Throughout 2017, we’re focusing on people who embody one of our “C” traits. This month, it’s CONCENTRATION. The characteristics of leaders, in whatever field, who have CONCENTRATION include Ability to focus; Hones instincts; Prepares with a purpose. Many of the people we’re featuring could fit perfectly with our other “C” words, including Royals Hall of Fame player and Angels broadcaster Mark Gubicza. In case you haven’t heard about it, Gubicza had what his teammates called the “Gubie stare.”
The Royals have had their share of intense players since 1969. There have been guys like Hal McRae and George Brett, who’d take out a second baseman with a barrel roll if it meant breaking up a double play. Or starter Dennis Leonard, who once beaned a much bigger Don Baylor and then stood in front of the mound ready for a confrontation (and got it). Or closer Al Hrabosky, who’d stand behind the mound and, after a few moments of calmness, would slam the ball into his glove and march to the top of the mound with smoke coming out of his Fu Manchu mustache.
“(Gubicza) was different on game days,” said Hall of Fame closer Jeff Montgomery, who has called Gubicza a “big brother” to him. “He had that game face. You may get a hello out of him. He was very intense. Nine out of 10 starting pitchers are like that, but it was a different level for Gubie.”
To Montgomery’s point, that level of intensity, or concentration, gave Gubicza the “Gubie Stare” on days he started.
“I’ll always remember how intense he was on the mound,” said Frank White. “He threw sinkers and thought every ball should be caught. You didn’t want to make a mistake behind him, but he was a fun guy on the team and fun to play behind.”
“(Bret Saberhagen) and Buddy (Black) would turn around and laugh at you if you made an error behind them … but you’d get the old Mark Gubicza stare if you made one when he was pitching,” said Brett, laughing. “But Gubie was a guy that you wanted in your foxhole with you because he wasn’t going to quit until he was dead.”
There’s no way to tell definitively where Gubicza got that intensity. Perhaps it was his Philadelphia roots. Or his hockey roots. Or, perhaps the intensity is partly what helped him excel in sports growing up in Philly, including hockey.
“(The stare) wasn’t directed toward the player who made the error,” he says. “It’s just that you want to get everyone out and you feel you have to try harder on the next batter when an error is made. As a starting pitcher, you get to play once every five days, so you have built-up energy and if it looks like someone behind you isn’t giving their all, it is difficult to hide your emotions.
“In hockey, they talk about Mark Messier’s stare. He expected not only a tremendous amount out of himself, but he expected his teammates to have that same kind of intensity.”
In many ways, on the mound Gubicza resembled his mentor, Dennis Leonard. Both righties challenged hitters. They were both highly competitive. And they’d throw a fastball through a batter if needed.
“I’d always ask him how he was able to channel his emotions,” Gubicza says. “He finally came up to me one time and said, ‘You know what, you have a half-hour after a game to either, one, celebrate your win, or two, throw something if you have to. But after that half-hour’s up, it’s over because you have to start moving toward your next game.’ He was so driven that after that half-hour was up, he was preparing for his next start.”
During 1984-96, Gubicza, who was a hard-throwing right-hander with a wicked slider, won 132 games (third all-time for the Royals) and recorded 1,366 strike outs (second all-time). In 1988, a year after an uncharacteristic 18 losses, Gubicza won a career-best 20 games, the seventh pitcher in club history with at least 20 wins. That season he also had a 2.70 ERA, which was the third-lowest at the time (in 2013 it ranked seventh). And he threw more innings (2,218 2/3), second only to Paul Splittorff. For all of his success, Gubie was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2006.
“Mark Gubicza was the guy that if you talked to 100 players who played with him, almost 100 guys would have him in the top five teammates of all time,” Montgomery said. “He was a positive guy. One of the guys who could pick you up if you needed picking up.
“He was a guy who absolutely hated to lose. He hated to give up a hit and hated for a guy to make an error behind him. He was all about perfection. You’re rarely perfect in this game, but you don’t see it from an emotional standpoint. He didn’t hide his emotions, which were obvious and visible, good and bad.”