A relatively recent feature that the Hall of Fame has started offering members over the last few years are free “Meet the Author” events inside the Hall. It was while visiting the Hall recently on August 15 that former Met’s fireman, a favorite of this author in his youth, was the featured speaker, highlighting his book released earlier in 2018, “Insight Pitch: My Life as a Major League Closer.” Held in previous years just inside the entrance to the Hall, Lockwood’s pitch was made from the “Bullpen Theater” in the back of the Hall.
As gifted as a storyteller as he was pitcher, Skip Lockwood began his presentation by showing and passing through the capacity crowd the glove he used during his last season in baseball. The glove is also featured on the cover of his book. Lockwood also passed around his MLB lifetime pass that allows him and a guest to attend any regular season game for free, a very nice perk negotiated by the MLBPA. Once he had his glove and pass returned from the audience, Skip spent the next two hours regaling attendees with stories from his playing days, which lasted from 1966 to 1981, and included 13 seasons in the major leagues.
Not your standard baseball memoir, Skip explained that, “The book is more about visualization and preparation. What I would like the reader to take away is that as a metaphor for other things that you do in your life, this book can be the stepping stone to how you think about those things.” Baseball is better if you plan for the negative and the positive,” added Lockwood, who said he wrote every word without the use of a ghostwriter.
“So if you plan to strike everybody out and you go out there and the first guy walks, there goes your preparation. So you have to prepare for the game as it really occurs and what you’re going to do when things don’t go well. It’s a thoughtful approach to baseball.”
A pitcher his entire career in the majors, Skip was drafted by the Kansas City A’s as a third baseman in 1965, and thanks to the bonus rules then in effect, had to spend the entire season on the major league roster or risk being drafted by another club. Not only was Hunter on the team, but another future Hall of Famer, Satchel Paige, at the reported age of 59, had a three-inning scoreless stint against the Red Sox on Sept. 25 of that year.Skip recalled that Paige “was tall and rangy – looked like somebody had left a hanger in a suit of clothes – and we lockered together that one day. I had a stool and he had a rocking chair.”
Lockwood, who was only 19 in 1965, remembered. “I really didn’t know who it was until he came in and I kind of figured it out after a group of reporters came in with him. He shared story after story. I had to go out for batting practice, but I wish I would have stayed in the clubhouse and listened to all the stories.”
“I wasn’t a great hitter in pro ball, but I was a great hitter in high school because all they had was fastballs and I could hit those. I came out of the service and back to trying to be a third baseman, but it just wasn’t there. Once they find out you can’t hit a curve that’s all you see,” Lockwood said.
“Charley Finley (owner of the Athletics) bailed me out and gave me a job as a pitcher.“There were a lot of things about being a starting pitcher that I loved, but I didn’t like waiting two or three days to have to pitch again. It wasn’t the exact right fit for me. So when I got a chance to be a relief pitcher and then the closer, that was a good fit.”
According to Lockwood, his pitching repertoire consisted mainly of a single pitch. “I’ll tell everybody exactly what I told catcher John Stearns the first day I got to the Mets. He said, ‘What do you throw?’ and I said, “I throw a fastball.’ He said, ‘Okay, I’m still listening,’ and I said, ‘You heard it. I throw a fastball,’” Lockwood said. “I had a little curveball, but it was a ‘show you’ pitch. I went out there on a wing and a prayer with those two pitches and it doesn’t take long for the batters to figure it out.”
During his speech, Skip remembered visiting the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mets during a Hall of Fame Game in the ’70s played on Doubleday Field, a short walk west of the museum. To his Cooperstown audience, Skip explained that “The Hall of Fame has always been something that was a goal – a little bit too far out of reach for me – but boy, when I played with guys that were going to go to the Hall of Fame you could see the difference. They were guys in the clubhouse that demanded a presence, they were guys on the field that you had to notice.”
Over his career, Skip Lockwood was teammates with Hall of Famers such as Catfish Hunter and Satchel Paige while with the A’s, Frank Robinson with the Angels, Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk with the Red Sox, and Tom Seaver while he was playing with the Mets from 1975 to 1977.
Lockwood explained that, “The teammate I was most in awe of was Tom Seaver and it’s hard to capture exactly what Tom Seaver meant to me. He was the ‘poster boy’ for baseball in New York. His preparation for the game was different than anybody else I had ever met. He was so intense and so thorough. He had a book on hitters as to how to get them out – I didn’t even have a book. He was a guy that I tried to model myself after. And I was a veteran player at the time. To be able to change and be thoughtful in your approach and to be deliberate in what you do every day was very new for me and Tom was the architect of that for the whole team.”
The Mets closer after Tug McGraw, Skip Lockwood enjoyed his most successful big league seasons with the Mets from 1975-79, with a 24 – 36 record, recording 65 saves to go with a 2.80 ERA.
For his career, Skip had a 57-97 record, a 3.55 ERA and 68 saves, good for 10.8 bWAR. Skip Lockwood finished his major league career in April 1981 when the Massachusetts native was released by his hometown Boston Red Sox because he had injured his pitching arm. “I enjoyed my major league career, but it ends awfully quickly.” And with those words, the speech was concluded.