Sports

How Yankees icon’s son tamed guilt from brother’s death to become life coach

Todd Stottlemyre spent the formative years of his life “around the Mantles, the Murcers, the Munsons,” he said recently. “It was like going to the school of champions.”

Todd’s father Mel, you probably know, pitched for the Yankees from 1964 through 1974 (Todd was born in 1965) and worked as their pitching coach from 1996 through 2005, earning four World Series rings during the latter run; he also coached the pitchers for the 1986 Mets, becoming part of a select group of people (seven, according to my Post colleague/master historian Mike Vaccaro) to win rings with both current New York baseball teams.

Both Todd and his brother Mel Jr. followed their dad’s footsteps and became big-league pitchers, and Mel Jr. coaches pitchers, currently for the Marlins, just as his dad did. And while Todd Stottlemyre, 55, has never worked in baseball since his retirement after the 2002 season, he, too, is taking right after his dad.

He’s helping people improve themselves.

“I do a lot of coaching of executives,” Stottlemyre said in a recent telephone interview. “I want them to be fulfilled. I want them to have a life out of business.”

And his work goes well beyond executives. I watched Stottlemyre, who also has enjoyed considerable success in the financial world post-retirement, speak for an hour at the recent Best Ever You Global Summit online, and as good a pitcher as he was — he lasted 14 years in the big leagues, pitching 2,191 ⅔ innings — he’s at least as good in this arena. I was entranced as he discussed his personal journey to strong mental health as he discussed his second book, “The Observer,” which is subtitled “A Modern Fable on Mastering Your Thoughts & Emotions.”

“I wanted to write it as a fable with characters,” Stottlemyre said. “The main character is a woman because we just wanted it as far away from me as possible, and the reason is, I just didn’t want to give anybody an excuse, ‘That’s who your dad was. That’s not my life. It’s easy for you to say.’ I wanted all of those people to find a way to relate to something in that book so that it was away from me, yet it was my stories.”

Because Stottlemyre’s defining story, his greatest obstacle, could not be mitigated by what his father did for a living. As the late Mel Stottlemyre (he died in 2019) wrote about beautifully and heartbreakingly in his autobiography, “Pride and Pinstripes” a third son, Jason, died of leukemia in 1981 at age 11.

Todd Stottlemyre
Todd Stottlemyre pitching with the Diamondbacks on April 24, 2002 during his final MLB season.
Getty Images

Before Jason died, he received a bone-marrow transplant from Todd that sadly didn’t work, instead putting Jason into a coma from which he never emerged. Todd blamed himself for what happened.

“I had to overcome something I told myself that wasn’t even true,” he said. “I made it true. Because I did, it changed who I was. Prior to that, I was the most laid-back kid. Nothing bothered me. I went from that to a kid out of control who wanted to control everything. …(I thought), ‘I just killed my little brother.’”

It wasn’t until the 1993-94 offseason, by which point Stottlemyre was an established major-league pitcher, that he began to attack this, as he met acclaimed sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman.

“I look like I had it all, but on the inside I was dark, broken, hateful,” Stottlemyre said. “I spent 12 hours with Harvey. In the first hour, he asked me, ‘Would you do it again’

“‘Do what?’

“‘The bone-marrow transplant.’

“I melted. I broke. I said, ‘I’d do it every day.’

“Harvey said, ‘Didn’t you already do that? You’re not God. You didn’t kill your little brother, but you were not capable of allowing him to survive. You don’t have that power. You do have the power to forgive yourself and let it go. I bawled like a fricking baby. It was this huge release. It was the first time someone had given me permission.”

The session didn’t immediately and eternally “fix” Stottlemyre; that’s not how this stuff works. “Even this day, I could have a moment (of guilt),” said Stottlemyre, who lives in Arizona. “It might only last a few seconds instead of a month or a week. In those seconds. I’ll literally pull myself out of it and get back into that great place. Realize, if you focus on things you can’t control, it’ll drive you crazy.”

Yankees Mel Stottlemyre
Mel Stottlemyre as Yankees pitching coach on May 7, 2005.
Getty Images

He keeps tabs on baseball; actually, Stottlemyre said, he watched more baseball in 2020, his outside activities limited by the pandemic, than he had since his retirement, and he pays special attention to the Marlins and the Yankees as well as the Blue Jays (for whom he won two rings, in 1992 and 1993) and the Cardinals (for whom he pitched from 1996 until 1998). Even when he isn’t following the game that closely, however, the game remains a huge part of him. Because his dad, revered by virtually everyone who enjoyed the privilege of meeting him (present company included) remains such a huge part of him. Mel Stottlemyre had been a minor-league pitching instructor in the Mariners’ organization when Jason died, and he stopped coaching and returned home to be with Todd until he left for college. That choice encouraged Todd Stottlemyre to stay home with his children after he finished pitching.

Five or six years ago, Stottlemyre said, it looked like his father, who battled multiple myeloma for nearly 20 years, was about to die. “I got on an airplane and flew up there (to Washington State),” Todd Stottlemyre said. “He was in a hospital room with a 105 temperature. The doctors were really concerned. We didn’t know if that was it.

“Three days later, he led our family out of that hospital. He said, ‘I’m walking out of this place.’ No wheelchair. Then we went on a drive through the mountains. I drove his pickup truck. He said, ‘Someday, I’m gonna buy a cabin up here for me and your mother.’ On the inside I was like, ‘Dang, Dad, I just want you to get through today.’

“That night, I couldn’t sleep. (I thought,) ‘He’s inspired me like never before in my life. How is this man working in these circumstances? He’s fighting for his life but only sees the good in life. I want that power. I want that piece. I want to see the positive all the time.’”

That day, Stottlemyre said, motivated him to write books (here’s his first one). It’s another great outlet for this natural coach, a product of the school of champions who has become a champion many times over himself.


This week’s Pop Quiz question came from Gary Mintz of South Huntington: A 1960 episode of “The Twilight Zone,” focusing on a robot pitcher, mentions three future Hall of Famers. Name them.


I’m sorry to say that last week’s Pop Quiz question featured the wrong answer. Chris Gannon of Scotch Plains emailed to alert me that the game in question during this episode of “Homicide: Life on the Streets” was not actually Yankees-Orioles, but rather A’s-Orioles. My apologies. That’s the last time I use Wikipedia to confirm something.


Your Pop Quiz answer is Joe DiMaggio, Leo Durocher and Bob Feller.

If you have a tidbit that connects baseball with popular culture, please send it to me at kdavidoff@nypost.com.


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