Jack McDowell was one of the more dominant pitchers in all of baseball in the early to mid nineties.
The three-time All Star spent over a decade on a Major League mound, recording more than 100 career wins.
In 1993, the man known as “Black Jack” led the league in wins and captured the American League Cy Young Award.
In our newest Card Back Q&A, we talk with the standout pitcher about his second career as a rock star, pitch counts, the pride he took in fielding his position and more.
Tony Reid– The back of your 1991 Studio card, under hobbies and interests section, says ‘he moonlights as a progressive rock recording artist and released first single “Free Town” during 1990 season.’ Obviously, your accomplishments and career in music are pretty well known to fans who’ve been around awhile. This might be the first baseball card to mention it. Can you speak to balancing those two, on the surface, very different passions?
Jack McDowell-Oh, yeah. That’s funny we’d just started doing it. Then there’s another funny baseball card they came out with a picture of me playing guitar. One of the Pinnacle cards (1992 Sidelines) and it just shows me playing guitar and that’s a baseball card they put out.
There are two funny cards. That’s a funny one and then there’s also one baseball card with me hitting. That’s what I always joke about. I say ‘here’s me hitting. Guess what? No Major League pitcher has ever gotten me out in the season.’ That’s how good I was. That’s because I never had an at bat in an official game. That (photo) had to be during Spring Training. You get to the National League field and you have to hit. I hadn’t practiced hitting since the beginning of college.
Finally after facing John Smoltz during one of the Spring Training games, I met him at an autograph signing last month. I showed him a picture of himself which is one of the ones that I will show kids when they’re learning how to throw a curve ball or a slider, the positioning of his hand ready to throw the ball. I have a picture of that on my phone. I have a picture of mine, him and Sandy Koufax. I’m like look, you have to be ready and in the position to throw it before you throw it because if you just start throwing like a fastball then twist your arm that’s when you’re going to blow your elbow out. That’s what happened and that’s one of the things I show them. I’m like ‘look kids, Smoltzy had a great slider but it actually was more of a slurve.’
He struck me out. He threw me two fastballs and I had two line drive foul balls opposite field. I hadn’t faced pitchers throwing that hard and all of a sudden he’s throwing hard. The third pitch was a slider but it dropped down a lot. It wasn’t just a cutter slider it was a curve. By seeing that picture, I’m like OK, he’s set up like a curve ball but he’s touched it at a ¾ angle and not 12 to 6 throw.
TR- A somewhat obscure card in 1993 found in Baseball Cards Magazine mentioned that you had 51 total victories during the three prior seasons, and it also mentioned you recording 28 complete games in the previous two seasons, ‘an almost unheard of total in today’s relief pitcher age.’ That’s what the card said back then. Imagine what that card would say today. I have to ask what are your thoughts on the mentality of pitching and the way the sport has evolved, for better or worse, at this point?
JM-I don’t get why they’ve changed that part of it. The thing about pitching with anybody is just when you’re going good you shouldn’t just come out of game because it’s pre-determined we’re going to do this and that. If you’re throwing good, you don’t just go out there with the same exact stuff, the same command and the same everything every single time. Sometimes you are going to go out there and feel good. The other team, when starting to beat you up, should determine when you come out of the game or not.
Also, the pitch count thing is not an injury related thing. The thought that just because you throw 150 pitches that it will lead to injury. No, if you are throwing good and you are in your mechanics all the way through and you throw a complete game with a ton of pitches you wake up the next day and your arm is fine and you feel great. Then there are some games when you are a little bit off and you have a bad couple of innings you get taken out of the game and you wake up the next day so sore. It could be the mound that messed up your mechanics. I have talked to so many old school pitchers about that. The thing is, when you are allowed to keep pitching through that it gives you the strength and the mobility to deal with the bad day and not get injured but just be a little sore.
TR– It really raises eyebrows to many in baseball when pitchers came out of games with no-hitters intact. That seems absolutely insane
JM-They did that with (Clayton) Kershaw. He had a perfect game in the playoffs! Wait a minute. What did he throw his first ball of the game? How can you not leave him in there? What you’re doing is you are also saving the guys in the bullpen for the next day. It’s also giving them a couple days off rather than throwing every single day. I don’t know. I don’t understand that part, why they have decided that that part of it.
TR–It takes just one glance at the back of any of your later card to see that your stat line from like 1990 to 1995 is just awesome. If there is one stat or fact that you would want listed on the back of any card what is the stat that wasn’t put out there that isn’t common knowledge that you’re most proud of? What was like the one stat you would want on a card back?
JM-I would want to list a lot of my defensive stuff. I didn’t get any Gold Gloves. I grew up as a shortstop and pitcher. It’s funny, because as I became a pitcher only in college, even though I went to Stanford as the shortstop/pitcher and then I just got turned into a pitcher only but a lot of the scouts that had seen me say I would have made it in the big leagues as shortstop. I didn’t get to hit but I could make plays and I got a lot of stuff done. I forget exactly what season it was but that season I ended up with the most double play starts, with ground balls hit back to me. I had the most of those. I had the best overall chances with no errors and I led the league with pickoffs. How do you not get a Gold Glove with all that stuff?