Bob Miske knows what it’s like to get into a Hall of Fame. He’s done this gig before, but it never gets old.
A fixture on the Buffalo baseball scene since the 1960s, Miske is a member of the Hall for University at Buffalo Athletics, the Professional Baseball Scouts, the Mid-Atlantic Scouts and Western New York Amateur Baseball. And in 2004, he was honored by the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame for his work in baseball scouting, basketball officiating and as a baseball and basketball player at Canisius and UB.
Friday night, as part of his 50th year in scouting, he’ll be inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame in ceremonies at Coca-Cola Field.
“It’s a nice touch for me,” said Miske, a 78-year-old Eggertsville resident. “I’ve loved the Bisons for years and they’re a good organization. I’ve loved being around the ballpark, so it’s a great honor.”
Miske will be inducted into the “Stewards” category for off-the-field contributions prior to the Bisons’ game against Durham. He will be joined in the Class of 2014 by former Bisons outfielder Greg Tubbs and ex-Buffalo and Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge.
Miske is a 1961 UB graduate who began his scouting career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1964. He was with them for 30 years, until joining the Yankees for the next eight before George Steinbrenner pink-slipped several scouts after the Bombers’ 2002 division series loss in Anaheim.
Miske scouted for Seattle from 2002 to 2008, working for good friend and former Mariners GM Pat Gillick, before returning to the Yankees in 2009. He’s a fixture now in Section 100 of Coca-Cola Field, doing reports on International League teams. And whether it’s high schools or the pros, scouts’ eyes seem to be trained on pitchers more than ever.
“Everything is about velocity today. How hard is he throwing? That’s what everyone wants to know,” Miske said. “Not enough people talk about location, about change of speeds. It’s all well and good that guys throw hard. But you’ve got to have a little ‘run’ on the ball, some sink or tail.
“If somebody is throwing 93-95 mph straight and gets hit hard and is out after 1∑ innings, it’s hard to write a report. I like to see a guy really pitch and KNOW how to pitch. I put that word in capital letters. It’s very important to me.”
Miske recalled seeing a young Mike Mussina do just that in high school games in Montoursville, Pa., in the mid-1980s.
“He threw fairly hard for a high school kid at the time, got it to 92-93,” Miske said. “But he had a knuckle curve too, and he was so intelligent. He had around 1600 on his college board tests before he went to Stanford. He’d strike out 17-18 out of 21 hitters because he knew so much about pitching at an early age. It was almost not fun to watch.”
Miske has had some great triumphs in his career, like scouting Mike Piazza as a favor to Tommy Lasorda and watching him blossom (even though all the reports he and a cross-checker wrote were mostly negative).
When the Dodgers beat Oakland to win the 1988 World Series, Miske was part of an entourage of 350 employees that was sent on a 10-day trip to Italy for a meeting with Pope John Paul II. And when the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series, it was Miske and Dick Groch – the scout who signed Derek Jeter – who did much of the advance scouting on the National League champs.
Miske wants to see better facilities in the Northeast and in Western New York, and was happy to hear this week’s talk of work getting completed at the Johnnie Wiley Pavilion at the War Memorial Stadium site.
Miske remembers the glory days of the 1970s when players like Phil Mankowski, Bill Scherrer and Matt Winters dotted the Buffalo area. And in the 1977 draft he quickly recalled that three New York State pitchers were picked in the first round (Atlanta’s Tim Cole, Boston’s Andrew Madden and Kansas City’s Mike Jones), and longtime Cardinal Dave LaPoint of Glens Falls went in the 10th.
“You’ve got to play the game,” Miske said. “I see my grandson at a Lou Gehrig game and they’re warming up just playing and flipping with the ball. When we were kids, we played catch. That would lengthen the throw. Catch the ball and throw it. It’s simple but it’s two of the most important things in the game.”