Off the Cuff with Claiborne: John Mozeliak
St. Louis is a baseball town, and John “Mo” Mozeliak is undoubtedly a baseball guy. After starting with the Cardinals in 1995, he became the 12th general manager in the team’s history in 2007. Now, he’s chatting with T&S about the team, style and more.
What were you doing before baseball came along, and what would you be doing if it hadn’t?
I have no idea. I was young and just out of college when I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to start with the Colorado Rockies. If you had said at any point in my tenure there that I would have the opportunity to run a major league team, I would have said you were nuts.
What makes you love the job you have today?
The greatest part of my job is the interaction with others. I really enjoy getting to work with such a fantastic team of people.
What other sports or activities do you follow and participate in?
I consider myself an avid golfer when I have time, and on weekends, I tune into the Golf Channel. That’s about it for going out of my way to watch something that is not baseball. There is so much time spent at the ballpark, traveling and at games. When I’m at home, I try to be more of a husband and father than focused on going to or watching the next sporting event.
Have you always been interested in fashion and style?
I don’t even consider myself a fashion and style guy now. I just dress neat and clean. Growing up, my parents always made sure my sisters and I were dressed properly. When I did become a young adult, I would prefer to have one nice pair of shoes rather than three not-so-nice ones.
When it comes to style, do you have a set of rules you go by?
My style is simple, and I tend to dress more conservatively. When you look at the business world, things are becoming more and more casual. I’ve tried to wear fewer ties over time. I don’t want our office to feel overly stuffy. I always think you want to dress how you’re comfortable, but there’s a fine line between comfort and not looking professional.
What are your go-to places for clothing in St. Louis?
Woody’s, Mister Guy and Neiman Marcus
Mo only wears what Mo buys. Is that true?
No. My wife has excellent taste. She has a very keen eye for style, so if she were to get me something, it’s usually a keeper.
What’s the best fashion advice you ever got from your wife?
She’s someone who if she sees something that isn’t working, she points it out.
Fashion no-nos for you?
I don’t ever untuck my shirt, and I find doing so unprofessional if you’re at work. I think an untucked shirt paired with a sport court is atrocious. I have no time for frumpy clothes.
The bow tie: Why and when did you wear your first one?
I probably got my first bow tie back in the ’80s or early ’90s, but I’ve been wearing one consistently for close to 20 years. Whenever I have a public appearance and don’t have a bow tie on, people heckle me. I remember the first few times I tried to tie one, it was a disaster. A clip-on? Never!
What are three things every man should have in his wardrobe?
A classic pair of Alden penny loafers, a custom navy blazer and your favorite dress shirt.
What are your essential accessories?
I wear my wedding ring, and I have a few watches. I’ve been lucky. I have a couple of very special ones with World Series recognition on the back. My go-to right now is the watch my wife got me for our 25th anniversary.
What’s your go-to look for dress, casual and at home?
For dress, I’ll wear a navy or charcoal suit with a bowtie. If I’m dressing down, it will always be a sport coat. At home, my wife would say I’m a bit too formal. I almost always wear a collared shirt. Having dinner on weeknights, I’m usually wearing what I wore to work. On a Saturday, I’ll go with a nice shirt, jeans, loafers and a sport coat or sweater if I’m cold.
You can never go wrong if you have at least one of what in your closet?
Navy blazer. Young people come to me and ask, “What do I need?” Get a navy blazer. Depending on your job, it might be a navy suit.
What does “dress to impress” mean to you now compared to when you hunted your first job?
When I was looking to get into the business, suits were worn very commonly. Now, it’s not normal. When young people are starting out and dressing for the job they want, I tell them to be neat. It’s not a fashion show. You want to represent this organization with pride.
What did you wear to your first job interview?
A coat and tie.
You wouldn’t be caught dead in …
Jean shorts and a tank top.
Have you ever worn a smoking jacket, ascot, cowboy boots, fedora or silk pajamas?
No for the fedora and ascot. I have a smoking jacket, and I’ve worn silk pajamas. Four or five years ago, we had a Western-themed Christmas party, and I bought a pair of cowboy boots for it. I have never worn them since.
Your favorite dining spots in St. Louis.
Dominic’s, Capital Grille, Fleming’s
Favorite go-to meal.
Pizza. Right now in St. Louis, it’s Dewey’s with extra sauce, pepperoni and black olives.
The best thing you can cook.
I’m fairly handy in the kitchen. My wife enjoys it when I do something like a blackened halibut.
Drink of choice at home and away.
Good bourbon works for both.
How did you start your wine collection? How many bottles do you have, and what do you give as gifts?
I was curious about how wine was priced and why people picked the wines they did, so I started learning about different price points and tastes. For a gift, something from the Kistler family if they truly appreciate wine or a Bryant if they’re super special.
Big win or bad loss, what’s the drink?
When we won in 2011, there were a few of us who opened a Lafite. That was worth it.
What are the do’s and don’ts of having a beard?
I don’t think I’m a beard expert because I keep mine really tight. I keep that style November through spring training. After that, I shave it, and I will be more clean-shaven for the season.
It may be considered stylish, but you know it’s not Mo.
Trendy tennis shoes or sneakers. I know those are in, but I can’t do it.
What are you reading these days?
My genre of the year is biographies or autobiographies.
Favorite place to travel when it’s not for baseball.
Yountville in the Napa Valley area. It’s just beautiful. I find it relaxing.
Favorite place to travel for baseball.
Since we play in the central league, most cities are fun to visit. My two favorites are Chicago and Pitttsburgh. The latter has a lot of great golf, and it’s easy to get around.
Beach or mountains?
I’ve become a beach person just because of my time here.
A good sweater or a nice polo?
What’s on your bucket list?
There’s nothing I feel like I have to chase, but I wouldn’t mind someday getting back to fly-fishing. I used to fish when I was younger, but I haven’t thrown a line in 30 years. I find the allure of fly-fishing part art, part science, and it’s fun.
What’s the one thing that people assume about Mo that you want to set the record straight about?
People sometimes think of me as someone who isn’t creative, isn’t willing to take chances because of how we put this club together. I don’t think they understand how much we do care and try to put a product out there that we are proud of and they can be proud of, too. As much as I would like to keep everyone happy, I know that’s just not going to happen.
What are your thoughts on Yadi and Wayno’s friendship?
The batterymate and friendship those two have built over the years is something very few players will ever experience. I imagine there will be a day years from now when they’ll probably miss each other and wonder how the other is doing. It’s a special relationship, and we’ve been blessed to watch it over 15 years.
What example do they set for the next generation of ballplayers?
Yadi has been a mentor to basically every position player that has come through the last 15 years, not just catchers. Adam Wainwright also is someone who wants to give back and help young people. These are special guys.
Photo: Taka Yanagimoto/St. Louis Cardinals