"I ought to
put stuff like that in my reports," said Bennett. "Drive the scoutin'
director up the wall."
"I met a high
school coach one time—he didn't know how to read a score book. He had his
assistant keep score by writing the game in sentences."
Nickels hoisted a
beer in tribute to his mentor, Philadelphia's Tony Lucadello, 68, who had
signed 46 major league players, more than any other scout in history. "When
Tony retires, if he ever does, I hope the Phillies bring him in and hold a
press conference and hand out a list of the players he's signed that went to
the big leagues," he said. "Schmidt, Hisle, Harrah, Alex Johnson,
Fergie Jenkins. If you tried to put a value on his players, it'd be
unbelievable. When the Phillies were down and out in the '60s, Lucadello and
Eddie Bockman kept the organization alive.
just covers and covers Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Ontario, and he
never gets tired of it. He has that whole web of information from all his
friends and part-time people, and if the weather's bad he'll work out a kid in
a barn or a gym—even in a coal mine once. He has a sixth sense for ballplayers,
a feel that you can't teach. But he showed me how to use grades, to decide in
my own mind what a 68 arm is and then to stay consistent within that system.
And what I really got from him was he taught me how to see."
theory is that every athletic body has eight sides (front-back times left-right
times upper-lower), and that a scout at a game should therefore keep shifting
his viewing angle until he's constructed a three-dimensional memory of each
player. According to Lucadello, scouting a game well requires scurrying all
around the field. First, he says, he positions himself behind home plate on the
first-base side in order to see all the face reactions, the hand reactions, the
footwork—all the front sides—of the pitcher, catcher and righthanded batter.
Then he moves along the first-base line to see the pitcher's back, all the
infielders' throws and the catcher's peg to second. Then he moves down the
rightfield line to see the outfielders' movements. Then he switches over to the
third-base side of the diamond to check the fielders' backs and the lefthanded
"I think Tony
gets carried away sometimes, kind of spins a yarn," Nickels said. "I
want to see a hitter's front side, hands and all, but I can get almost
everything I need from behind home plate. When I scout a pitcher now, the first
thing I look for is whether he has full arm action and how he lands on his
front leg. Tony used to say, 'The pitchers who get faster are the ones who get
to the big leagues.' And to get faster you have to be mechanically correct.
Like Tom Seaver. When he was in high school and community college, nobody was
that interested in him. He went to Southern Cal, and in one year the scouts
were falling all over him. He'd gotten faster because he was so mechanically
Elmer Gray of the
Reds talked about trying to sign a leftfielder named Joe Na-math to a contract
in 1961. "Joe's knees were O.K. in high school," Gray said. "He ran
the 60 in 7.0. Had a fair bat—I thought it might improve—and an average major
league arm. But when Cy Morgan and I took the contract to his house, we found
out he was out of town...on a football recruiting visit to Alabama. We never
saw him again except on TV. And then it was another guy. It was 'Broadway Joe.'
"Have you met
Broadway Charlie?" Nickels asked me. "The Red Sox scout? That's him
over there. You should get Charlie to talk, because he's like an elder
"Be sure to
talk to his buddy Socko, too," added Pidge McCarthy of the Phillies.
"You don't know the one guy unless you know the other. They're night and
day. Socko and Charlie are like the Odd Couple."
Wagner, 68, didn't look like an elder anything. Trim, tan impeccably groomed,
he was wearing a blue-and-white seersucker sports coat with a dark wine
handkerchief in the breast pocket, a light blue button-down oxford-cloth shirt
with a wine-and-navy rep tie, gray flannel slacks and carefully buffed black
Italian loafers—all this in a business where being "well dressed"
usually means wearing a golf sweater and polyester pants instead of a baseball
jacket and droopy gabardines.