Mike Scioscia is flattered to be mentioned in the same company as Roy Campanella and John Roseboro, great Dodger catchers of the past. The comparisons became inevitable as Scioscia closed in on Roseboro's all-time franchise record of playing in 1,218 games, an impressive accomplishment considering the injuries and home-plate collisions the hard-nosed Scioscia has endured in his 12-year career. He tied the record Friday.
"It's great to be compared with guys like John Roseboro, Roy Campanella and Steve Yeager in terms of games caught, but I don't look at it as any great feat on my part," Scioscia said. "I've just been relatively healthy, and I've been given an opportunity to play here."
No opposing baserunner treads lightly when Scioscia is blocking the plate. He is regarded as the best in the business at that. Just ask anyone who has failed to budge the 6-foot-2, 220-pound catcher.
Rickey Henderson once tried to score against him in the minor leagues in 1979 and, according to Scioscia, "knocked me silly." But all those hard knocks have not altered his approach to blocking the plate. He doesn't give any ground.
"You can't do anything tentatively in this game," Scioscia said. "There's no in-between point in blocking the plate. You've got to do it 100 percent, or you can't do it.
"If I was going to change my approach to blocking home plate, it would have changed by now. I just block it aggressively, as do a lot of catchers. I'm not the only one."
Of all his collisions, the most awesome occurred on July 21, 1985 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Jack Clark came in standing up with his elbows cocked, and knocked Scioscia cold. The Dodgers catcher suffered a concussion, but held onto the ball.
"Even though he pays the price sometimes, he constantly finds a way to get the job done, and he does it as good or better than anybody else ever has," Clark said.
"You can't just go in there and slide normally. You have to slide late and try to upend him, because he's going to have a leg or a shinguard or an elbow trying to push you away from the plate. He'll go down on two knees, and you can't move him. Even if you hit him as hard as you can, he's not going to go very far because he makes his body like a piece of the ground."
Despite all the punishment, Scioscia feels he is far from the end of his career.
"You want to play as long as you can, but no one wants to play when they know they can't compete anymore and can't help the club win," he said. "I'm only 32 years old, and it's not like I'm hanging on. I feel like these are my best years, and I want to keep improving."