SAN DIEGO — They were hired with much fanfare over the off-season and have received rave reviews around Major League Baseball for their early work with their new teams. Both have won three Manager of the Year Awards and, should things keep up, would be strong contenders in this year’s voting as well.
But before they became dugout peers and fast friends, Mets Manager Buck Showalter and his San Diego Padres counterpart, Bob Melvin, shared a moment together under different circumstances. It came in Yankee Stadium in 1994, when Showalter, then 37, was a third-year manager guiding the Yankees under the owner George Steinbrenner. Melvin, who was 32 at the time, was an aging catcher in his final season.
“Bobby saved my job,” Showalter said, explaining that he had three catchers on the roster at the time and was looking for an extra right-handed bat to face a difficult left-hander for a game in May. He came upon the unorthodox idea of using the light-hitting Melvin as his designated hitter. “Mr. Steinbrenner was ready to kill me.”
Melvin responded to the unusual assignment by slugging a three-run home run against the Baltimore’s Arthur Rhodes in the bottom of the first inning of his first game at the Stadium that year, setting the tone in a 5-4 victory.