Socko stood up to
leave. "There aren't any good side effects of the strike," he said as
he trundled up the stadium steps.
At noontime of
the third day of the AAABA a dozen scouts showed up at Franklin Field, the
roughest and dustiest diamond in tournament use, to watch a game between
Brooklyn and Milford, Mass. Most of them came to see Brooklyn and third baseman
Shawon Dunston, who had turned 18 in March and still had another year of high
school eligibility. Dunston was 6' 1" and 175 pounds, but the scouts had to
go beyond the numbers to do justice to his body. They said it was live,
springy, wound tight, that it had the loose-limbed grace typical of so many
good black athletes, and that it was obviously going to fill out for even
The young scouts
sat in rickety bleachers along the first-base line; the veterans—Katalinas,
Jocko Collins, Joe Caputo, Gray—sat in folding chairs directly behind the
backstop. Gray was using a radar gun to time the fastballs of the Milford
pitcher, and Katalinas was teasing him by guessing the speed of each pitch and
never being wrong by more than one mile an hour. When Dunston came to bat for
Brooklyn in the first inning, Gray pulled out a stopwatch.
"If this kid
runs too fast for the watch," Katalinas said, "maybe you can time him
with the gun."
Dunston took a
called strike on an 82-mph fastball that was almost in the dirt. He stepped out
of the batter's box and made eye contact with the umpire, but said nothing. His
features were broad, strong and open; in my notes I wrote "stylish,"
because what I really liked was the way he stepped quickly back in the box and
assumed a classic righthanded stance, making the bat look like an extension of
his lithe body. Dunston jumped on the next pitch and pulled it to deep left,
but the fielder, playing back and toward the line, made an easy catch to end
As he watched
Dunston play third base, Katalinas observed, "He's got the reflexes and the
hands, so I think he's a shortstop. If he can't play infield, you might project
him in leftfield or centerfield, where he could take advantage of that
liked best was Dunston's quick bat. In each of his subsequent at bats Dunston
met the ball in front of the plate and drove it with power: a single and
another line out to left, and then a triple to left center that allowed us to
see just how beautifully he ran. "If you're observant," Katalinas said,
"you'll see that a lot of these kids meet the ball back here, almost behind
the plate, but the aluminum bat saves them. They hit the ball off the fists and
it goes for a hit to rightfield. If they come into the minors and get the pitch
on the fists, now the wooden bat breaks and the ball dribbles to the pitcher
instead of going over the second baseman's head. But Dunston may never have
played pro ball," Katalinas said. "I went to Georgetown in 1928 on a
scholarship that got me out of the mines, and I played catcher and first base.
But I didn't have it. Nobody offered me any money to sign."
"How did you
get into scouting?" I asked him.
"I was a high
school teacher and coach in Shenandoah, Pa., but I also played county ball, and
in 1938 I saw a kid named Al Simononis who I thought was a prospect, so I wrote
a letter to the Tigers because I'd known Spike Briggs [the team owner] at
Georgetown. When I recommended this kid, Spike sent a scout all the way from
Kansas City—the Tigers didn't have anybody in the East then—and he took one
look at Simononis and signed him. They sent him out to the Kitty League and he
had a heck of a year, but his career was cut short by the service. Then in 1940
Spike asked me to cover a tournament in Bradford, Pa. I did it, and in fact I
signed a boy by the name of Marty Tabacheck. I guess I really didn't have the
authority to do it, but I signed him on a piece of hotel stationery. Spike
called me and said, 'Who gave you the authority to sign that kid?' I said,
'What the hell did you send me up there for?'