Steve Karsay's HOF connection

Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby CoxAP Photo/John Raoux

On Sunday, the Hall of Fame will induct six members, all of them first-ballot selections, all of them contemporaries. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre took different paths to Cooperstown, but they shared one particular common denominator along the way.

Steve Karsay.

Karsay, now 42, played in the big leagues for 11 years, retiring after the 2006 season. A right-handed pitcher, he went 32-39 with a 4.01 ERA, mostly as a reliever, over the course of that career. Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau found that Karsay is the only man to have been a teammate of this year's three player inductees and a player for the three manager inductees. He played with Maddux and Glavine in Atlanta and Thomas in Oakland. He played for La Russa with the A's, Cox with the Braves and Torre with the Yankees.

These days, Karsay is the pitching coach for the Carolina Mudcats in the Carolina League (advanced Class A). And now he is a trivia question.

"And I think," he says with a hearty laugh, "I'm the only one who knows the answer."

Karsay began his connection to this year's Hall of Fame class in 1993 with La Russa's A's.

"I remember being called into Tony's office and meeting with him," Karsay says. "I remember saying, 'Hi, Mr. La Russa. I'm Steve Karsay. I'm here to pitch for you.'

"I have such great respect for him. He is such a great manager, one of the best of all time. He had such a great demeanor with his players. I don't remember being intimidated by him, but I just didn't know any better. I wish I could've pitched for him longer. I learned a lot in a short time."

The next connection came in 2001 when Karsay was traded from the Indians to the Braves for John Rocker, who was dealt away from Atlanta in part for making insensitive remarks about various ethnic groups.

"I joined the Braves at Shea Stadium, and my locker was right in between Maddux's locker and Glavine's locker," Karsay says, chuckling. "I had never met either of those guys, but each one -- I guess they weren't good friends with John Rocker -- said to me, 'We're glad to see you.' It was a nice introduction to the team. It was such an honor to be on the same team as Maddux and Glavine. They were so helpful, even though I only had four months with them. They taught me the importance of preparation, of video work, how to sequence, how to attack hitters. I learned more from them in four months than anyone."

Karsay says of Cox, "Bobby was one of the best managers of all time, also. He just told me to be ready to pitch. It always struck me what an intelligent baseball man he was. He was a players' manager in every way. He treated everyone on the team the same way, from the No. 1 spot on the roster to the No. 25 guy. I also wish I had spent more time with him."

In 2002, Karsay went to Torre's Yankees. He threw 101 innings for them in three seasons.

"It was great with Joe. He was a New York guy; I was a New York guy. He was from Brooklyn; I was from Queens. I knew all about him growing up," Karsay says. "He managed the Mets. He played for the Mets. I knew his story. He just told me to relax and try not to do too much. But I knew New York. I understood 'The Boss' [former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner], and what he meant, and what it meant to be a Yankee. There was a great group of guys on that team -- the Core Four and all that. I just tried my best to fit in."

Karsay's final connection with the 2014 Hall of Class came in 2006, back in Oakland. Karsay finished his career that season while Thomas was in his first year with the A's after 16 seasons with the White Sox.

"I didn't get much time [9 1/3 innings] with him in Oakland, but I faced him a lot of times when I was a young guy with the Indians and he was with the White Sox," Karsay says. "We used to talk a lot about the AL Central in the '90s. I always had a tough time with him because he was such a great hitter. I always remember how big he was, a huge man."

As the conversation ends, Karsay prepares to go back to teaching his pitchers on the Mudcats, an Indians affiliate located in Zebulon, North Carolina. But before he leaves, he says, "It's pretty cool that I played for three of the greatest managers of all time and I played with those three Hall of Fame players. It feels good inside that I had at least a small part of those guys' careers, and what a great opportunity it was to play with them."

Then he smiles and says, "If you see them, tell them I said hello."

We will. All six.