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DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH
Kevin Kerrane
March 19, 1984
In 1981 the author went to an amateur baseball tournament in Johnstown, Pa. to research a book on baseball scouts. As this excerpt reveals, while the scouts discovered their gems on the playing field, he found his own off the field
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March 19, 1984

Diamonds In The Rough

In 1981 the author went to an amateur baseball tournament in Johnstown, Pa. to research a book on baseball scouts. As this excerpt reveals, while the scouts discovered their gems on the playing field, he found his own off the field

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Getting Broadway Charlie to talk was easy. The next morning I had coffee with him in his room at the Towne Manor Motel, where the light had to angle down a steep mountainside to get to his window. On Route 56, only 60 yards away, truckers double-clutched as they climbed the grade. Charlie Wagner himself did more than the "e" in Towne ever could to add a touch of elegance to the surroundings.

"Back when I was pitching for the Red Sox, a sportswriter named Johnny Drohan started calling me Broadway," Wagner said. "It wasn't that I was a swinger or a nightclub guy. I'm a quiet man; I enjoy my peace and quiet. It was that I've always enjoyed dressing, ever since I was a kid. Other kids used to tease me about it. When I roomed with Ted Williams, he used to tease me. He went for the outdoor look—fishing jackets, open-necked sport shirts, baggy pants. He said, 'Why don't you dress casual like me? The only thing a tie's good for is to spill soup on.'

"I've always thought that the classiest look is simple and understated. That's why the Red Sox uniforms are so sharp—they're bold and yet they're traditional, so the players look tall and athletic but not flashy.

"Right now I'm breaking in a new scout, Phil Rossi, for when I retire. And I'm trying to impress him with what to look for and how to look for it—tools, makeup, and all of that. But I'm also trying to impress him with the idea that the game is bigger than any of us, that we're major league representatives, so the first thing a scout has to have is class. And it doesn't take money to be classy. It takes class to be classy. Class comes from the guy, within himself.

"When a young scout breaks in today, it feels more cold and mechanical to him and pretty soon he's ambitious to move up to the office. Well, I've worked in the office, and I could tell him that it's tight there—he'll take the team's losses more heavily and be channeled into a narrower path and have less chance to develop his taste. But taste is the great thing about growing old as a scout: You become more selective, more sophisticated, so you improve with age.

"The young scouts are better organized than we were, because so much of scouting now is writing reports. But take Socko McCarey—he's here at the tournament to help me out, and he's from that era when reporting was incidental and scouts were just baseball men. He's in his 70s now and he can't stand it when I tell him that I'm his boss, that he has to do what I tell him. He gives me hell about my clothing. And then I tell him how I served in World War II, how I suffered to make it safe for him. And he loves this agitation.

"But when Socko tells me about a player he likes, I know exactly what he's talking about. And vice versa. We understand each other with only a few words said. If Socko says 'Ahhh, I don't like him,' that's good enough for me, because he knows a ballplayer when he sees one. The thing about Socko is...he has good taste."

I found Socko the next day, during some slow action in the losers bracket at The Point. He put his feet up (black bro-gans and white socks) on the back of the empty seat in front. Scrunching down in his own seat in his slouch hat and rumpled clothes, he looked even shorter than his 5'8", heavier than his 180. I saw some similarity between Socko and Broadway Charlie, and then realized that both of them looked 15 years younger than they really were.

"Socko," I ventured, "how did you get the name Socko?"

"I used to be the clubhouse guy at Forbes Field, right after World War I, and I used to fool around with the players, try to hit 'em and all that, so Charlie Grimm started callin' me Socko and I guess it fit. I like to fight."

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