|Lasorda part of group that helps out when hard times befall scouts, baseball's 'unsung heroes'|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 10 January 2008 10:40|
After being talked into taking the job by then-director of scouting Al Campanis, Lasorda discovered that the hours were long and the pay was low.
He loved it.
``It was a great part of my life, my second life,'' the 80-year-old Lasorda recalled this week. ``I was a player, I was a minor league coach. When all that stopped, I began another life - scouting. Campanis convinced me he wanted young men he would have for a long time.
``I didn't want to be a scout. I thought scouts were old guys wearing straw hats, smoking cigars. I thoroughly enjoyed it.''
Lasorda began in 1961. Based in his native Pennsylvania, he covered six states to earn $6,000.
``When I moved out to California in 1963, Al gave me a raise to $7,000,'' Lasorda said. ``Later, he gave me a $500 raise and told me not to tell anybody about it. I told him I wouldn't, that I was just as embarrassed as he was.''
Lasorda's scouting career ended in 1969, when he became a manager at Triple-A Albuquerque. He would later spend nearly 20 years as manager of the Dodgers before a heart attack forced him to retire during the 1996 season.
Lasorda has always remembered his days as a scout, and perhaps that best explains his involvement in the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assists scouts in need of support due to job loss, illness or other financial hardships.
``I'm a big advocate of scouts. They are the unsung heroes of our game,'' said Lasorda, now a special adviser to Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. ``Without scouts, there are no players. I'm hoping that before the Big Dodger in the Sky calls me that I will see a Scouts Hall of Fame.''
Lasorda is a member of the foundation's board of directors, and will serve as a host Jan. 19 at the organization's fifth annual dinner and silent auction of baseball memorabilia, staged to raise funds for needy scouts, former scouts or their families.
Among those expected to attend are commissioner Bud Selig, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, George Brett and Rod Carew, and several team owners, including McCourt.
The foundation was the brainchild of Dennis Gilbert, a special assistant to the chairman with the Chicago White Sox. The former player, scout and player's agent was prompted to act by the death of childhood friend Ellis Williams.
Williams had lost his job as a scout, and the health insurance that went with it. Gilbert, who also has an insurance office in Beverly Hills, helped Williams' family financially after Williams died.
``That was something that made me start thinking about it,'' said Gilbert, who as an agent represented the likes of Brett, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Mike Piazza, Rickey Henderson, Bret Saberhagen and Jose Canseco.
Conversations with fellow baseball executives Roland Hemond and Dave Yokem followed, and soon the foundation was born. Gilbert said Lasorda was the first person to make a contribution, writing a check for $5,000.
``I'll tell you something - we've helped a lot of guys so far, scouts who were unemployed, had medical problems, they owed money, we've taken good care of them,'' Lasorda said.
As Gilbert pointed out, scouting isn't the most secure profession.
``Every time there's a new general manager or a new owner, these guys have to start proving themselves all over again,'' he said. ``We're there for guys who get summarily dismissed because there's a new GM, a scouting director who wants to plug in his own people.
``If a guy's been scouting for 20, 25, 30 years and all of a sudden he's out of a job, maybe he doesn't have the experience to do anything else. We help people with everything from rent to mortgage payments to medical insurance to funeral expenses, electricity bills. We're just helping people who don't have the money.''
Bob Zuk, the scout who signed Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, was honored at a past dinner.
``We called Reggie, offered him a limo, he said he could drive, he didn't want the foundation to spend money we didn't have to,'' Gilbert said. ``We had a spot for him to sit with the other baseball dignitaries, and he refused. He wanted to sit with Bob and his family.''
Gilbert also recalled Schilling's attendance after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, their first title since 1918, and his ankle surgery and resulting bloody sock became the stuff of baseball lore.
``He came in on crutches, got up, gave an impassioned speech about what scouts meant in baseball, how advance scouts helped him win in the Series,'' Gilbert said. ``He refused an offer to be flown here, hired his own private jet.''
Lasorda has vivid memories from his scouting days.
``Things were not great with scouts, not making much money,'' he said. ``I needed a new car radio, I put down $60 on my expense account for a new car radio. Campanis said no way. The next expense account I sent him, I put down $60 for a new car radio. Again, he said no way.
``The next expense account, I didn't put down the $60. Later, he said, `I guess you learned your lesson.' I said, `It was there, you just didn't see it.' I put down $60 to take a coach out to dinner.''
Lasorda also recalled going to Dodger Stadium when the Angels, then sharing the facility, were playing a day game.
``A guy in the parking lot wouldn't let me in,'' he said. ``I said, `I'm going to my office.' He said, `If you're a scout, I'll make you a deal. I'll let you park if you go see my buddy play.'
``I went to see his friend, his name was Tommy Hutton. I signed him, he played in the majors for 11 years.''
Harry Minor, who turns 80 in March and has scouted for the New York Mets since 1967, said he's managed to keep his job despite the advent of the computer age.
``This could be my last year. I just work locally now,'' he said. ``I've signed about 10, 12, or 15 one-year contracts (over the years). It's been year-to-year. The (one-year) contract wasn't worth anything anyway because there was a clause in there saying the ballclub could void the contract in 10 days.
``I told my wife one day, `When I die, at that funeral, don't play, `I did it my way.' You don't last 40 years with a ballclub doing it your way. I've gone through 10 general managers. When you last that long, you do it their way.''