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Dave Stewart: Oakland's Baseball Stare-Master


Known for his piercing stare from the pitcher's mound that frightened batters almost as much as his blazing fastball, Oakland native Dave Stewart was one of the most dominating pitchers of his era.

David Keith Stewart (born February 19, 1957) is an American professional baseball executive, pitching coach, sports agent and retired starting pitcher, and also served as the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball (MLB). The Los Angeles Dodgers' 16th-round selection in the 1975 MLB draft, Stewart's MLB playing career spanned from 1978 through 1995, winning three World Series championships while compiling a career 3.95 earned run average (ERA) and a 168–129 won–lost record, including winning 20 games in four consecutive seasons. He pitched for the Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Stewart was an MLB All-Star and was known for his postseason performance – winning one World Series Most Valuable Player Award and two League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Awards – and for staring down batters when pitching to them. After his playing career, he served as a pitching coach for the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and Blue Jays and as an assistant GM. General managers he has worked under include: Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers, Gord Ash, and Dean Taylor. He later became a sports agent based in San Diego until the Diamondbacks hired him as GM at the end of the 2014 season.

Early life

Stewart was born in Oakland, California. His father, David, was a longshoreman and his mother, Nathalie, worked at a cannery. His father didn't want Stewart to play sports, because he felt nobody could make a living hitting a ball, so his older brother taught him how to play.

Stewart attended St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland, where he earned All-American honors in both baseball (where he played catcher) and in football (where he was a linebacker and tight end). He also averaged 16 points per game as a small forward on the basketball team. He was offered 30 college scholarships to play football, but turned them all down to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who selected him in the 16th round of the 1975 Major League Baseball draft.

Professional career

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers decided to turn Stewart into a pitcher because of his strong arm. He made his professional debut with the Bellingham Dodgers of the Northwest League. He had a 0–5 win–loss record with a 5.51 earned run average) (ERA) in 22 games pitched, five of which were games started, for a Bellingham team that set a record by losing the first 24 games of the season. He was promoted to the Midwest League at the end of the 1976 season and with the Clinton Dodgers in 1977 he had a breakout season: 17–4 with a 2.15 ERA in 24 starts, including 15 complete games and 3 shutouts. Despite his impressive season, he lost out on the Midwest League MVP and Top prospect honors to future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, then with the Burlington Bees. Stewart was promoted to the AA San Antonio Dodgers of the Texas League for the 1978 season. He was 14–12 with a 3.68 ERA in 28 starts for San Antonio.

Stewart made his major league debut on September 22, 1978, pitching two innings of relief against the San Diego Padres. He allowed only one hit and no runs, while striking out one batter (Jim Beswick). That was his only appearance for the Dodgers that season and he spent all of the 1979 and 1980 seasons in AAA with the Albuquerque Dukes. Despite an 11–12 record and 5.24 ERA in 28 games for the Dukes in 1979, Stewart felt he pitched well and was disappointed when he did not receive a September call-up. In 1980, he was 15-10 with a 3.70 ERA for a Dukes team that won the Pacific Coast League (PCL) Championship. He led the PCL in innings pitched (202), starts (29) and tied for the lead in wins.

Stewart went to spring training with the Dodgers in 1981. Because he was out of options, the Dodgers could not send him back down to the minors without risk of losing him to another team. They had decided to release him, but reversed their minds and cut Don Stanhouse instead. He made the Dodgers opening day roster and pitched in relief that season, appearing in 32 games with a 2.49 ERA and six saves. He got his first Major League win in his first appearance of the season, on April 13 against the San Francisco Giants, when he worked two scoreless innings in relief of Bob Welch. His first save was recorded on August 16 against the Atlanta Braves. When the baseball players went on strike on June 12, Stewart was hard pressed financially and went to work for a Dodger fan that owned a metal fastener business and worked out with a semi-pro team along with teammate Bobby Castillo. The Dodgers made the playoffs that season and Stewart saw his first taste of post-season action, being credited as the losing pitcher in the first two games of the Division Series against the Houston Astros. He allowed a walk-off homer to Alan Ashby in game one and allowing the winning runs to reach base in the eleventh inning of game two. He redeemed himself by not allowing a run in the two games he appeared in for the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees, which the Dodgers won in six games.

He spent time as both a starter and a reliever in 1982, appearing in 45 games (starting 14 of them) and was 9–8 with a 3.81 ERA. The Dodgers almost traded Stewart to the Texas Rangers after the 1982 season in a package for catcher Jim Sundberg, however, Sundberg wouldn't waive his no-trade clause and the deal fell apart. In 1983, he appeared in 46 games for the Dodgers, all but one as a relief pitcher, with a 5–2 record and a 2.96 ERA. On July 11, he was part of a play that Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda called one of the "craziest" moments he'd ever seen, when three runs scored on a wild pitch.


Texas Rangers

On August 19, 1983, the Dodgers traded Stewart with a player to be named later (Ricky Wright) to the Rangers for Rick Honeycutt. The trade was controversial at the time, in that many felt that Rangers GM Joe Klein had gotten too little for the teams best pitcher at the time. The Rangers placed him in the starting rotation and he made eight starts down the stretch for them. He was 5–2 with a 2.14 ERA. In 1984, however, he struggled. He produced a 7–14 record and a 4.73 ERA in 27 starts before losing his rotation spot. Tom House joined the organization in January 1985 as the team's new pitching coach. He decided that Stewart needed a new pitch and started teaching him a split-fingered fastball. He became a relief pitcher for the Rangers in 1985, but the results were not good. On May 22 he gave up a three-run homer to Jorge Orta of the Kansas City Royals, giving up the lead. The home fans booed him off the field and after the game he called the fans "idiots" and challenged them to come on to the field and do his job for him.

The team's new General Manager, Tom Grieve, fined Stewart $500 for his remarks, but that wasn't enough for the Rangers owner Eddie Chiles, who demanded that Grieve trade him. After finding a weak market for him, the Rangers finally managed to trade Stewart to the Philadelphia Phillies on September 13, 1985, for pitcher Rick Surhoff.In 42 games for the Rangers in 1985, he was 0–6 with a 5.42 ERA.

Philadelphia Phillies

In the off season, he negotiated with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, but they did not agree to terms on a contract so he re-signed with the Phillies.

Stewart appeared in 12 games for the team over parts of the 1985 and 1986 seasons, recording a 6.00 ERA. There were rumors that Stewart was pitching hurt but they released him on May 9, 1986. He later said that the Phillies lied to him, that they had said if he kept his nose clean he would get somewhere, but instead he was released.

Oakland Athletics

Stewart had a try-out with the Baltimore Orioles but they told him they didn't even have a spot for him in Double-A. He wound up signing a free agent contract with the Oakland Athletics on May 23, 1986. After one game with The Triple-A Tacoma Tigers, Stewart joined the A's roster. In a game on July 1, he punched Pat Corrales, the manager of the Cleveland Indians, during a game, which initiated a bench-clearing brawl. He was suspended four games and fined for his actions. Also in 1986, Stewart developed a forkball to supplement his fastball and slider. He pitched in 29 games for the Athletics in 1986, with 17 starts. He was 9–5 with a 3.74 ERA.

Stewart signed a two-year $500,000 contract with the Athletics prior to the 1987 season. He won 20 games in 1987, while posting a 3.68 ERA and striking out 205 batters. He credited pitching coach Dave Duncan with helping improve his pitches. In 1988 he won his first eight games and claimed the Major League Baseball Pitcher of the Month Award. He went 21–12, 3.23 ERA while leading the American League (AL) with 14 complete games and 275 23 innings pitched. Stewart started two games in the A's four game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the 1988 American League Championship Series. After the series, his manager Tony La Russa said he had "never met a player or person of higher quality." Stewart was the starting pitcher in Game one of the 1988 World Series against the Dodgers. Prior to the game, he told Dodgers' second baseman Steve Sax that he was going to hit him in the neck during the game. He came close, drilling Sax in the left shoulder and glaring at him.He allowed three runs in eight innings and was in line for the win before Kirk Gibson's walk-off homer off closer Dennis Eckersley gave the game to the Dodgers. Working on three days rest, Stewart wasn't as good in Game four, allowing four runs (only two earned) and leaving the game with one out in the sixth to pick up the loss. The Dodgers finished off their championship with a win in Game five.

In 1989, Stewart was 21–9 with a 3.32 ERA in 36 starts. His manager, La Russa, was also the manager of the American League team at the All-Star Game and picked Stewart to start for the AL team over fan favorite Nolan Ryan. He allowed two runs to score in his one inning of work in the game. He finished second in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award to Kansas City Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen.

In the 1989 American League Championship Series, Stewart won both of the games he pitched with a 2.81 ERA. In the World Series, Stewart pitched a complete game shutout in the first game against the San Francisco Giants. The series was interrupted when a earthquake struck the Bay Area just prior to the start of Game 3. When the series resumed, 10 days later, Stewart started game three for the A's, and picked up his second win of the series when he allowed three runs in seven innings. The A's swept the series in four games and Stewart was selected as the MVP of the series going 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA. Stewart signed a new two-year $7 million contract extension with the Athletics after the season. This was the largest contract in baseball at the time.

In 1990, Stewart was 22–11 (his fourth straight 20-win season and tied for 2nd in the majors) with a 2.56 ERA in 36 starts. He led the league in innings pitched (267), complete games (11) and shutouts (4) while being third in ERA and finishing third in the Cy Young voting. On June 29, he no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays, at SkyDome, the first no-hitter by an African American since Jim Bibby in 1973. That same day, Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium – the first time in Major League history that no-hitters had been thrown in both leagues on the same day. The A's won their third straight pennant, beating the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, and Stewart was named the ALCS MVP going 2–0 with a 1.13 ERA. Stewart got the start in Game one of the 1990 World Series for the heavily favored A's against the Cincinnati Reds. However, Eric Davis hit a two run home run off him in the first inning and he only lasted four innings as the Reds pulled off the upset. He pitched better in game four, allowing only one earned run while pitching a complete game.. but the Reds won the game and finished off a sweep of the series. Despite being the losing pitcher in games 1 and 4 Stewart had a 2.77 ERA in the 1990 World Series.

After the 1990 season, Stewart was part of a Major League All-Star team that played an eight-game series in Japan against a Japanese all-star team. He went on the disabled list for the first time in his career in 1991 because of a strained rib muscle, which caused him to miss three weeks of the season. When he returned he was not as dominant as he had been before. His troubles were partly because of an inability to throw his forkball for strikes and as a result he was pitching with less confidence. In 35 starts, Stewart finished 11–11 with a high 5.18 ERA in 1991 and the Athletics missed the playoffs for the first time since 1987.

Stewart was bothered by elbow tendinitis for much of the 1992 season but still made 31 starts (his fewest since 1986) and had a 12–10 record and 3.66 ERA. The A's returned to the playoffs, but this time were seen as underdogs to the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. Stewart started the opener of the series and pitched 7.2 innings while allowing only three runs in a game the A's won.The A's lost the next three games and were on the verge of elimination, so he called a team meeting in order to give his teammates a pep talk.He responded by pitching a complete game victory in game five, allowing only two hits. It was the first complete game victory in an ALCS game since Bruce Hurst of the Boston Red Sox pitched one in 1986 against the California Angels. However, the Blue Jays won the next game to take the series and eliminate the A's from the post-season.

Toronto Blue Jays

Stewart signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Blue Jays on December 8, 1992. He said that he was sad to leave the A's, whom he had envisioned spending the rest of his career with, but he felt the Blue Jays treated him with more respect with their offer. He said that the A's General Manager, Sandy Alderson, was disrespectful of him and all he had done for Oakland and was insulted that he was accused of disloyalty when he signed with the Blue Jays.

As a member of the Blue Jays rotation in 1993, Stewart made 26 starts and was 12–8 with a 4.44 ERA. He suffered from a number of injuries during the season but the Blue Jays stuck with him because of his heart and competitiveness as well as the support he offered to other pitchers on the staff. The Blue Jays made it to the ALCS where Stewart got the call in game two. He allowed only one run in six innings of work to pick up the win. The day before his next start, while the rest of his team was already in Chicago, he was in Toronto helping the Salvation Army deliver food to the homeless on Thanksgiving Day in Canada. He made it to the game on time, and pitched 7.1 innings for his second win of the series, in the clinching game six that sent the Blue Jays back to the World Series. He was selected as ALCS MVP for the second time in his career. In the 1993 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, Stewart got the start in game two and struggled, allowing five runs in six innings to take a rare post-season loss. Nevertheless, he was confident heading into his next start, in game six, saying he was pitching for respect as much as for another championship. He allowed four runs in six innings but that was enough as the Blue Jays, thanks to a three-run walk-off homer by Joe Carter won the game 8–6 and with it took the series, 4 games to 2.

Stewart remained with the Blue Jays for the 1994 season, making 22 starts for them with a 7–8 record and 5.87 ERA before the 1994–95 Baseball strike wiped out the rest of the season. He had planned to retire at the end of the season but was bothered by the lack of empathy on the part of the fans towards the players. He would later say that he never felt the same passion for baseball after the strike.

Return to Oakland A's and retirement

When the strike finally ended, he re-signed with the Athletics on April 8, 1995 and was their opening day starter on April 26, 1995. However, he could not recapture his prior form. Stewart was rocked for nine runs and was removed from the game with only one out in the second inning. In 16 starts, he was 3–7 with a 6.89 ERA, prompting the manager to announce publicly that Stewart would move to the bullpen for the first time since 1986 and be replaced in the rotation by Todd van Poppel. Stewart chose to retire rather than make the move to the pen. He made the public announcement on July 24, 1995, saying it was a low point in his life and he just couldn't perform like he wanted to anymore.

Over his career, he started 18 games in the postseason, compiling a stellar 2.84 ERA and 10–6 (10-4 as a starter) record. In the LCS, he was especially dominant, going 8–0.

Post-playing career

Stewart served as the assistant to Sandy Alderson, the general manager of the Athletics, in 1996. In 1997, he left that position to serve in a similar capacity under Kevin Towers of the San Diego Padres. In 1998, he agreed to become the Padres' pitching coach, despite some worry that it would detract from his goal of becoming a GM and some personal conflict between him and team president Larry Lucchino. He turned around a pitching staff that had been awful the year before and helped get the team into the World Series. Several of the Padres pitchers (including Andy Ashby, Sterling Hitchcock and Joey Hamilton) credited Stewart directly with the improvement of the staff. He maintained some of his front office duties, including running the Latin America scouting department, during the season and often remarked that he would leave for the right front office position.

Stewart left San Diego after the season and interviewed for assistant GM positions with Oakland and the Florida Marlins. He was a finalist to replace Frank Wren in Florida but his concern about the high crime rate in South Florida led him to turn down the position. His familiarity with the Blue Jays organization was the main reason he accepted the job there under Gord Ash. When the Blue Jays fired pitching coach Rick Langford in the middle of the 2000 season, Stewart moved into the position on July 24, 2000. After the 2001 season, when the Blue Jays had an opening at general manager, they passed on Stewart, hiring J. P. Ricciardi instead. Stewart chose to resign from his dual role as pitching coach and assistant general manager. He was outspoken about the fact that he felt minorities were being discriminated against in the front office and that the decision by team president Paul Godfrey was racist. Frustrated, he said, "I think the whole process is a waste of time."

He joined the Milwaukee Brewers as their pitching coach for the 2002 season under manager Davey Lopes. After the team started 3–12, Lopes was fired and Stewart was a candidate to replace him but it instead went to bench coach Jerry Royster. He resigned on July 29, 2002 in order to care for his mother and spend more time with family. After leaving that position he was the pitching coach for the United States national baseball team at the Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Stewart started a sports agency called Sports Management Partners. His first big deal was negotiating a six-year $66 million contract extension between the A's and third baseman Eric Chavez. He also negotiated contracts for Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley.

On September 25, 2014, the Arizona Diamondbacks hired Stewart to become their general manager, replacing Towers. He reports to La Russa, his former manager when he played for Oakland, who serves as the Diamondbacks' chief baseball officer. He transferred his management company to former A's teammate Dave Henderson when he took the Diamondbacks job. On December 4, 2015, the Diamondbacks agreed to a six-year contract with free agent pitcher Zack Greinke worth a total of $206.5 million. At that time, it held the highest annual average value in MLB, exceeding $34.4 million per year, and was also the largest contract by total value in team history. Stewart later said of the contract, "It could be franchise-changing for us, if everything goes well." In October 2016, Stewart and manager Chip Hale were fired by the Diamondbacks.

Personal life

Stewart and his ex-wife, Vanessa, have two children, Adrian and Alyse.

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