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.'
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."