June 22, 2019


A Conversation with Phil "The Vulture" Regan (David Laurila, June 21, 2019, Fangraphs)

The New York Mets made an out-of-the-box move yesterday, hiring 82-year-old Phil Regan as their interim pitching coach. The former big-league hurler, and longtime coach, takes over for Dave Eiland, who along with understudy Chuck Hernandez, was relieved of his duties in the throes of what has been an underachieving season.

As you should be aware, Regan's nickname is "The Vulture." It was given to him by Sandy Koufax, in a year that Regan went 14-1 out of the Dodgers bullpen with 21 saves and a 1.62 ERA. Prior to that 1966 season, he'd pitched primarily as a starter for the Detroit Tigers, the team he grew up rooting for in rural Michigan. Overall, Regan appeared in 551 games, for four teams, from 1960-1972. [...]

Laurila: You ended up signing with them after graduating from high school.

Regan: "I did. As a kid, I never really got to play many games of baseball, because I lived out on a little farm, near a little town. Mostly I threw against a barn, with my brother, and stuff like that. But I had a good arm, and after graduating I was invited to Tiger Stadium to work out. They offered me a contract, but I decided that I wanted to go to Western Michigan [University]. After a year at Western, I decided to sign with the Tigers. From there I went into their minor league system."

Laurila: How much did you sign for?

Regan: "At that point in time, if you got more than $4,000, you had to stay with the major league team for two years. That' s a guy like Al Kaline. The year I signed, there were two players -- an outfielder named Jim Small, and a left-handed pitcher named Jim Brady -- who got those bonuses and had to stay with Detroit. My signing bonus was $2,700. Then I got $250 a month, playing in Jamestown, New York. This was in 1956."

Laurila: I understand that you learned your slider from a Tigers pitcher who'd starred in the 1930s.

Regan: "Schoolboy Rowe. This has always amazed me. I was a young high school kid, and I was down at a clinic in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He told me I had a good arm, but that it was too low; I needed to get it up, or big left-handed hitters would eat me up in pro ball. Being a high school kid, I didn't listen.

"In the spring of 1958, I was with the Birmingham club. We trained in Ocala, Florida, and Schoolboy Rowe came down there. The first thing he said when he saw me throw was, 'You have to get your arm up higher.' Then he said, 'We're going to get you a different breaking ball.' He taught me a slider -- I picked it up really quick -- and it became probably my best pitch. And I did change my motion. I used to have a low, smooth delivery. From that, I became kind of a short-arm, herky-jerk pitcher. I cut my walks in half that year. Two years later I was in the big leagues."

Laurila: What do you remember about your debut?

Regan: "I came up from the [Triple-A] Denver Bears and pitched against the old Washington Senators [on July 19, 1960]. I relieved Jim Bunning. We got beat -- Pedro Ramos shut us out; I think he pitched a one-hitter -- and the one run I allowed was on a home run by Harmon Killebrew. I went five innings.

"The 25,000 people who were there [at Detroit's Briggs Stadium] seemed like 100,000 to me. The town I was from is about 1,200 people, and you don't see a lot of fans in the stands in the minor leagues, so that was quite the experience for me."

Posted by at June 22, 2019 7:52 AM