California native Jack McDowell was a high school standout at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, playing various positions on the diamond.
McDowell attended Stanford University, where he made an immediate impact, being named Co-Freshman of the Year, a second team All-American his sophomore season and a third team All-American in 1987. He led the Cardinal to the 1987 College World Series championship.
The big righty was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the 1987 MLB Amateur Draft as the fifth overall pick. The talented pitcher only made a few starts in the minor leagues before making his major league debut in September of 1987.
McDowell played for the White Sox for eight sensational seasons, followed by a year with the New York Yankees, two seasons with the Cleveland Indians and two seasons with the Anaheim Angels before retiring after the 1999 season.
During his peak in the early to mid nineties, McDowell was one of the most dominant pitchers in the big leagues. The three time All-Star posted a magical 1993 season as he led the American league in wins and captured the AL Cy Young Award.
Known as a dependable, reliable workhorse, McDowell led the league in complete games in 1992 and once again in 1995. He led the league and shutouts in his memorable 1993 campaign.
“Black Jack” finished his career with over 100 wins, more than 1,300 strikeouts and over over 60 complete games with 13 of those being shutouts.
He also gained a measure of fame for his talent as a rock musician.
In this recent interview with SC Daily, he talks about some fans that were too close for comfort at old stadiums around the league, the whereabouts of his Cy Young Award, memorable autograph experiences as a young Dodgers fan and much more.
TR–From your time in high school, starring at Stanford University, or even during your great big league career with the White Sox, Yankees, Indians and Angels, what was the most memorable fan interaction you’ve had?
JM-The fans were always pretty cool. One of the scariest parts was in the old Detroit Stadium. At the original Tiger Stadium, if you look at the side of the field where the bullpen was it was like the old Cubs field where the fans were directly behind you. They could smack you in the head if they wanted to. It was weird at times. They would do stuff and you thought, ‘OK, I’m not going to fight with a fan.’
TR–Being a long time pro, a three time All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner, do you have that iconic award in the house or other memorabilia from your career?
JM– There are tons of it around. I’ve got some pretty cool stuff. I’m in my office right now and I’m looking down and I’ve got a backpack from the All- Star game while I was in Cleveland. I didn’t make the team but because the game was at our home field we got to have backpacks from the game. It says All-Star Game 1997. I have tons of baseballs in this one little place in the office…yeah, and the Cy Young Award is hanging up on the wall. The balls are of so many Hall of Fame dudes and it is so sad because so many of them have passed away. My father had some from when he grew up. We have a bunch of old ones like that so it’s cool.
TR-As a huge fan of baseball and a big collector of cards, what players and teams did you root for and who did you collect?
JM– Growing up in Los Angeles, I was a Dodgers fan. The very first autograph I ever sent out was to Steve Garvey and he sent it back. That was the first one I ever got. As far as cards, I just had whatever cards I would get. That was the funny thing, they used to put them on the wheels of your bike to make that sound. Nah, I never used to do that. I would keep them and keep them good.
One funny story about autographs was that my father had a Don Drysdale signed baseball and I did it just like the movie. I took it outside and played with it because we didn’t have any other baseballs at the time. My dad was our Little League coach and he had all the baseballs in a bucket in his car and he was at work and I had a friend come over and we wanted to play out the backyard. We didn’t have any baseballs and I can grab that one off the counter and we used the Don Drysdale one and we beat it up and made it dirty. I got lucky because he was one of the radio guys in Chicago when I was playing in Chicago so I got to get him to sign a ball and get it back to my dad. ‘Here is the one I messed up.’
TR– That is redemption for sure. It sounds like a scene right out of The Sandlot.
JM-Exactly. That is exactly what it was.
TR–Your official rookie cards appeared in 1988 in Donruss, Fleer, Score Update and Topps Traded. What was it like see yourself on a baseball card for the first time?
JM– It was funny and then there were so many cards during that era that it was crazy. It really jumped up. There were only a few card companies when I was growing up. Then all of the different companies started and there are so many different cards.
TR–There is a database that shows that you have 589 different cards to date. That’s a pretty wild number. So how many of those do you think you have right now?
JM-Wow. That is crazy. I have a lot of them. I haven’t actually counted them. I put a bunch of them in my office and I every time I get one that I don’t have or one that I haven’t seen one I’ll put it up. There are probably a few hundred that I have.
Coming soon: A Card Back Q&A with “Black Jack” McDowell