Over the last few weeks, former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Seth McClung has been showing up regularly on Twitter. Whether he’s breaking down the Brewers playoff outlook, tapping into his nostalgia for his days in Milwaukee, or feuding with his former Devil Rays teammate (and notorious loudmouth) Aubrey Huff, McClung is producing quality tweets with enough consistency that it has Brewers fans reflecting on the stretch run of the 2008 season, when McClung cemented his legacy in Milwaukee.
In September 2008, as the Brewers chased their first playoff appearance since 1982, McClung had one of the best stretches of his career. The big righty logged 16 1/3 innings and only gave up two runs over the course of the month. He even pitched the final four innings of the pivotal Game 160 win versus the Chicago Cubs, pumping his fist and screaming as he stepped off the mound after striking out the final batter. When Ryan Braun hit the go-ahead home run in Game 162, cameras caught McClung jumping around in the bullpen with a look of pure joy as he crashed into his teammates. After the Mets lost that day to officially secure the Brewers playoff spot, McClung was among the first Brewers players to charge back onto the Miller Park field. He climbed on top of the Brewers dugout and sprayed overjoyed fans with champagne before jumping into the stands by the Brewers dugout for hugs, high-fives, and photos. Later, back on the Miller Park field, McClung was seen cracking Miller Lites and pouring them over his own head as well as running around with a Milwaukee Brewers wrestling belt held high over his head as if he had just been named champ.
We caught up with McClung and talked about what he’s doing these days, why Milwaukee will always hold a special place in his heart, what exactly he said to Dale Sveum when the interim manager came to take the ball from him in Game 160, whether this year’s team has the potential to make a deep run, and much more.
Milwaukee Record: Thanks for calling. I appreciate it. We spoke about 10 years ago when I was still helping out with the Right Field Bleachers Brewers blog. It was a pleasure then, and thanks for chatting with me again.
Seth McClung: Not a problem. I always enjoy talking with the blogs and the media from Milwaukee. Everybody’s generally really, really positive, and to us players, that means a lot. You’re going to get a lot more from guys when you’re positive than when you’re negative. And you guys have always been awesome.
MR: So what have you been up to over the last several years here?
SM: [Laughs] A lot of ups and a lot of downs. I’ll tell you that. I played a little bit of baseball in Mexico and Taiwan. I wrapped up my career as a Pittsburgh Pirate in spring training, and I’ve done a lot of coaching. Since 2014, I’ve helped get kids 220 scholarship offers to play college baseball. And I’ve gone through a nasty divorce, and there’s been a lot of BS with that, some accusations that I didn’t do, and I’ve won in court. Life has really kind of kicked my butt a little bit. I’ve been sick. I’ve spent some time in the hospital. But now I just basically coach, and I’m a dad, and I love it. I’m retired obviously. I don’t work outside of anything that’s baseball. I just do baseball. And I live very simply. My house is paid off. My car is paid off. I just coach kids baseball, and I’m a dad. That’s what I like to do.
MR: I’ve been following you on Twitter, and it looks like you’ve been keeping up with the Brewers this season, especially during this scorching hot stretch that they’re on in September.
SM: I always try to keep up a little bit with the Brewers. You know, I feel very deeply attached to Milwaukee. The best years of my career were there, as far as not only just numbers but just enjoying my time there. I really wish I wasn’t with my ex-wife when I was there. [Laughs] I probably would’ve enjoyed it a little bit more. But I have such a special place in my heart for Milwaukee.
MR: I was all prepared to ask you questions about how this team is the first Wild Card Brewers club since 2008 when you guys went into the playoffs for the first time since ’82, but now, all of a sudden, the division is in play again. It’s kind of crazy.
SM: Not to knock what they’re doing now, but when we went to the Wild Card, there was just one, so it was a little different. There was just the one Wild Card, so we went straight into the best of five. Yeah, the division is still in play very much. I’ve kind of been doing the circuit since my Twitter feud with Aubrey [Huff], and I mentioned to somebody that the division was still in play, and I think that’s THE play. Go in hot, and give yourself a day off or two days off, and then match up for a five-game series. I think that’s what you go for.
MR: We’re talking on Wednesday night. The Cardinals already lost, and the Brewers are up 8-2 in the 6th, or maybe the 7th now, so they have a very good shot to be within a game and a half. They have four games left. The Cardinals have three. It really is getting tight here.
SM: When you look at the whole playoff picture as a whole, nobody wants to play Milwaukee and nobody wants to play Tampa. Of course, Houston is a juggernaut. Of course, New York is a juggernaut. Of course, L.A. is a juggernaut, but in the playoffs, it’s who’s hot, and nobody’s hotter than Milwaukee. And Tampa is about next when it comes to who’s hot. So it’s kind of crazy how this is all shaping up, and that’s why, to me, winning the division is huge because I don’t want to get into a one-and-done situation with Max Scherzer going on the mound. That’s not really what I want to do, so, for me, I think going for the division is what you’ve gotta do.
MR: What’s interesting about this team is they actually use a lot of their pitchers kind of like you were used late in that 2008 season—shorter starts or longer relief innings, kind of bullpenning games. How difficult was it for you to adjust to that kind of role?
SM: It’s extremely difficult. When it was done for me, nobody was telling me what was going on. And that, for me, was the hardest part, always constantly being ready every single day. If I have a role, it’s easier to do it. Dale or Mike weren’t coming up to me—Dale Sveum or Mike Maddux—and saying, “Hey, look, this is the plan.” They were coming up to me saying, “Hey, look, be ready. Every single day, be ready.” And that was the hard part.
I think today’s bullpen use is a bit more scripted when it comes to the longer guys, like myself, and I would have to think that they have a little bit more of the benefit of being prepared. I just had to do it every day, and I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but it was not easy.
MR: As a baseball fan now, do you like that a lot of teams, or some teams, are moving more toward that strategy, or do you prefer the more traditional starter/reliever setup?
SM: Well, I wouldn’t say “a baseball fan.” I can’t go to a game and just enjoy a game. I’m very analytical to what’s going on. And, another thing, most people who knew me as a player saw me as this goofy guy who didn’t really pay attention and things like that. Actually, I’ve never really been that guy. I just kind of played that role so people would downplay and talk to me more and teach me more.
When it comes down to the short starts, if you look at the numbers…except for a few exceptions, I think if you look at teams that struggled in July and August, they used those kind of short stints and the bullpens were eaten up. And it was really hard. So I don’t think, long term, it’s going to play out to anybody’s benefit. I think it’s going to have a short-term run, a go at it, but I don’t think that it’s going to stick. You’re not going to see too many teams that can afford to have four or five deep in starters doing that. I think the starter is a good method. Bottom line, they’re trying to get 27 outs, and they’re trying to find unique ways to do it. It all breaks down to getting 27 outs, and I just think, unless they add a couple more pitchers—which I know next year they’re going to expand that pitcher role to the roster—unless you add another pitcher, I don’t think it’s long-term feasible. I think it’s going to be a gimmick. I think, if you are, in fact, going to use it, you’re going to see that it’s going to be four guys who are going up and down between AAA and the big leagues, if that makes sense.
MR: Going back to the 2008 season, you really had a great run that season, culminating with those four shutout innings against the Cubs in Game 160. I saw a little story that you told about that game on YouTube, and it’s a story I hadn’t heard about until this week. For those who aren’t familiar, can you kind of tell the short version of what happened when Dale Sveum walked out to chat with you in the 9th?
SM: What can I say and what can I not say? I don’t want to say anything on the air that I’m not supposed to say.
MR: Nothing’s off limits. You can say whatever you’d like. [Laughs]
SM: For the sake of realism, I’ll tell you exactly what was said, but I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t normally talk like this on the radio or podcasts or whatever. So, I had been cruising, out of my mind basically. I remember the game very fondly. I’m out of my mind. I threw like 64 pitches that game, and I think like 57, 58 of them were fastballs, like 97 to 101, 102 miles per hour all day long. And I walked Ryan Theriot, or The Riot or whatever, however you say his name. It’s spelled “The Riot.” My ex-wife always said “The Riot,” so I was never able to say it right because she would say it that way.
Anyway, I walk him. There’s two outs. And Dale comes to the mound, and I am PISSED because it’s the manager coming to the mound. I’ve had this game in my hand the whole time. I’ve been in complete control, and I’m pissed. Dale gets there, and Dale looks at me and he goes, “You good?” And I’m not even looking at him at this point. I’m like, “Yeah.” Dale doesn’t really know what to say, so he says, “Hey, are you good?” And then I look up at him and say, “I’m fine Dale! I’m good!” And he goes, “Well, good!” And I just go, “Good!” And it was like back-and-forth awkward, and he goes, “Well then, get this guy out!” And then—here’s the language part—I looked at Dale dead in the eyes, and I said, “If you would get the fuck off my fucking mound, I’d do my job!” And he goes, “Well, all right!” and he hit me on the shoulder. Prince is laughing. Rickie. JJ. Yeah, they’re all laughing. And I preceded to strike out Daryle Ward.
Well, at the end of the game, I come in and I go look for Dale because I love Dale. I do. I love him. And I go into his office, and I’m like, “Dale, I’m so sorry. I don’t know who that guy was.” And he goes, “Mac, that Seth McClung can show up any time he wants!” [Laughs]
So, just a little story. You don’t typically want to talk to your manager that way, but he would have had to have murdered me to take me off that mound.
MR: Usually when you see the manager walking out, you think you’re done, right?
SM: You do. Well, you know what’s kind of cool is I recently saw some video of that and the point of view they’re showing…I know I’m pissed, and Eddie Sedar is in the dugout putting his hands up like, “It’s OK! It’s OK! You’re OK!” He’s got both hands up saying, “You’re OK!” I don’t remember that, but I just think it’s awesome because Eddie is that guy. Eddie is glue, man. He’s awesome, and I’m so happy that he’s still there because he’s one of those guys who makes everything all right, you know? I really like that. Looking back it, I guess Eddie knew I wasn’t coming out. He’s at third base now, and I love it. I love that Eddie is still there.
MR: A couple games after that, it’s Game 162 and CC is on the mound, of course, and he was just a monster for the whole stretch after the Brewers got him. What was it like watching the way he pitched firsthand?
SM: I remember telling CC he has to stop pitching on three days rest because Major League teams are going to go to a four-man rotation and he’s going to cost people jobs. He was just on fire. Listen, what we have to understand about the whole thing that CC did is he put us on his back and did his job, and everybody was pitching out of their minds at that point. I think, oftentimes, everybody gets caught up in what CC did, but everybody was pitching their asses off. What CC was doing as a starter was really unheard of at that point, and we all fed off that. And it was a show. Every single time we got out there, it was like, “What is he going to do next?”
But what people don’t realize is he’s putting his whole career at risk for that playoff, for that moment, and you know, he’s got a $100 million check waiting on him as long as he doesn’t get hurt. He totally could have told everybody, “Heck no,” that he’s not going to do that. But he was selfless and did what he had to do to help us get to the playoffs. That’s part of what makes Milwaukee special. You’ve got so many guys like that willing to sacrifice so many things to put the team first.
Even me, I could have been moaning and complaining about not getting the starts that I was promised. Ned [Yost] told me so many things that were going to happen that didn’t happen. It just didn’t matter at a certain point because I was just trying to stay in there and fight for what we had. And everybody had that approach. CC’s was magnified because of who he was, but he had so much more on the line to lose than everybody else.
MR: It was a special stretch for him, and fortunately it worked out. He’s had what, eleven more seasons after that? He’s hanging it up now though. Got a World Series ring. It worked out for everybody I guess.
SM: I’m very proud to say that I was a teammate of CC Sabathia. He was a heck of a ball player and a heck of a teammate.
MR: Going back to that Game 162, when Braun hit that go-ahead home run—I think that was in the 8th inning—you were jumping around and hugging everybody in the bullpen just like we were in the stands. Where does that moment rank in your career?
SM: I felt like Jim Valvano running around after winning the National Championship looking to hug people. It was just pure elation. It was awesome. You know, in life, you don’t normally get to work toward something like that. I coach now, so it’s a little different, but in everyday life, there’s nothing like that. I think, for me, being in total toxic Tampa at the time—and I’m talking about then, I’m not talking about now. Tampa was such a toxic atmosphere that, literally, less than a year removed from that atmosphere to something so special. The city loved us. I was in love with the moment. I was so excited to be a part of that. None of that is fake. That’s 100-percent me. That’s 100-percent how I felt. And I love that people remember that.
MR: Another thing that people remember about that night is the on-field celebration after the Mets lost and the team clinched. You were pouring beer on your head and holding up wrestling belts and all that. The team hung around on the field, it must have been an hour after the team officially clinched, and I imagine the party went on after that too, right?
SM: Well, before we get to the party that I barely remember, I remember being one of the first guys to get on top of the dugout, and I sat there and said, “I’ve got to share this with the fans.” I hopped down into the stands and I poured champagne on as many people as I could. I hugged old ladies, everybody, men and women. I hugged everybody, and gave as many high fives to kids as I possibly could. You could tell that this was such a big moment for this city. I just remember consciously thinking, “I’ve got to share this with the fans.” The team is having our moment, and I just thought, “Anything I can do to share this with the fans.”
Now, after that, we went to some club. I don’t remember. I’m not a big drinker, but I just remember being gone, like I was drunk out of my mind. I have no idea what happened. And then kind of coming to at about 4:30 in the morning. And they had said that the Brewers store was open 24 hours with a 50 percent discount to celebrate the Milwaukee Brewers going to the playoffs. And I was like, “Everybody! Let’s go!” We went to the team store. We got 75 percent off [as a player discount]. They gave us the 50 percent and the 75 percent. I spent like $1,500 in there. I was buying random people stuff. I think I got all of the McClung shirtsies. It was so special. I said, “Just get everything!” I told everybody I was with—my ex-wife, my cousin and her husband, and some of their friends—I just said, “Get whatever you want! This is a celebration!”
And then that off day I slept until it was time to go on the bus to do the pep rally. And the pep rally was awesome. Everybody had roles to speak, and I didn’t have one. And that was fine. Whatever. And, at the end, the crowd started to chant for me, which I’ll never forget. It was a “Big Red” chant. And I had no clue what to say. I don’t think I delivered the most moving speech, but the fact that they wanted me to speak—a role player—I felt that maybe I had earned a spot in Milwaukee’s heart, and I was honored to be there.
MR: When you were in the team store at 4:30 in the morning or whatever, were there Brewers fans in there too?
SM: There were some, but I just remember the poor little girl working there was pretty overwhelmed.
MR: You mentioned Ned Yost a little bit earlier. He just announced this week that he’s going to be retiring at the end of this season too. He’s sort of notorious for being sort of an old-school manager, maybe one of the last like him actually in baseball. Always having his players’ backs, etc. Is that what you experienced in Milwaukee?
SM: Well, I’m not going to speak ill of Ned. He had a great career. I just don’t think he had much faith in me. I’ve had old-school managers. I played for Lou Piniella. I don’t feel Ned was old school or anything like that. I do feel that it was the right call to bring in Dale at that time. Nothing bad to say about Ned, but he didn’t even pitch me in August I don’t think. For me, had he not been removed, I don’t get the September I had, and maybe we don’t make it. I mean, I know I’m just a mop-up guy, kind of a do-it-all kind of guy, but I really feel that my role in September was really big and instrumental in what we did. I know that Ned didn’t have the confidence in me.
MR: How big of a shock was it to the team when he was let go? Was there any inkling that something like that would happen? Or was that pretty much out of the blue?
SM: It was out of the blue. It was so out of the blue that I found out on my phone eating on the pier in Chicago. Nobody gave us any warning. There was no real inkling that this was going to happen. It was on our off day. I think that my ex-wife and I were eating with Prince [Fielder] and Chanel [Fielder], and none of us knew that it was coming.
MR: Do you think that brought the team together? That that was kind of the kickstart that brought on that stretch run where you guys played great and got in?
SM: I think something needed to happen. Having Robin [Yount] around and Dale, two guys that everybody loved, was big. Personally, I benefited greatly from it, but to take myself out of the equation, I don’t think it was necessarily fair. But again, you had made the trade for CC. You had sold out. You needed something to happen. I mean, it worked, so it definitely was worth it.
MR: Another one of your teammates from former Brewers teams, Bill Hall, he returned to Miller Park and officially retired as a Brewer earlier this season, and I saw that you’ve mentioned a few times since then on Twitter that you’d love a shot to do something similar. What would that experience mean to you?
SM: [Laughs] The short answer is it would mean a lot. I didn’t have the best career in the world. And I never really fully reached my potential. Part of me never really feels like I got the opportunity to reach my potential. But I know, for a short time, I gave absolutely everything I had to an organization, and it worked out. And it did something special for that town and that organization, and to be able to be remembered, whether it’s a retirement, just letting me retire as a Brewer, or a picture in the bathroom stall, just knowing that I did something that was valuable and they recognized it, would really validate my whole career, honestly.
MR: I heard you earlier this week on the Joe & Ebo Show out of Madison. You hinted that there might be something along those lines in the works. Can you elaborate at all?
SM: You know, I’m not even supposed to know, but there was a rumor that I think people in the organization are not opposed to it. Obviously not now. There’s some stuff going on. [Laughs] But I did hear a rumor that there is some hubbub about it, which means a lot because I’m still looked at favorably there.
I didn’t leave Milwaukee on the best note. Ken Macha really kind of screwed my career up there, and I wasn’t really happy about it, and it hurt me. I was emotionally hurt. Everybody looks at baseball, and they’re looking for loyalty and this and that. I’ll tell you what, man, Milwaukee had mine. I would’ve taken less money to stay there. I would have signed a short-sighted deal. I would’ve done anything to stay in Milwaukee. The way Ken used me at the end, he made me do certain things and he ended up hurting my elbow. Then I ended up being gotten rid of.
At the end, Doug Melvin had said something about wishing he had waited a little bit longer on the trade with Balfour [to bring McClung in from the Devil Rays], and I’m sitting there going like, “But I did so much. I did everything for you. I literally did everything for you.” So that really hurt me at the end because I felt like I had done so much. I had bled blue and gold. And I still do. I care so much about the city. I’m still happy that, in the organization, there’s still some thought of me and some remembrance of the contributions that I did have.
MR: I think I can speak for all Brewers fans when I say that we’d love to see you back at Miller Park again, whether it’s a first pitch or an official retirement, whatever. It’d be great, and I hope it happens.
SM: Thank you. I would love to do it. I’d love to just bring my kids out there so they can see some of it. I’d personally love to become more involved with what the Brewers are doing in any way possible. I miss that connection. I really felt connected to the organization and the city as a whole.
MR: Is there anything else that you’d like to add? Anything that we didn’t touch on?
SM: There’s a whole bunch. I did a lot of stuff here, but I guess I’ve got to save something for the book. I really appreciate you giving me some air time, and if you guys are out there, please follow my Twitter, my Instagram and all that good stuff. Twitter is @BigRedBBall73. Instagram is @Seth_3773. I work with kids, so I do online training and lessons and things like that. I’m relatively cheap to do that through. That’s my business now. That’s what I’m doing, and I’d love to hear from you. I try to answer a lot of people on social media. I try to be really social, and I try to be really respectful, so hopefully I hear from you guys, and thank you for your time.
MR: Yeah, thanks for your time, and Go Brewers!
SM: Go Brewers!