Elliott on baseball

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Three blocks north of the Rogers Centre, they were beating the drums.

While millionaires were running around on the fake carpet bathed in sunshine, Roland Hemond, Rod Nelson and Jim Sandoval were fighting the good fight in a meeting room of the Holiday Inn at the 35th annual Society for American Baseball Research convention.

Nelson, of Denver, and Sandoval, of Harvest, Ala., co-chairs of SABR's scouts committee, have a data base which lists the scouts who signed roughly 65% of the post-1900 ball players.

This is a remarkable accomplishment and recognizes scouts, the backbone of the game. Without the hard work of the scouts, would there have been a game at Rogers Centre yesterday?

Who signed your favourite player? Sign up (sabr.org) and look him up?

Scouts in baseball have been around as early as 1901 and yet the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., has yet to acknowledge them. Not that they have the same role in the public eye as, say, Derek Jeter, but scouts certainly play a greater role in the industry than baseball writers and broadcasters, who are recognized by the hall.

John Odell of the Hall of Fame, addressed the convention and said plans were under way for an interactive exhibit to recognize scouts in 2007.

"I hope before I die I see that scouts are recognized in Cooperstown," said Hemond, former Baltimore Orioles general manager.

"When I was with the White Sox, I told our scouts we needed a shortstop. They had to go out and find one," Hemond told the SABR members at the committee meeting. "Jerry Krause and Duane Shaffer found us Ozzie Guillen."

Krause, you may have heard of, as he ran basketball's Chicago Bulls.

At the winter meetings in Dallas in 1984, Hemond shipped former Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt and two minor-leaguers to San Diego for Tim Lollar, Bill Long, Luis Salazar and Guillen.

After the meetings, Hemond took a trip to Mexico and then southern California. When he returned to Chicago, he was knocked for making the deal. And the next spring at training camp, he wasn't so sure it was such a good deal.

"I walk in the trainer's room and Ozzie is sitting there. He weighed about 140 pounds and I thought we had traded for a jockey," Hemond said. "Yet, he went on to play 13 years for the White Sox and now has managed our team to first place.

"I traded for him, sight unseen, on the word of Krause and Shaffer. That's why I am so passionate about scouting. Talk to Walt Jocketty (St. Louis Cardinals GM), Pat Gillick (former Jays GM) and Tim Purpura (Houston Astros GM) and they all have the same passion for scouts and the job that they do."

The mammoth "who signed who?" research project began in 1995 by Jim Croy of Houston. Taylor took over in 2002, armed with information from Jim Furtado, of Westport, Mass.

"I remember attending a SABR convention and I'd just read the book Dollar Sign On The Muscle, a great book on scouting," Nelson said. "I didn't think I could offer a thing to these stats guys. But from the book it was obvious that the scouts were the best story-tellers.

"I think who signed each player is every bit as important as hits, runs and errors," he said.

Nelson treats the search like a treasure hunt. His most fun discovery?

"Bill Clark (former Braves and Padres scout) blew me away when he told me that Jim (Mudcat) Grant had been signed by Fred Merkle," he said.

Merkle, then a Cleveland Indians scout, went into baseball lore on Sept. 23, 1908, which cost the New York Giants a win. Merkle was on first, but failed to touch second after a game-winning hit.

He turned and headed towards the dugout, only to have Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers get the ball and stepped on second for the force.

Sandoval enjoyed finding out about Dr. Charles Chapman, who wrote books about the Spanish influence in southern California.

"Dr. Chapman wrote letters to Branch Rickey critiquing his players, eventually Rickey hired him as first a part-time and then a full-time scout," Sandoval said.

Dr. Chapman signed Hall of Famer Chick Hafey.

So, which scout has signed the most major-leaguers?

"I think Epy Guerrero would be real close to the top," Nelson said.

Paul Beeston, the former Jays president, and a good friend of Guerrero's, was presented the Roland Hemond Award for his devotion to scouting.

In all, Guerrero has signed 37 major-leaguers while working for the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Jays -- he was hired by Gillick in each spot -- and Milwaukee Brewers. He signed the likes of Damaso Garcia, Tony Fernandez, Jose Mesa, Nelson Liriano, Tony Castillo, Junior Felix, Carlos Delgado, Giovanni Carrara, Kelvim Escobar and Abraham Nunez.

The scouts committee has done a yeomen's work going back into baseball's history, uncovering stones.

QUESTIONS

How are you supposed to know who the home team is when Gary Sheffield of the Yanks and Shea Hillenbrand of the Jays each homer and get the same level of applause?

How can the wind give a team problems in a dome? Easy, when it's open: Two first-inning drives Friday night off Gustavo Chacin were wind-aided.

Was there a more involved local man in the 35th annual SABR convention, than John Matthew IV, of MLB.com?

WINNERS

The Brampton Royals trailed 7-2 after an inning, but rallied to upset the Toronto Mets 8-7 to win the provincial midget title recently at Bond Park. Victor Speciale hit two home runs, including a game-tying solo shot in the seventh. Speciale, chosen as the tourney's most valuable player, also scored the winner on a Tyler Groves base hit. Morgan Kielty was selected the best catcher, Sammy Starr, also of the Mets, a Gold Glove winner, and Brampton's Jaimeel Purohit as the top pitcher. Puohit worked 13 innings, allowing two runs and 10 hits. The Royals continue on represent Ontario at the national in Trois Rivieres, Que.

Brampton's win saw four of five championships go to teams from the GTA. The undefeated Oshawa Legionaires defeated Tecumseh Thunder 7-2 to win the junior crown; the undefeated Markham Mariners, behind lefty Nick Fogarty, beat the North York Blues 14-3 in the final and the Newmarket Hawks edged Windsor Walker Homesites 4-3 to advance to the national peewee championships in Prince Edward Island.

The Windsor Stars advanced to Kamloops, B.C., beating the Erindale Cardinals 8-4.

The trail of the long-shot Cardinals was interesting as former Anaheim Angels farmhand Geoff Cullen had two homers, five RBIs and pitched six scoreless in a 10-0 win over Strathroy; Gavin Rajiva gained the win as Chris Dubnyk went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in a 7-4 win over Windsor AA; Fraser Vernon homered as Steve Gallant pitched a complete-game shutout over Markham; Ryan Pollard knocked in the game-winner in a 5-4 win over Etobicoke.

Windsor then beat Erindale 12-9 and Erindale reached the final beating the Northumberland 10-7 in the semi-final. Cullen was 2-0 with four homers and 12 RBIs in the event while Dubnyk hit .560 with 10 RBIs.


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