mid-'30s and the mid-'40s, when the Tigers won four pennants and finished
second four times, they had an oldtime scouting staff led by Ed Goosetree, a
bush-flusher par excellence, who uncovered such stars as Tommy Bridges, Pete
Fox and Gerry Walker. Wish Egan, who was chief scout and a front-office policy
maker as well until his death in 1951 and who was regarded as one of the wisest
of baseball men, used to say that there were never more than five first-rate
scouts in the business. Those were the days of widespread semipro and rural
baseball, when a scout could move around all summer and not hit a town of
During the war,
when the Tiger farm system was allowed to fall apart, the scouting staff
dropped from 12 to four, but in the postwar period, McHale, who learned a lot
from Egan, has resuscitated the scouting program to meet the demands of the
day. With the exception of two or three oldtimers such as George Moriarity, the
former player, manager and umpire who has been able to make the transition from
old-type bush-flushing to the new-type scientific scouting, the current Tiger
scouts are mostly young men McHale selected and trained. They include such
retired stars as Pitchers Willis (Ace) Hudlin and Lynwood (Schoolboy) Rowe, but
the majority were chosen for their all-round intelligence and baseball judgment
rather than for their professional playing experience.
he has become thoroughly McHale-indoctrinated, got into scouting almost
accidentally, through the Tiger front office. He was born in Shenandoah, Pa.,
where his father, John, a coal miner, was a baseball bug who fervently hoped
one of his four sons would become a big leaguer. They all turned out to be
football partisans. Ed starred at Shenandoah High School and then was a tackle
at Georgetown University, where he became acquainted with Walter O. (Spike)
Briggs, now president of the Tigers. After graduation, Katalinas taught
educational guidance and also coached football at Shenandoah High, played some
semipro football and later semipro baseball.
In 1940, having
had one experience scouting, Katalinas wrote to his friend Briggs and asked for
a summer scouting job. Briggs offered him a few hundred dollars and expenses,
and Katalinas started wandering around the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.
At Reading High School he spotted a husky, 15-year-old sophomore named Victor
Wertz who carried a big bat.
At that time a
high school boy could be offered a contract at any point, and Katalinas eagerly
followed Wertz around in summer recreation and American Legion Junior Baseball
At one point
Katalinas thought he had lost Wertz to Brooklyn, but the Dodgers passed him up,
and in 1942 Wertz told Katalinas he would sign with Detroit for a $5,000 bonus.
The Tiger front office said no, but Wertz wanted to play so badly he finally
asked Katalinas to arrange the best deal he could get. The Tigers thereupon
signed him to a Winston-Salem (Class B) contract, with the promise of a
retroactive bonus. When Wertz eventually reached Detroit, he got $3,500.
Katalinas did not
become a full-time scout until 1945—he was still more interested in coaching
football until then—but, as he looks back, he regards the Wertz find as in many
ways his most significant. "It gave me confidence in my own judgment,"
he says. "I never even had minor league experience, but when Vic started to
develop I knew I could spot a good ballplayer when I saw one. The big Dutchman
always had a great desire to play, and I quickly realized how important that
there are three kinds of boys a scout runs across. "First, there's the
truly outstanding kid, blessed with all the tools, the arm, the legs, the bat,
and with heart," he says. "You know right off you'll do everything to
sign him. The second type will have pretty good tools. You know he'll get his
foot in the door, but you've got to be tough with yourself and visualize him
several years ahead, figure how big and strong he'll be and what the need for
his kind of player will be. The third type of boy you look at will be the real
green pea, in his early teens, and with him you've got to look 10 years ahead.
If he shows you a good arm and a good spirit, maybe you'll go visit his parents
and see who he looks like, which member of the family he's apt to take after in
size and strength. It's like being an insurance inspector."
A case in point
is another budding Tiger star and Katalinas product named Steve Demeter, a
husky young third baseman who hit .285 at Buffalo last year and made the
International League All-Star team. He is being further seasoned at Charleston
in the American Association this year in view of Ray Boone's preeminence at
third for the Tigers. Demeter is a husky but short boy, and Katalinas carefully
studied not only him but his family before deciding that, in this case,
determination and strength would make up for lack of height. The Demeters live
in Homer City, Pa., where Katalinas first saw Steve play high school ball in
1952 and was impressed with the young man's arm. Next to his home, on the far
side of town, Steve had hacked out a rough diamond for himself in an adjacent
field with a bulldozer, built a crude backstop, and practiced batting for hours
with two neighborhood chums. Katalinas cultivated the Demeters assiduously.
Eventually, Detroit recommended Steve for a scholarship to Notre Dame, but,
despite his being a good student, he decided to go right into professional
baseball, and, though the Red Sox and the Pirates had originally had the inside
track, Steve Demeter signed with Katalinas. "Ed's one of those fellows who
gets right into the home," he says. "My mother liked him right
products of promise include Paul Foytack, a young fastball pitcher now on the
Tiger staff, picked out of a Sunday league in Pennsylvania; Tom Yewcik, a
former Michigan State star quarterback, now in the Army, who was spied by
Katalinas as a 15-year-old catcher in an amateur tournament in Johnstown, Pa.;
Bill Hoffer, a heavy-hitting outfielder at Charleston, first seen by Katalinas
at the Army barracks in Carlisle, Pa.; Joe Lewis, a former Duke University
pitching star; Al Pehanick, a 6-foot 4-inch side-wheeling pitcher spotted by
Katalinas at Scranton's West Side High; Jack Fickinger, a southpaw almost as
tall from Ashland, Pa.; and Paul Franks, another left-hander, who caught
Katalinas' eye right in his home town of Shenandoah.