Claude Osteen's small world leads to Major League career

Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Photos by Anthony S. Puca Forrest Alum and Major League great, Claude Osteen speaks to the crowd.

Former major league great Claude Osteen returned to his alma mater - Forrest School - Saturday night as the guest speaker at the Forrest Alumni Banquet. He talked about the small world we all live in and his life experiences from his boyhood in Caney Springs to his 33-year career in Major League Baseball.

"It's a small world when you look back on life," Osteen opened his speech by saying. "All of my friends and relatives here tonight, all of you have molded my career. I have been a lucky guy; I have seen so much of the world through baseball in my years as a player and a coach."

Boyhood in

Caney Spring

Born in 1939, Osteen grew up in the Caney Spring area of Marshall County and said "I was always around baseball people in Caney Spring and I always had a baseball bat or a broomstick in my hand; anything to hit a ball."

The curveball that Osteen developed early on was so devastating that people would watch him warming up on the sidelines instead of the games in progress during his youth league years on the county team, the Woodmen Choppers.

"That pitch took me a long way," he said. In 1954 it took him to Cincinnati, Ohio because Forrest did not have a baseball team at the time.

Reading High School- Cincinnati, Ohio

The move to Ohio paid immediate dividends for Osteen's baseball career and in 1957 he led his school to their first-ever state team championship. During the regional tournament, Osteen pitched two consecutive shut-outs on the same day.

According to the Cincinnati High School Sports Hall of Fame, Osteen was 23-1 overall in his prep career and went 16-0 as a senior. He pitched 103 2/3 innings with an incredible 221 strikeouts. He allowed just two earned runs for a 0.13 Earned-run-average.

"I had a fantastic senior year and all the scouts were knocking, I had collegiate offers and offers from most of the major league clubs," he said.

Pro Career begins at 17, spans parts of six decades

Eventually, Osteen signed with the Cincinnati Reds and made his pro debut on July 6, 1957 versus the St. Louis Cardinals. Osteen was paid a salary of $6,000.

 "A lot of things happen to you on the way, but I certainly did not think I belonged there."

 Osteen went to the minor leagues for two years and returned to the Reds in 1959, where he stayed until 1961 when he was traded to the Washington Senators. He remained with Washington until 1964, when after going 15-12 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dodgers win World Series behind clutch performance from Osteen

In 1965, the Dodgers appeared in the World Series versus the Minnesota Twins and were down two games to none after both staff aces, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale lost their starts. Osteen threw a complete game four-hit shutout in game three that spurred his team to the title.

"It was the greatest moment of my career," Osteen said

Osteen went on to win 196 games in his career, having two 20-win seasons, and also appeared in three All-Star games, getting the win in the 1973 game where Pete Rose barreled into Ray Fosse at home for the winning run.

After his active career, Osteen went on to coach for 15 years, with stints for the Cardinals, Phillies, Rangers and the Dodgers. He coached Cy Young winners Steve Carlton, Steve Bedrosian, Pete Vuckovich, Orel Hershiser, and John Denny.

Comparison to

Mike Minor

Asked about the comparison of being a youth phenom and that of Mike Minor, Osteen stated, "He is coming out of tremendous success and dominated everywhere he pitched.

"At the time, I did not really know what I was in for. I had success because I tried to be as intelligent as I could in sizing up the situation. I said to myself, what I have in front of me and what I have to do to succeed. I just kept on revamping what I had to get smarter than the hitter. You have to be a good student of the game when you are not pitching. I learned so much from just watching, there is an art to researching batters' weaknesses." 

 Words of wisdom

for the youth of

Marshall County

Osteen spoke to the Forrest Alumni Scholarship award winners, the youth, and athletes of Marshall County and said, "Success depends on you not letting the negatives affect your plans. I always tried to turn a negative situation around by focusing on the positive. Preparation is the key; if you are prepared you will win. You can gain an edge in some little area with preparation. You have got to be smart and you have got to be prepared."