Among the fanfare often received in baseball, major league scouts remain extremely underappreciated. In a Sports Illustrated article, Jay Feldman, describes scouts being ineligible for the non-player section of the Hall of Fame as the equivalent of “infantryman being ineligible for the Medal of Honor.” I have no opinion about Cooperstown, but the following are five scouts who made incredible contributions to their teams.
Tony Lucadello—Lucadello is considered by many to be the greatest scout ever, and his approach is followed by many today. He spent over 40 years scouting for the Phillies, and during that time he signed 60 players who reached the major leagues. Lucadello famously began scouting Mike Schmidt when he was in Little League, and convinced his team to “overdraft” him in the second round. He also discovered Ernie Banks. This awesome article from espn about Lucadello is definitely worth reading.
George Digby—Digby spent 60 years scouting the Southeastern United States for the Boston Red Sox. During this time, he signed 53 players who reached the majors. His greatest achievement was convincing Boston to draft Wade Boggs in the seventh round of the 1983 draft. The previous year, Digby was responsible for the team’s decision to draft Mike Greenwell in the third round. However, Digby is perhaps most famous for a recommendation Boston did not take, when in 1949, the Red Sox passed on Digby’s recommendation to sign Willie Mays for $5,000.
Tom Greenwade—Greenwade, who died in 1986, was a scout for the Brookyln Dodgers and New York Yankees. Greenwade’s claims to fame include drafting the report that convinced Branch Rickey to sign Jackie Robinson and signing Mickey Mantle for a contract of $140 per week and a $1,500 bonus. Many of the players from the Yankee dynasty of the 1950’s and 1960’s were players Greenwade signed from the Midwest.
George Genovese—Genovese spent almost 70 years scouting the west coast, primarily for the Giants. If you can think of a Giants great who began his career in San Francisco, there is a good chance Genovese discovered him. Genovese appeared in a recent story which discussed how underappreciated scouts are when the Dodgers received criticism for cutting his retirement salary.
Andres Reiner—Reiner does not traditionally rank among the aforementioned scouts, but if one person is responsible for the influx of Venezuelan talent during the last 5-10 years, it is Reiner. Reiner is a native of Eastern Europe who moved to Latin America in 1946. The Astros hired him as a Latin American scout in 1989 for $8,000 per year. The investment paid off, and Reiner signed a plethora of Venezuelan players who went on to major league success, including Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, and Melvin Mora. “Philosophical differences” forced Reiner out of the Astros organization several years ago, and Reiner joined Gerry Hunsicker in Tampa Bay. There is a great book about Reiner called “Venezuelan Bust: Andres Reiner and Scouting on the New Frontier” by Milton Jamail.
The recent success of life-long scout Jack Zduriencik in Seattle has brought some positive attention to scouts, and with more people reading about prospects, so maybe baseball scouts will become prestigious in the future.