Chad Curtis has suffered a stunning fall from grace. The former Yankee outfielder has gone from World Series hero to sitting in a jail cell facing a 15-year prison term after having been convicted yesterday in Michigan of inappropriately touching three teen-aged girls.
Curtis, 44, was accused of touching two 15-year-old girls last year when he was a volunteer weight-room strength trainer at a Lakewood, Mich., high school. A 16-year-old girl later told authorities that he had touched and fondled her in 2011. Curtis denied the charges but did not testify at trial. He was led away in handcuffs after the verdict and is currently lodged in the Barry County Correctional Facility. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 26th. An appeal will undoubtedly follow.
Curtis played for the Yankees from 1997 through 1999. The high-point of his career in pinstripes was his 10th-inning walk-off home run in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series against Atlanta, winning a game the Yankees had once trailed 5-1. It was his second home run of the game. In his three years as a Yankee, he hit .263/.366/.400 with 27 HRs and 130 RBIs.
While with the Yankees, Curtis showed an idiosyncratic personality that rubbed some the wrong way. In The Captain, Ian O’Connor described him as a man with strident religious views who often proselytized in the clubhouse. His actions, however, often seemed more like those of an old-school tough guy.
If his walk-off home run in Game 3 was the high point of his Yankee career, Curtis managed to turn it into a controversy. Moments after the blast, NBC’s Jim Gray tried to interview him as he left the field, normally something a player would savor. Instead, Curtis brushed Gray off on national TV because of Gray’s recent hard-hitting interview of Pete Rose.
This was not Curtis’ first brush with controversy as a Yankee. In August 1999, a brawl broke out after Seattle pitcher Frankie Rodriguez hit Chuck Knoblauch with a pitch. During the particularly nasty fight that followed, Derek Jeter stayed on the periphery, shadowboxing and joking with some guy named Alex Rodriguez. This did not sit well with the old-school Curtis, who thought Jeter should have been in the thick of the scrum throwing punches. When the fight ended, he confronted Jeter and told him, "You’re a good player but you don’t know how to play the game." In the clubhouse and in full view of the beat writers, Curtis again confronted Jeter.
Berating Jeter is not a good career move and Curtis was traded to Texas after the 1999 season. He played there through 2001. After retiring from baseball, he earned his college degree and worked as athletic director, weight-training instructor and coach at several Michigan schools.