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Macho Low, Part 11: Tim Mauser started at the top of the heap

Tim Mauser almost threw 30 straight scoreless innings in the minors—about a quarter of his major league innings pitched total.

Tim Mauser

There were some big personalities on the 1993 Phillies. But they weren’t the only ones. As part of a commemoration of the team’s 25th anniversary, we’re taking a look at the back-ups, drop-ins, and less-remembered Phillies who didn’t make it into a lot of the archival footage.

Tim Mauser

Position: Single game-finisher

Age: 26

Stats: 4.96 ERA, 14 SO, 7 BB in 16.1 IP

You hear about this kid? He’s throwing heat in the minors, up in Scranton.

First he takes a no-hitter into the sixth, then he takes another one into the eighth, and then he finally throws a damn no-no against those damn New Britain Rock Cats and has a 29.2 scoreless inning streak going. I think the Phillies are bringing him up anytime now to help this 1991 team out. Because that’s what year it is as we speak; 1991.

Imagine how he’ll adjust to big league pitching. He’ll probably figure it out instantly. “He’s playing a real game of cat and Mauser,” they’ll say, heh heh. I’ve already crafted a cat costume to wear to games when he’s up in the bigs for good. If you make one too we can be a cool fan group. And it will be cool, too, no matter what our wives say.

Mauser’s the real deal, man. And the Phillies know it.

And now, we leave behind the Philadelphia street corner where you are being assaulted by a minor league baseball enthusiast in 1991, so that you may become more familiar with Tim Mauser, a top Phillies prospect who—get this—didn’t pan out.

Where did he come from? Well, the Phillies drafted him out of Texas Christian University in 1988. They let him play on the big club in 1991 for three games and he gave up earned runs every time. In his last appearance of the season, he gave up six! The Phillies got punched to death by the Giants that day, and nobody felt bad about leaving Mauser out there to get crushed, whacked, and shellacked for the final five and third innings of a 17-5 loss. At one point, he gave up five runs over five pitches.

Things not working out on the ball field was something Mauser had become numb to by his professional playing days. As a 17-year-old high school quarterback in Texas in 1983, he played a game against rival Paschal High and threw four interceptions to the same defender, who told reporters after the game that he was “Tim Mauser’s favorite receiver.”

As a third string mop-up guy, his promotions weren’t covered too ardently by the local press. In 1993, the Phillies made him a part of their season, letting him show up in May and stick around until July.

But Mauser owned June.

From June 6 to June 30, he appeared in six games, which is more than many of those featured in this series can say (not that they would want to).

In late May, the Phillies showed they knew how to use the Colorado air better than the fledgling Rockies and swept the expansion team out of their own stadium. The 15-9 win in the series opener was actually the closest score of all three games, and it featured the closest thing to a comeback the Rockies could muster (Liz Roscher and I discussed this abusive three-game set on an episode of Continued Success).

Mauser made his 1993 Phillies debut coming on in relief of wild Ben Rivera that day and allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach. The RBI ground-out that followed wasn’t entirely his fault; Mariano Duncan’s second error of the day (two of the Phillies’ five) sent the ball into the outfield instead of second base. Facing Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga the next inning, the two additional runs he allowed were on him.

For a bullpen pitcher without a defined role, it wasn’t clear exactly when Mauser was going to show up in the 34 days he was with the team from late May to early July. He entered a game against the Cardinals and threw two scoreless innings, permitted to pitch through the end of the game. Was this a sign that Jim Fregosi had not only seen something he liked in that Mauser kid, but considered giving him a more distinct role on his pitching staff? Absolutely not! Tommy Greene had gotten lit up in the fifth, and the 9-3 deficit the Phillies faced late in the game simply wasn’t worth wasting a pitcher whose name Fregosi knew.

Another casualty of Lee Thomas’ tinkering, Mauser was traded to San Diego just before Independence Day for Roger Mason, a bullpen addition that worked in the Phillies favor.

1994 was Mauser’s best season in the bigs by far; he stayed in one place the whole time, he he had a 3.49 ERA in 35 appearances, he was getting regular work, and even though he was walking too many people (1.68 SO/W), at least he was getting to do what he loved for a living: play baseball. And no one could take that away from him.

On August 12, it was taken away from him.

They claim that baseball stopped in August 1994 because of a “players strike,” but some of us know the truth: Baseball is just not a game that can survive for eons without people getting so sick of it that the whole thing sometimes just needs to be shut down for a couple of months. In one of the most egregious examples of why baseball should not exist, in 1994, the Mets and Padres played 13 innings locked in a 0-0 tie—in the second game of a double-header. Tony Gwynn homered in the 14th to make it 1-0 but then committed an error that almost cost his team the lead and the sanity of everyone watching. It was a precarious score of 2-1 when Mauser entered the game for the Padres, tasked with ending it, one way or another. Just don’t let them tie it up.

In a twist of fate, he didn’t; and in not doing so, Mauser earned his first major league save—a badge of honor for any relief pitcher. But Mauser was quick to assure a worried press that this would not be a regular thing, him coming in late with the game on the line: “We just ran out of guys,” he explained.

According to a 1996 scouting report, Mauser “did not pitch well” in 1995. This is an accurate thing to say about someone who allows six runs and nine walks in five and two third innings. But for those who saw him in his heyday, cursing bats and crushing hopes in the slate grey wasteland of Scranton as a Red Baron, his memory will live on forever. Even if it doesn’t get memorialized.

If you really miss Mauser, you can head on down to Texas and let him sell you some real estate. He doesn’t mention his baseball career in his LinkedIn profile, but when you’re a member of the 1993 Phillies—in whatever role, for however long—there’s always some sign hint that gives you away.

Busted.