A Q&A with 20 Game Winner Dave Boswell
Dave “Bos” Boswell, a 6’ 3” 185 pounder from Baltimore, Maryland was born on January 20, 1945. Signed by Minnesota as a free agent in 1963 he debuted with Minnesota in 1964 and pitched for the Twins through 1970 before being released by Minnesota on April 9, 1971. Dave, signed with the Tigers and pitched for them for a short time before hooking up with Baltimore. Dave pitched in his final big league game in September of 1971. His career was cut short by an arm injury he suffered while pitching to Frank Robinson in the 10th inning of the 1969 ALCS against the Orioles. Boswell was an “old school” player who wanted to pitch whenever he had a chance and if he wasn’t pitching he wanted to get in as a pinch hitter or pinch runner. It was all about the competition and winning with Dave, I guess that is why he and Billy Martin got along so well in spite of the fight in Detroit.
John: How did you sign with Minnesota?
Dave: I signed with Minnesota as an amateur free agent in 1963. The Yankees offered me the same deal that the Twins did and I always wanted to play for the Yankees but they already had pitchers like Whitey Ford, Al Downing, Jim Bouton, and a number of others so we decided my best chance was with Minnesota.
John: What pitches did you throw and what was your best pitch?
Dave: My best pitch was when I threw a strike. LOL. I threw a fastball, slider, and a curve. I never really threw a real changeup because my curveball was about 80 miles per hour and it served as my off speed pitch. One day I came up with a 4th pitch, they call it a split finger now days, and I will never forget it as long as I live. I was in winter instructional league at Al Lopez field in Tampa and I went into my windup and I dropped my hands and wound up like an old timer a little bit, sometimes I would come right out of the glove but my right hand brushed the right side of my right leg and the ball dislodged a little bit off my fingertips and so I was only holding on to the ball with my middle finger and I took my trigger finger and I tried to squeeze as hard as I could and push the ball and I threw the ball and I will never forget this as long as I live, I was facing a right handed batter in Ron Swoboda and he swung at it for strike three and the ball just went down and dropped just like it was a screwball but it wasn’t a screwball because I threw it hard and he said what the hell was that? I told him it was a new pitch, LOL. Tell you what John, that turned out to be my favorite pitch and I threw it mainly to left handers.
John: That is very interesting, I guess you were ahead of your time.
Dave: Times have changed so much now, Tony Oliva told me that Bos, you could not be a coach now days, things have changed so much, these players today would drive you crazy.
John: Your progressed thru the minor very quickly, like you said, you came up and pitched in the majors at the age of 19, can you tell me about that?
Dave: To be honest with you, even as a little boy I could always throw the ball hard. My Dad pushed and pushed me towards the game and I didn’t really like baseball back then but it made everybody else happy when I did do that so I stayed with it. One of the things that my Dad was responsible for was when I was getting ready to sign as a free agent my Dad told the Twins that I would sign with them but they had to agree that I would be seen by the major league club within my first year. I had a hell of a spring that year, I had a great spring, I was batting and doing things and pitching so well that Sam Mele didn’t know if I was a left fielder or a pitcher. The other pitchers would get mad at me asking why I was still hitting after the other pitchers and catchers were going about their business. Oh my gosh, it was so much fun back then! I am having a ball now too, this is my first year of really being retired and I enjoy watching 3-4 games on TV each night instead of 3-4 innings here and there. I am enjoying baseball more now at 63 years of age then I have my entire life. I have become a Nationals fan too and as you know I live in the Baltimore area, they are fun to watch and they are giving the kids a chance to play. Some of these managers are killing me in how they handle pitchers, I just don’t know. One year in spring training we won like 10 games in a row, Jim Kaat would pitch 2 innings, I would pitch two, Jim Perry would come in and pitch three and then Mudcat would come in and pitch one and we won 10 games in a row that way. I said, why don’t we do that all the time, LOL. My goodness, today, six innings and the starter is gone, you better get your popcorn quick or you will miss him.
John: We have Bert Blyleven here as our TV announcer and he is always talking about how the pitcher is the best athlete and he is so down on pitch counts and that they throw 6 innings and they are outta there.
Dave: You got it, first off, Bert is a great friend and you know, he took my job after I got injured. Unfortunately I got hurt and just kept throwing and throwing. Back then when you were a kid before you signed when you were 17 or 18, you threw maybe 100 innings of high school ball and then they would send you to the winter instructional league. So in a year you could throw 400 innings as a young kid back then. My arm held up for about 8 years but that one pitch just snapped it real bad and I was done and I went on for another year after that but it wasn’t any fun you know when you can’t throw the ball like you could before the injury and you are in that much pain.
John: What was it like to make your ML debut at the tender age of 19? What are your memories of that day?
Dave: Oh Lord, I have not thought about that for years. My first pitch was at Fenway park to Felix Mantilla (and Earl Battey was my catcher) and it was a home run, the next hitter was a rookie named Tony Conigliaro and on the first pitch he hit a double off the wall that would have been a home run in most parks, anyway, Carl Yaztremski came up and I kind of looked around the stadium and I remember how the smoke would kind of billow up over the lights they had back then and I said to myself, come on, you got your stuff, let’s throw him a good one. On my first pitch to Yaz he hit a double down the right field foul line. I was sweating when I got back on the mound and Earl Battey came running out and Manager Sam Mele came out of the dugout and Dick Stuart was the next hitter and he was in the on deck circle swinging 3 bats at the same time. Mele said, “Bos, you OK?” I said I am fine, all I need to know and I was dead serious when I said this was “is this next guy a first ball hitter”? LOL and the guys cracked up. On the way back to the bench Mele yelled at Battey and asked him “how is he throwing”? Battey replied, “How the hell do I know, I ain’t caught one yet”. That is a true story and I struck him (Stuart) out by the way. I think we lost the game 7-6 but I was not the pitcher of record.
John: Who were your favorite Twins teammates?
Dave: My roomie was Frank Quilici and my first roommate was Camilo Pascual, I really had no problems with any teammate on the club, ever. I actually hung out more with the hitters then I did the pitchers.
John: You played for four managers (Mele, Ermer, Martin, and Rigney) with Minnesota, who was your favorite manager and why?
Dave: Mele and Martin without a doubt. Ermer was a good man but that was a hard time when he took over in the middle of the season, oh bummer, that was what broke the club apart in 1967, oh my gosh, that tore our club into pieces and changed Twins history for the next decade, not just that year, but the next decade.
John: I still can’t believe that you guys did not win the pennant that year, I was in the Navy that year and I did not get to follow the team as closely as I would have liked but losing to the Red Sox that year was brutal.
Dave: You and I both. I was in the bullpen then and begged to get in the game because I pitched well in Fenway but no luck, we should have won a game there easy. That my viewpoint and how I feel about it John. I tell you what, a fan there got my shirt, my sweatshirt, my glove, and my hat. Before I went in the dugout I ripped it off and threw it into the stands and said , you can have it, boy, I will never forget that.
John: I can’t do this interview with you Dave without asking you about the fight with Billy Martin, what was that all about?
Dave: That is a forgotten memory. Dean Urdahl wrote a book that covered it and he has God’s honest truth in there. Billy is not alive and Bob Allison who was involved is also no longer alive so it is best to be forgotten.
John: (I found the book “Touching Bases with our Memories” by Dean Urdahl and read his account of what transpired. To make a long story short it started with an age old baseball prank, a hotfoot, and it ended with Dave in the hospital with about fifty stitches. How things got from one to the other is an interesting story and I won’t spoil it for you here so if you really want to know, go out and get the book or check it out from the library and you too will know the real story of the fight at the Lindall A.C.)
John: If I remember right, you were a pretty good hitter.
Dave: I was proud of my hitting, thank you. When I signed, I signed with the Minnesota Twins as a pitcher-outfielder. I loved hitting, I really did and an old mentor of mine who had Al Kaline on his club once said I was just as good a hitter as Al Kaline and that I should forget about pitching but… I had 74 hits which ain’t bad considering you only batted every 4 days . (Dave hit 4 home runs and knocked in 22 while batting .202 during his career and was used by the Twins as a pinch runner many, many times in his tenure in Minnesota)
John: You started game 2 of the championship series in 1969 and pitched 10 2/3 innings giving up a single run, how do you remember that game? (7 hits & 7 walks)?
Dave: I had the bases loaded twice in that game and got out of it. In the 11th the first batter up was Boog Powell and I walked him, I could not believe I ended up walking him. Brooks Robinson then bunted him over to second, Mark Belanger was the next batter and I fouled him out of the first base side. Dave Johnson is the next batter (and he hit me pretty well over the years) and Billy Martin came out and said, “Bos, make him hit your slider or pitch around him”, and I said, wait a minute, do I pitch to him or walk him? It is your game Bos he said and he went back in the dugout. The first pitch I threw him was a fastball and he fouled it for a strike, the second pitch was a slider and it was a good pitch and they called it a ball, the next pitch I threw was another slider and it was a ball, and Martin said put him on so I put him on and that is when Perranoski came in and faced pinch hitter Curt Motton who hit Perranoski’s first pitch to right field and Tony Oliva separated his shoulder throwing the ball home which most people don’t know. We lost that game 1-0 and headed for home and Tony’s arm was tapped to his ribs. Tony played in game 3 with his right arm taped to his side when he was in the outfield and still, he was 2-4 that day with the bat. Those were the old days.
John: 1969 was your best year with you winning 20 games, what happened the following season?
Dave: I hurt my arm in that 1969 playoff game. I had the bases loaded and I was 2-2 on Frank Robinson in the 10th inning and I threw him a slider and it was a rocket, I let it all hang out and he didn’t even swing at it, strike 3. I had only struck out like 4 guys in that game and I needed that strikeout there. By the time I got to the first baseline going back to the dugout, my arm felt like it was going in to my jaw. Then I went out in the next inning and still tried to pitch and that’s maybe why I walked Boog Powell, because you don’t walk the first guy in a case like that.
John: Would you be willing to share what your highest annual salary was with the Twins?
Dave: I don’t even remember, it was so little I swear I don’t even remember. In 1966 after I lost 3 or 4 in a row and I ended the season 12-5 and that year I got crushed at home plate and they almost broke my back and I ended up with a dislocated back and hip. That season, before I got hurt I was leading both leagues in strikeouts, and I was ahead of Koufax and all of them. I asked Calvin for a $5,000 raise, LOL. Calvin’s response was “you got to be out of your mind”. Calvin didn’t do that because he was cheap or whatever, because I will tell what, Calvin was a great man, he came from a baseball family, he was a good man, the last of the old style owners. Now days it is all corporate and people that don’t know s*&% from shineolo in baseball, you know, they sit in an office and don’t know nothing from nothing. All they know and understand is how many are coming in the gate.
John: What is your fondest memory of being a Minnesota Twin, any one thing stand out?
Dave: Oh yeah, the people in Minnesota, the smell of the air, the airplanes that just seemed to hang in the sky as you were shagging balls at the Met, the smiles of the fans and the hospitality. I am from the Baltimore area and it is totally different then Minnesota, you know? LOL, those Minnesota people are great and I really miss them. That was the hardest thing to do, to leave the fans there; I really like the fans there.
John: If you had a chance to play baseball in another era what would it be and why?
Dave: Oh no, I played in the right era, I was born on the cusp and I played in the era of baseball, the 60’s were baseball. The 50’s were baseball too when I was a little boy. Back then you pitched baseball cards at the garages, I will never forget that. I can still remember pitching those Mickey Mantle cards.
John: What are your thought on the steroid and HGH controversy?
Dave: No, back in our day we did not do anything at all. When we played in a doubleheader on the east coast and then got on a prop plane heading west we would drink coffee and get ready to head for the next ballpark. Back in Babe Ruth’s time if there were steroids and he took them, I am sure others would do the same but just for the competition, not to cheat. They would not do it to cheat, they just wanted to be better than anyone else, to be a good as they could possibly be. That’s what competition is. You have to understand that no one really cheated until the substances were banned, once they were banned and then if a player used the banned substance, then they cheated. Ted Uhlaender, an outfielder, was a fitness fanatic and coming to spring training every year he was always on some special diet, I have no idea what, but you could not pinch his butt cheek, he was like a piece of marble, I was always amazed by him. He was really a physical specimen. LOL
John: You say you still follow baseball and you are enjoying baseball more than ever, do you ever follow the fantasy end of it?
Dave: No I don’t but I do enjoy watching the game today.
John: What are you doing today, you said you are retired?
Dave: Yes I am, I like to spend my time outside messing in the yard, putting up some lights, I like landscaping. I love it, I love the flowers and I like to see my yard looking like a golf course except that you don’t see anybody with a club. There is nothing like it John, to stay happy and live a long life this is the way to go. I used to hunt six days a week and I fed them on Sundays, LOL., but I stopped that 25 years ago.
John: Do you golf?
Dave: Used to, I had one hole in one. At my best I got to be a 7 handicapper and then I went backwards after my back started messing with me again. That collision at home plate with Russ Nixon with the Red Sox still comes back to haunt me. I was covering the plate while Roseboro was chasing a ball that got past him and I was hit by Nixon with both knees in the middle of my back. I layed on him and tagged him out and then the lights went out. I was taken off the field in a stretcher and taken to the hospital in a Mustang, how do you like that? My hip bone was where my pelvic bone should be, I will never forget that, I was out for about 3 weeks, I could not wiggle my toes without my nose hurting. It was as painful as hell.
John: What would you like to share with or say to today’s Minnesota Twins fans?
Dave: Just give the Minnesota people my love, I really do miss them.
John: Thanks so much for your time Dave and the great memories, I have really enjoyed this.