By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
As Scott Brow peered in at Kansas City Royals legend and three-time batting champion George Brett in the first inning of his major league debut, he remembered his game plan.
The studious Toronto Blue Jays right-hander, who had already recorded two quick outs, had been asked by a media member prior to the game how he was going to pitch to Brett.
“Well, I’m a sinker ball pitcher and he’s left-handed, so I’m going to throw him a sinker down and away and hope he beats it into the ground at somebody,” he told the reporter.
That somebody turned out to be him.
After composing himself on the SkyDome mound in front of close to 50,000 fans, Brow unleashed his best sinker and Brett swung at his first pitch and hit a comebacker to him. The rookie fielded it cleanly and threw the Royals great out at first base.
Brow discovered later that the Blue Jays TV broadcast was replaying the audio of his pregame answer while he was facing Brett.
“George Brett came up and they [the broadcast] cut to the clip of my answer of how I’m going to pitch him and while I’m saying that [in the clip] Brett hits a one-bouncer back to me and I throw it over to first and get him out. So it kind of made me look like I knew what I was talking about,” recalled Brow with a chuckle in a recent phone interview.
That was the first of three times that Brow would retire Brett in his strong six-inning debut.
Getting a Hall of Famer out three times was a tremendous accomplishment for the then 24-year-old right-hander who grew up dreaming of being an astronaut rather than a Houston Astro. And his performance was even more impressive when you consider that Brow didn’t start pitching until he was a teenager.
Born in Butte, Mont., Brow moved to Oregon with his family when he was less than a year old and they settled in Aloha, just west of Portland. He played his first Little League game when he was five and was a catcher until he reached his teens.
“My Physical Education teacher [Dick Webb] was the varsity baseball coach at Hillsboro High School and his son was a catcher,” explained Brow. “So coming into my freshman year, my PE teacher called me in and said, ‘Hey, Scott. You know that my son, Greg, is a catcher.’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘And you’re a catcher.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘You’re not going to catch on varsity over my son.'”
The coach suggested that Brow try pitching, which proved to be a fortuitous move. The tall, lanky right-hander would dominate and was named to the All-State Team as an Honourable Mention. But despite his high school success, he attracted little interest from scouts.
“I wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school,” noted Brow. “I was 6-2, 150 to 155 pounds as a senior. So I was a tall, skinny guy.”
Fortunately, he was also an excellent student who aspired to be an aerospace engineer. His marks earned him some academic scholarships and he enrolled in the engineering program at the University of Washington.
But he also wanted to continue playing baseball, so he approached the school’s baseball coach Bob MacDonald and asked the coach to come and watch him play in the Metro State All-State All-Star game, which was a showcase for Oregon’s top young players.
“Fortunately when he came down to see me, I pitched really well,” recalled Brow. “So he sent me a Letter of Intent later that same day, so I got a small athletic scholarship.”
By his junior year, however, Brow was a leading pitcher on the squad and had earned All-Northern Pac-10 Team honours. He was also selected to the Nor-Pac All-Star Team.
“I had gone from a 155-pound freshman to a 190-pound junior,” explained Brow. “And my fastball went from 82 miles per hour to 93-94.”
He also noticed a lot more scouts at his games and for the first time he began to consider pro baseball as a career option.
As the 1990 MLB draft approached, Brow knew the Chicago Cubs were interested in him. He had also met Toronto Blue Jays scout Andy Pienovi. On draft day, he thought he was going to be selected by the Cubs in the fifth round, but they opted for right-hander Tyson Godfrey and Brow had to wait two more rounds to be selected by the Blue Jays.
“I knew nothing about Toronto,” he said. “I had seen the Blue Jays, but I grew up watching the Cubs and Braves.”
And Brow wasn’t quick to sign with the Blue Jays. He had done his homework and he knew minor league life was tough. He was also enjoying his college courses and playing for an up-and-coming baseball program.
“I had also been selected to play for Team USA. I was supposed to go play in Europe that summer,” said Brow. “And I was heading into my senior year and our college team was on the rise . . . So I had a lot of other opportunities and I used that in my negotiations with the Blue Jays.”
But Brow and the club would finally come to terms.
“They paid for the rest of my school which was great,” he said. “Then I got some money to put in the bank which was enough to get me through the minor leagues. But I set a goal for myself that I would play minor league baseball for three years, and if after that, I’m not sniffing the big leagues, I’m out. I’m going to head back and finish school and start being an engineer.”
After he signed with the Blue Jays, Brow reported to their class-A Short-Season affiliate in St. Catharines where the season had already started. He pitched in relief for his first two appearances and then was inserted into the starting rotation. Overall, he fared very well in his first pro season, posting a 2.27 ERA in nine games while throwing primarily to an 18-year-old catcher named Carlos Delgado.
“First of all, Carlos was an impressive physical specimen. I mean when you looked at him, the dude was built and he had that million dollar, infectious smile,” said Brow when asked what he remembered about Delgado that season. “And then he could rake. The guy could just murder the ball. I thought he was a good catcher. I loved that guy.”
Brow’s performance in St. Catharines earned him a promotion to class-A Dunedin in 1991 where he struggled, but was introduced to two of the most influential coaches in his career: manager Dennis Holmberg and pitching coach Bill Monbouquette.
Through his struggles in 1991, Monbouquette helped Brow develop a changeup and fine tune his mechanics, but most importantly, he offered positive encouragement.
“He said, ‘All of the stuff we’re working on, it’s not clicking right now, but I’m telling you, it’s going to click and when it clicks, you’re going to be great.’ He kept enforcing that with me,” remembered Brow.
And Monbouquette was right, when Brow returned to Dunedin in 1992, he went 14-2 with a 2.43 ERA in 25 starts and topped the Florida State League with 170 innings pitched.
“We also had a really good team,” said a modest Brow. “We had Shawn Green, Carlos Delgado and Rob Butler. We had a stacked team.”
That breakout season put Brow firmly on the radar of the Blue Jays’ big league brass and he began the next season with the double-A Knoxville Smokies and made three starts before being called up on April 27 when Blue Jays pitcher Al Leiter was sidelined with a blister issue.
The next day, Brow spoke to the Toronto media before his start and then got ready for the game.
“I remember walking in from the bullpen and Galen Cisco turned to me and said, ‘So are you nervous?’ And I’m like, ‘Well I wasn’t until you just said something,’” said Brow. “With 50,000 Canadians yelling and screaming at the SkyDome, it was an exhilarating feeling — much, much different than what you get in the minor leagues.”
But if Brow was nervous, he sure didn’t pitch like it. In fact, he retired the first 10 Royals batters he faced and had a no-hitter through four innings.
“I’ve watched that game over the years and the frustrating thing for me is that through 4 2/3rds I had given up one hit and one walk, and then I gave up four runs in that fifth and then I had a three-up, three-down sixth,” recalled Brow. “So other than that little blip the game was almost perfect.”
The Royals won 5-3, with Brow saddled with a tough-luck loss, but he impressed manager Cito Gaston enough to earn another start a week later before being sent down to triple-A Syracuse.
After making 20 appearances – including 19 starts – in triple-A, he was recalled again when Mike Timlin went on the disabled list in mid-August.
“When I got called up again, I sat,” he remembered. “I didn’t do anything. I think I went something like 35 games without seeing any action.”
But after the Blue Jays had clinched the American League East, Gaston gave Brow the start in the regular season finale against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Facing an O’s lineup that included Hall of Famers Harold Baines and Cal Ripken Jr., Brow outdueled Orioles’ ace Ben McDonald, allowing four hits and four runs in six innings to secure his first big league win in the Blue Jays’ 11-6 victory.
“It was pretty exciting to say that I’ve got my first win and that I could put that first win ball on my mantel,” said Brow.
Brow was the “alternate” pitcher for the Blue Jays during the playoffs that year. If one of their pitchers had been injured, Brow would’ve been activated, so he was in the dugout for the team’s post-season run, including for Joe Carter’s walk-off World Series-winning homer off Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Mitch Williams.
“I was on the bench just praying,” said Brow when asked where he was for Carter’s historic at bat. “In fact if you go back and watch, you’ll see me. My hands were sweating bullets. I was just praying that we were somehow going to win that game . . . And after he hit the home run, if you watch the tape, I’m one of the first guys at the plate. I’m one of the first guys to grab him.”
At around the 30-second mark of this video, you can see Brow, wearing No. 44, at home plate welcoming Carter after his historic World-Series winning homer.
Brow would play parts of two more campaigns with the Blue Jays (1994, 1996), before spending a season with the Braves’ triple-A affiliate in Richmond, Va. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent in December 1997 and pitched in 18 contests for them in 1998 before he was swapped to the New York Yankees that June. He toed the rubber for the Yankees’ triple-A Columbus Clippers for the rest of that season.
Prior to the 1999 campaign, he inked a deal with the Angels and was assigned to the triple-A Edmonton Trappers where he recorded 15 saves.
Following that season, he opted to hang up his spikes and complete his mechanical engineering degree at the University of Washington. He landed his first job as an engineer with Motorola and then was hired by ON Semiconductor in 2004. He is still with the company, which is based in Phoenix, Ariz., and he’s now the director of product and test engineering. In his position, he oversees a team of 57 people in seven countries.
He says he used to break out his 1993 World Series ring for special occasions, including University of Washington alumni events and in some business meetings.
“I’ve brought it overseas for customer visits and many of the customers were excited when they saw it. It’s an icebreaker and everybody just kind of relaxes in a potentially tense meeting,” he said. “Then they want to go out and have beers after and talk about baseball. So it has helped in those relationships, but then I started realizing how much money is sitting on my hand and here I am travelling around the world, so I stopped wearing it after I thought about it for a while.”
The city of Toronto and his Blue Jays teammates will always hold a special place in Brow’s heart. And once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, he wants to take his wife, Susan, to Toronto to show her around.
“I tell her how much I enjoyed Toronto and what a beautiful city it is and how clean it is and just how friendly the people were,” said Brow. “I always felt safe there and I’d really like her to see the stadium [the Rogers Centre].”