northwest? How’s your wife Lisa?” I was like, “Holy shit, what’s going on?”
He actually sat behind home plate during the World Series in the family-only section. Endicott met my dad at a game. He asked my dad if he wanted to meet President Nixon and of course he said yes. Nixon came up to my dad, who was a sheriff in Seattle, and said, “I understand you’re an officer. Thank you for your service!” My dad was like, “Shit, how does he know this stuff?” I went fishing with him down in the Bahamas and was fortunate to do a lot of things with him. Later I was traded to the Orioles and we were playing the Yankees. I got a call from Endicott saying President Nixon was going to be at the game and wanted to go to dinner. I told the guys on the Orioles that President Nixon was going to come in the clubhouse and come see me. They were like, “Yeah, OK, sure.” But then here comes Richard Nixon right through the crowd and right to me. He says, “Doug! How are you doing young man? Sorry the Mets traded you to the Orioles. I had a gift for you but I left it in my study.” The next day he went back to his study and got it to me. It was a book on his affairs and he signed it, “From a Mets fan to an Orioles fan every time Doug Sisk pitches, Richard Milhouse Nixon.” Unbelievable. Still have it.
The reach of the 1986 Mets is really incredible. Talk about having friends in powerful places!
Jesse Orosco’s son was baptized at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan by Cardinal O’Connor. He was like second or third in line to the Pope. I was going to be a part of the process. Me, Jesse, the Godparents and everyone. Prior to that, we had to go to a waiting room and they explained what we needed to do. They told us if you meet the Cardinal and he holds his hand straight out to shake it, you shake his hand. If he holds his hand out with his ring up, you have to kiss his ring. I was so damned concerned with that! This was in 1985 and I was having a rough year. When I met the Cardinal, I said, “I’m having a rough year. Do you think you could talk to the Big Guy upstairs?” He said, “Consider it done, my son.”
These stories are amazing. Stuff I never heard before. Shoot, instead of me asking questions, you can just take it away with some stories if you’d like!
Here’s one. We had this psychiatrist who came into the clubhouse. Frank Cashen decided to get us a shrink and his name was Dr. Lans. He would come in the clubhouse and observe us, but he had some target people Frank sic’ed him on. This poor guy paid for it dearly. He’d go into the room where we’d eat and as soon as he’d walk in, guys would start drooling or chewing food and spitting it out. Doing crazy things. One of the guys he went after was Randy Myers. Randall K. Myers could be an odd dude. Frank sent Dr. Lans to talk to him and he made the move. He went up to Randy and said, “Hi Randy, I’m Dr. Lans. I hear you’re from Brush Prairie, Washington.” Randy got real quiet because he knew what this was about. Dr. Lans said, “I just want to sit here and chat with you.” Randy asked who sent him and he told him that Frank Cashen did. Randy said, “You need to go speak with Frank! He’s the one with a problem, not me.” Then years later Randy Myers nailed a teammate with a taser gun in the clubhouse when he was with the Padres. We had a lot of crap going down.
You came back for the Old Timers Game last year. What was that experience like, being back?
I was involved in one in 1983 as a player, but this one was different. They gave every one of us a ring with our name on it. We had bags, uniforms, hats, bats, money. They put us up downtown in New York. Steve Cohen really went out of his way and did it right. Fans responded to it. The fans were nuts. They had a red carpet thing before we went into the clubhouse and there were thousands of people standing there. Fans were so excited. When Howie Rose went to introduce us, he said, “Now, representing the 1986 Mets…” and he couldn’t even finish the sentence because the fans were so loud. It was so great to see guys I haven’t seen in years. I saw Cleon Jones, who was our hitting instructor in the minor leagues. Of course getting to see John Stearns was a tearjerker. They treated everybody first class. I hope they do more of them. They had us in a suite with beer, wine, food, and whatever we wanted. Then they had buses to take us back to Manhattan. Very classy.
Mr. Sisk, I was 12 years old in 1986, you guys are all my heroes. Thank you for sharing these amazing stories. Such an honor to talk with you. On the way out, I’m just going to give you the floor for one more story to leave our readers with. Take it away, sir!
Thank you. My wife doesn’t want to hear these stories anymore, so I’m happy to share them with you! So out of all the trophies I have, there’s one thing I prize the most. It’s a special badge. One day an older gentleman came into the bullpen with a golf bag looking for autographs. There was a retired police officer there for security named Charlie. He told the guy to leave, but he said he was with the FBI and wanted autographs. Charlie wouldn’t let him through. The guy got a little flustered, so they called Frank, the head of security. He’s a monster; about 6’6”. Frank came down and told the guy to leave and again, he said he was with the FBI and wouldn’t leave.
This guy pulls away from Frank and starts going into the bag. Frank hits him, and now I jump on him. I have him in an arm bar and Randy Myers had him by the leg and he’s just cranking on it. There’s a lot of screaming going on. This was all during a Game of the Week game and they picked up the fight. Joe Garagiola said there was a disturbance in the Mets bullpen. Davey Johnson called down and Vern Hoscheit told him everything was under control. Davey said, “OK, well tell Doug to warm up.”
This guy had been biting me and the entire front of my jersey was soaked in blood. I sprinted down to the clubhouse about 75 yards away, got a new jersey, warmed up and went into the game. After the game was over, they took me in the training room and told me the guy was actually an escapee from Bellevue Hospital. They told me the golf bag was filled with used syringes and I needed to go for testing. That scared the shit out of me, but everything was cool. A few weeks later, I was in the bullpen and all of a sudden, three police officers came down and they’re dressed in their ceremony colors. They asked if I was Doug Sisk. I said I was. They saluted me and handed me a badge. It said, “Shea Stadium Security, Number 39, Doug Sisk.” That’s what I got for nailing that son of a bitch! I still have it to this day and I feel really good about it.