01/15/12 10:00 AM EST
Scouts deserve a place in Hall of Fame
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
They are Major League Baseball's forgotten class, the guys in the trenches who dig out the talent. Unrecognized and underpaid, they've long traveled dusty roads to watch a high school kid play and squinted until their eyes turned sore from reading statistics on a laptop screen."Yes, absolutely," said Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox chairman. "Announcers and writers are recognized. We should find some way of recognizing scouts, too." The topic was germane on Saturday night because the scouts were honored again at the ninth annual dinner hosted by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, co-founded by Dennis Gilbert. Award winners included Jack Bloomfield, Bill Clark, Carl Loewenstine, Don Welke, Don Pries and Bill Livesey, among others. Have you ever heard any of these names? You should have. They are only the giants of their business. Livesey helped the building of a Yankees team that won four World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000. Loewenstine hits the road every day for the Dodgers while battling cancer. "You can't do it all alone," said Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick when commending his staffs along the way for all their help. "You have to have a great field staff and scouting staff. No question -- they should be in the Hall of Fame." So here's the deal: The Baseball Writers' Association of America votes annually for a writer who wins the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball announcing is chosen by a panel that includes all the living former Frick winners. Both have their cubby holes in the red brick museum nestled high on Main Street in the lovely little hamlet of Cooperstown, N.Y. Who knows the scouts better than members of their own foundation? Establish a panel of scouts and general managers to pick an award winner every year. Give the award its name after one of the legends: Harry Minor, George Genovese or the late great Dick Wiencek immediately come to mind. Present the award during the new Saturday Hall of Fame Induction Weekend celebration at Doubleday Field along with the Spink and the Frick Awards. That will guarantee a parade of scouts annually trekking to upstate New York to honor their own. As you might imagine, these are the tightest and most loyal group of guys. A crowd of 1,500 baseball people showed that again on Saturday at the Century Plaza. And finally, give them a permanent little nook in the Hall. "Go for it," Reinsdorf said. "That sounds like a great idea, actually, I like it," agreed Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, A Scout's Dream Award winner on Saturday night. "That's brilliant. If you bring it up, I'll vote for it." Consider it brought up. Aside from Reinsdorf, Gillick and Bench, Tom Seaver and Roland Hemond also said the idea was worthy. Reinsdorf and Seaver, a Hall of Fame pitcher, are on the Hall's Board of Directors and carry serious clout. Hemond -- a long-time GM and D-backs consultant -- won last year's second Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, and he is considered one of the most knowledgeable people in the game. O'Neil failed to be elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2006 with the last class of Negro Leaguers. He missed by one vote. In the cacophony of criticism that Hall officials took for that slight, the Board erected a bronze statue of O'Neil off the main lobby and happened to give the first award to Buck. So where there's a will, there's a way. Jeff Idelson, the president of the Hall of Fame, is a member of the Scouts Foundation Board. Gilbert said there are ongoing conversations between the two of them about scouts gaining acceptance to the Hall. "We're working on it and trying to find some common ground," said Gilbert, a former player, scout, agent and now a consultant to Reinsdorf and the White Sox. "I believe it will eventually happen." Idelson said on Saturday night that the current, long-term path is an exhibit bridging amateur baseball with the Minor Leagues. The first step is collecting data, which includes more than 2,500 scouting reports. "We're in the process of digitizing all that and it will be part of the exhibit," Idelson said. "It's meant to be a permanent recognition of the scouting profession. The goal would be to show how a player becomes a professional by explaining what the scouting profession does, by educating people about the scouts, the hard work they do, and the people that they sign." While this is actively being pursued, there's no timetable for the exhibit to happen, Idelson added. This concept is admirable, but in all due respect, it really doesn't get the job done. Let's honor one scout every year for his career of achievement and begin building a legacy to this hard-working group of baseball lifers in a wing of the Hall of Fame. The Hall's Board of Directors should take this up immediately. "That's a good idea," Seaver said. "If Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame is the body of history for baseball, the scouts are certainly a very important part of it."
Barry M. Bloom a> is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.