It's simply a case of 'Father Knows Best'
Tim Lincecum's father watches his son's career closely, and has a lot to say about it
If they gave out the Cy Young Award for talking, Chris Lincecum not only would have more awards than his son but he would have more than Tim, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson combined.
The man can especially talk about Tim. One good story leads to another interesting anecdote, which leads to a strong opinion, which leads to an amusing tale, which leads to some spot-on analysis, which leads to another opinion ("Don't print that'') which leads back to the original story, sometimes. I called him up out of the blue Sunday and we talked for more than an hour, not counting the five or so minutes he stopped to talk to someone else on another phone. Two conversations at once. We talked another 50 minutes at his Bellevue, Wash., home Monday afternoon until I reluctantly had to say good-bye so I could catch my flight to San Francisco. Fifteen minutes later we were still at his front door talking and Chris was demonstrating the respective pitching mechanics of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, and also complaining (just like my family does) about the outrageous price of scones at the Puyallup (Washington) Fair. "I remember when they were 25 cents!''
Shy he is not. Chris says he met Troy Tulowitzki at the All-Star Game this year when the Colorado shortstop was out with a broken wrist, and, naturally, Chris had some views on that, as well.
"Tulo's a good kid," Chris says. "We were talking, and he says, 'My dad listens to your show.' (Lincecum occasionally does a short Sunday radio segment for the Giants' pregame show called "Father Knows Best.") I said, 'Does he think I'm full of s---?' He said, 'Sometimes."'
Well, maybe sometimes (Puyallup Fair scones are actually $1.25), but -- and this is an important but -- Chris definitely knew what he's talking about when it comes to baseball and pitching. He was instrumental in Tim's development as a pitcher. How else to explain how his son, who was 4-foot-10 and 85 pounds as a high school freshman and just 5-9 and 135 pounds as a college freshman, could possibly grow up to become the first pitcher to ever win a Cy Young award in his first two full seasons in the major leagues? Or make the All-Star team his first three full seasons? Or start Game 1 of the World Series this week?
Evidently, that wasn't all just talking on Chris' part. That was also teaching.
A former pitcher quick to mention he could still throw fastballs in the 80s when he was in his 50s, Chris, 63, has the same lean frame as Tim (but not the long hair), and he taught him and older son Sean everything he could about the art of pitching. Which Chris had learned from his father, Leo, while growing up in Washington in the '50s and '60s.
"My dad didn't know about pitching mechanics, but he was an athlete and he was my eyes," Chris says. "We didn't have VHS or DVDs back then. If you were lucky, you had 8 millimeter film and, by the time you got it developed, your mechanics would have changed five times. We threw 11 months a year. He caught me from the time I was 8 or 9 until I was in my early 20s. I developed my mechanics, and he was guy who taught me."
It doesn't matter whether they're in Little League or major league baseball, you hang on everything they do.” -- Chris Lincecum on his son, Tim
By the time Tim was in college at the University of Washington, there were plenty of recording techniques, and Chris would videotape his son's home games so the two could study them afterward and work on Tim's mechanics. A photo in the living room shows Chris talking and giving tips to Tim through the backstop during one Huskies game. When Tim went on to pitch in the Cape Cod League, Chris says he would listen to the game broadcasts over the Internet, analyzing and inferring so much from the play-by-play "I could tell what he was doing wrong just by listening."
He still scores every game his son pitches, just as he has since Tim since turned professional. He has them all in a 3-inch binder, beginning in 2006 and going all the way to the three-batter emergency relief appearance when the Giants clinched the pennant Saturday. The score sheets have evolved over the years with increasing detail. Chris scores how each opposing batter fares against Tim, ticking off each pitch, his highest velocity each inning, the name of the plate umpire, the number of hits and walks allowed, along with his postgame won-loss record, season strikeout total and ERA. He says he only does this in his home while watching his son pitch on TV. When he watches Tim pitch in person, he is too nervous to sit in one place, instead nervously pacing the ballpark and filling in the score sheet when he gets home.
"It's for my sanity," Chris says. "It's not for him, it's for me. I can't help him anymore. I can't sit in the stands and give him help. This is for me. It doesn't matter whether they're in Little League or major league baseball, you hang on everything they do."
Chris says that a San Francisco coach recently told him, "'Timmy had a great season. He had that little bump in the road in August, but he got over it. He never had to deal with that before.' And I was thinking, 'What are you talking about -- he's been small his whole life, he's been fighting uphill his whole life. What are you talking about overcoming one month?"'
It was concern over Lincecum's size and mechanics that infamously scared away the Mariners in the 2006 draft. Rather than pick the hometown kid who had starred with the Huskies, Seattle instead drafted Brandon Morrow, then handicapped his progress by constantly switching him back from starting to relief before trading him this past winter for reliever Brandon League. None of which has gone over well in Seattle, where Mariners fans have endured two 101-loss seasons while Lincecum has been winning Cy Youngs and taking his team to the World Series.
"Here's the deal," Chris says when I asked about the Mariners, "wouldn't you want to play in your hometown in front of your family and friends? You're a star in college -- he has the Pac-10 strikeout record, 491 strikeouts in three years, which broke the record [that was set] in four years. Why would a team not pick him after that year? He was disappointed they didn't come after him. He was the 10th pick overall. When I look at the pitchers above him, they haven't done much or they've been hurt. I guess size isn't a big deal. Or mechanics.
"Was I disappointed that he didn't go to the Mariners? I'd like to have him around town. I'd like to see him pitch here so I could be there. I don't follow him around the country. He doesn't need me there. I see him on TV. If he needs help, he can call me."
So Chris will be in San Francisco when Tim pads his résumé, which already has two Cy Youngs and three All-Star Games on it, by pitching Game 1 of the World Series. No way will this proud father miss his son pitching in the World Series. He'll be nervously walking around the ballpark, rooting for his son to possibly bring San Francisco its first world championship since the Giants moved to San Francisco 52 years ago.
By the way, Chris might have exaggerated the price of the scones, but he was otherwise right about them. I love Puyallup Fair scones, but they are too expensive.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Report: Cuban slugger to D-backs for $68.5M
- Red Sox officially unveil Sandoval, Ramirez
- Source: Lester, Giants will meet next week
- Brewers' Braun: No pain in repaired thumb