Archives

July 2020 – Week 4

Birthdate of Baseball Scout Jack Butterfield — August 5, 1929

While still in his twenties, Jack Butterfield became head baseball coach at the University of Maine. He remained in that position for 18 years. In 1975, he left Maine to become head coach at the University of South Florida. After two years at USF, Butterfield accepted a position as a scout with the New York Yankees. In 1977, the Yankees appointed Butterfield to be their director of player development and scouting.

Butterfield died on November 16, 1979 in Paramus, New Jersey when his automobile crashed into a street sweeper that had stopped in the road. At his death, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said of Butterfield, “he was the epitome of what you would look for in a teacher of young men.”


July 2020 – Week 3

Birthday of Baseball Scout Wayne Krivsky — July 28

Wayne Krivsky played three years of varsity baseball at Duke University where, he says, he “peaked as a player.” After college, he took a job with the Texas Rangers in ticket sales. In 1979, Rangers scouting and farm director Joe Klein hired Krivsky to serve as his assistant.  Krivsky later served as assistant general manager for the Rangers. In 1995, Krivsky took a position as special assistant for the Minnesota Twins.

He later transitioned to assistant general manager in Minnesota. In 2006, the Cincinnati Reds hired Krivsky as general manager. He remained with the Reds for two years and, thereafter, worked in the front offices for the Mets, Orioles and Twins. During Krivsky’s time as general manager for Cincinnati, he oversaw the drafting of first baseman Drew Stubbs (2006) and catcher Devin Mesoraco (2007).


July 2020 – Week 3

Scout Del Wilber Dies — July 18, 2002

For eight seasons, 1946-1949 and 1951-1954, Del Wilber was a reserve catcher in the major leagues, playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox. Prior to making his major league debut in 1946, Wilber served on active duty as captain in the Army Air Force for three years during World War II. Over the course of his major league career, Wilber appeared in 299 games and finished with a career batting average of .242.

After retiring as a player, Wilber worked as a scout, coach, and manager. He managed for several years in the minor leagues. In 1973, the Texas Rangers appointed Wilber as interim manager after the team fired incumbent manager Whitey Herzog. From the mid-1970s until 1986, Wilber was a scout for the Orioles, Twins, Athletics, Reds, and Tigers.  He died in St. Petersburg, Florida at the age of 83.


July 2020 – Week 2

Birthday of Scout and Executive Ben Cherington — July 14

A product of Meriden, New Hampshire, Ben Cherington was a varsity pitcher for his Lebanon High School baseball team.  Cherington graduated from Amherst College and received his Master’s Degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.  He started in professional baseball in 1998 as an advance scout for the Cleveland Indians. In 1999, Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette hired Cherington as an area scout. From 1999 to 2005, he worked in a variety of positions for the Red Sox, as amateur scout, operations assistant, and director of player development. In 2011, the Red Sox elevated Cherington to the position of executive vice president and general manager, a position he held until resigning in 2015.

In 2016, the Toronto Blue Jays hired Cherington as vice president of baseball operations. He served in that role until November 2019, when the Pittsburgh Pirates appointed him as general manager.


July 2020 – Week 1

Birthdate of Scout Joe Cambria — July 5, 1890

Long-time scout Joe Cambria was a pioneer in recruiting Latin American ballplayers. Born in Italy, Cambria immigrated to the United States with other family members in 1893. He got his start in professional baseball as a minor league outfielder, playing for the Berlin Green Sox in the Canadian League in 1911 and 1912. In 1929, Cambria purchased a minor league team, the Hagerstown Hubs of the Class D Blue Ridge League.

In subsequent years, he would become the owner of minor leagues teams in Albany, New York and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. During his time as a minor league owner, Cambria developed a working relationship with Calvin Griffith, owner of the Washington Senators. Cambria would frequently sell the most promising players on his minor league teams to the Senators.

From 1938 until his death in 1962, Cambria worked primarily as a scout for the Senators and spent much of his time scouting ballplayers in Cuba. Cubans affectionately referred to Cambria as the “fat little Italian.” Cambria signed over 400 Cuban players to professional contracts. His most notable signings included Pete Runnels, Mickey Vernon, Early Wynn, Eddie Yost, Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, and Zoilo Versalles.


June 2020 – Week 4

Birthdate of Baseball Player and Scout Babe Herman — June 26, 1903

Floyd “Babe” Herman spent 13 seasons (1926-1937 and 1945) as an outfielder in the major leagues, playing for five different clubs. He was an accomplished hitter and, in 1931, hit for a .393 average in 153 games. However, his lackluster defense and penchant for puzzling, sometimes bizarre plays in the field overshadowed his ability with a bat.

After his retirement as a player, Herman turned to scouting. From 1945 to 1964, he scouted for the Pirates, Phillies, Mets, Yankees, and Giants. He was responsible for signing, among others, pitcher Vernon Law, outfielders Wally Westlake and Paul Blair, and catcher Ed Fitzgerald. When asked what he looked for in a young player, Herman commented, “First of all, the kid has got to catch your eye. He has to have that certain something, a touch of class, maybe.” Herman died on November 27, 1987.


June 2020 – Week 3

June 20 — Birthday of Scout Gary Varsho

Gary Varsho was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of 1982.  Varsho played eight seasons in the major leagues, primarily as a pinch hitter and reserve outfielder.  He finished his play ing career in 1995 with a batting average of .244.  From 2002 to 2006, Varsho served as the bench coach for the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2008, he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was the bench coach for two seasons.

In 2012, Varsho became a pro scout for the Los Angeles Angels.  Since 2016, he has worked as a pro scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  For the past 20 years, Varsho has also operated the Gary Varsho Baseball League for youth baseball players in Marshfield, Wisconsin.  The League is based on two fundamental principles:  baseball should be fun for the players, and children who are friends should play together.  Varsho’s son, Daulton, is a promising minor league catcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system.


June 2020 – Week 2

June 14, 2018 — Scout Ed Roebuck Dies

Ed Roebuck was a right-handed pitcher who played in the major leagues for eleven seasons.  He is most remembered as a member of the Dodgers, both in Brooklyn and in Los Angeles, playing for the Dodgers from 1955 to 1963.  While with Brooklyn, Roebuck appeared in the 1955 and 1956 World Series , pitching six innings in four games and recording a 1.42 earned run average.

After his playing career, Roebuck turned to scouting.  From 1968 to 2006, he scouted for five different clubs:  Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox.  As a scout, Roebuck’s most significant signing was catcher Jason Kendall, who was drafted by the Pirates in the first round of 1992.  During his playing days, Roebuck was reputed to be one of baseball’s finest fungo hitters.

He could routinely hit fungoes that reached nearly 300 feet in height.  In 1964, when Judge Roy Hofheinz, owner of the Houston Colt .45s, was trying to gauge the appropriate height to construct the roof at Houston’s Astrodome, he enlisted Roebuck to hit fungo fly balls at the construction site.  With Roebuck’s assistance, the roof was placed at a sufficient height to ensure that it would not interfere with fly balls hit during games.


June 2020 – Week 1

June 4 — Birthday of scout Terry Kennedy

From 1978 to 1991, Terry Kennedy was a catcher and occasional outfielder in the majo r leagues. The son of former big league infielder-outfielder Bob Kennedy, Terry was named to four all-star teams and finished his major league career with a batting average of .264. His best season came in 1982, when he hit .295 with 21 home runs and 97 runs batted in for the San Diego Padres. In the 1984 World Series, Terry drove in three runs for the Padres, making Bob and Terry Kennedy the first father-son duo to drive in runs in the World Series. After his playing career, Terry Kennedy was a coach and minor league manager for several organizations. He is currently a scout for the Chicago Cubs.


May 2020 – Week 4

May 28, 2002 — Scout Wes Westrum Dies

Wes Westrum was a stellar defensive catcher and two-time all-star for the New York Giants from 1947 to 1957. In his eleven major league seasons, Westrum hit only .217 but nonetheless was called “the most underrated player on the team” by teammate Eddie Stanky. In July 1965, Westrum became the second manager in the history of the New York Mets when Casey Stengel stepped down after suffering a fractured hip. Westrum served as the Mets’ manager from July 1965 to September 1967. He later managed the San Francisco Giants for part of the 1974 season and all of 1975. From 1977 to 1994, Westrum served as a part-time scout for the Atlanta Braves.


May 2020 – Week 3

May 23, 1974 — Scout Neil Mahoney Dies

A graduate of Boston’s Northeastern University, Neil Mahoney was catcher and captain of the 1929 Northeastern baseball team.  He played in the minor leagues for one season before embarking on a career as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. Mahoney scouted for the Sox from 1939 to 1960 and signed, among others, center fielder Jimmy Piersall and catcher Haywood Sullivan.

In 1960, Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey appointed Mahoney as director of Boston’s farm system. From 1969 to 1973, he served as director of scouting for the Red Sox. During Mahoney’s time as director of scouting, the Red Sox made a concerted effort to scout and draft African-American ballplayers. Mahoney was responsible for drafting a number of future major league stars, including Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Fred Lynn, Amos Otis, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Joy Foy, and Sparky Lyle.


May 2020 – Week 2

May 14, 1977 — Scout Lou Maguolo Dies

Though standing only five-feet-five and weighing only 112 pounds, Lou Maguolo was an outstanding outfielder in high school and college. From 1921 to 1923, Maguolo played for Washington University in St. Louis and was named to the all-Missouri Valley Conference team each year. Maguolo scouted full-time for the St. Louis Browns from 1936 to 1942.

In 1942, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army an d served on active duty as a major during World War II. Following his discharge from military service, he be gan scouting for the New York Yankees in 1947 and would remain as a prominent Yankee scout until 1975.

He is credited with signing more than 40 players who went on to play in the major leagues, including pitchers Al LaMacchia (the inspiration for this book) and Zach Monroe; outfielders Roy Sievers, Whitey Herzog and Norm Siebern; infielders Jerry Lumpe, Tony Kubek and Bill Skowron; and catcher Elston Howard.


May 2020 – Week 1

May 3, 2004 — Scout Darrell Johnson Dies

For a period of 50 years, 1949-1999, Darrell Johnson was a major league player, coach, manager and scout. During his playing career, he was a reserve catcher for seven teams. He spent 1957 and 1958 with the New York Yankees, during which he was described by Sporting News as the “slowest player afoot” on the Yankees.

Nonetheless, on June 15, 1957, Johnson hit an inside-the-park home run off Kansas City Athletics pitcher Virgil Trucks. The home run came on a ball that Johnson grounded past first base. Kansas City right fielder Harry “Suitcase” Simpson searched in vain for the baseball under a bullpen bench, only to find that the ball was sitting in fair play on the outfield grass.

Johnson served as an area scout for the Yankees in 1957 and as a special assignment scout for the Boston Red Sox in 1970. From 1984 to 1993, he was a special assignment scout for the New York Mets.

 


April 2020 – Week 5

Birthdate of scout Charlie Metro – April 28, 1918

As a high school student in Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania in the 1930s, Charlie Metro worked as a coal miner when not in school. While still in high school, Metro attended a tryout camp held by the St. Louis Browns and was signed to a minor league contract. Metro never hit well enough to stick in the major leagues but, during 16 years in the minor leagues, he had a batting average of .284.

After his playing career, Metro worked as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds (1967), Detroit Tigers (1972-73), and Los Angeles Dodgers (1977-81). In addition to his work as a scout, Metro served as manager of the Chicago Cubs (1962) and the Kansas City Royals (1970). He is credited with inventing the batting tee that is used by players at all levels for hitting practice.


April 2020 – Week 4

Birthdate of scout Harry Craft – April 19, 1915

Harry Craft played centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds for six seasons, 1937-1942. Known primarily as a stellar defensive outfielder, Craft closed out his major league career with a .253 batting average and 44 home runs. Following his playing days, Craft managed the Kansas City Athletics (1957-59), Chicago Cubs (1961), and Houston Colt 45s (1962-64). After stepping down as Houston’s manager, Craft remained in baseball for the next 26 years, working as a scout and farm system official for the Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees.


April 2020 – Week 3

Birthday of scout Jeff Bittiger — April 13

A former pitcher, Jeff Bittiger spent parts of four seasons in the major leagues, playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. On September 2, 1986, he started for the Phillies against the Pirates, hit his first and only major league home run, and got his first victory in the big leagues. Bittiger’s best season came in 1988, when he appeared in 25 games for the White Sox, including seven starts.

Bittiger spent the last eight years of his playing career as a pitcher in the independent Northern League. He retired at the age of 40 when his former minor league roommate, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, prevailed upon him to accept a scouting position with the Athletics. As an amateur scout, Bittiger signed two-time major league all-star Andrew Bailey, catcher Anthony Recker, and pitcher Vin Mazzaro. Since 2008, Bittiger has scouted the minor leagues for the Athletics.


April 2020 – Week 2

Birthday of scout Greg Smith — April 5

Greg Smith spent parts of three seasons, 1989-1991, as an infielder with the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He started scouting for the Kansas City Royals in 1997 and has also scouted for the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers.  He is currently a special assistant for the Rangers. Smith signed pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, among others.  He was one of the first scouts to identify Tim Lincecum as a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter.  When assessing Lincecum’s physical and mental makeup, Smith compared him to future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux. Smith provided a unique appraisal of both Maddux and Lincecum. “You could just see that they beat to a different drum that others couldn’t play,” Smith said.


April 2020 – Week 1

John “Red” Murff, born on April 1, 1921

There have been many legendary scouts in the history of baseball. Red Murff was one of them. Murff covered the state of Texas for the New York Mets. Murff had been a pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves in 1956 and 1957.

As a scout, Murff traveled over a million miles in his Oldsmobile Delta 88 in search of undiscovered prospects. Murff discovered and signed pitcher and future Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan. He also signed several key players on the Mets’ 1969 World Championship team, such as pitcher Jerry Koosman, catcher Jerry Grote and second baseman Ken Boswell.