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The Last of the Ivory Hunters

“ Gentlemen, the king has arrived.”


“ You guys get uglier every time I see you,”an old man, tanned and wrinkled, said approaching the
bleachers. “ How the hell is everybody?”
“ How’ s it hanging, Whitey?”
The assembled group of men, baseball scouts, proffered greetings and handshakes to the old man
as he gingerly climbed up the bleacher stairs. The old man, clad in creased khakis, a stained blue
windbreaker and a baseball hat, met each man in turn, trading a humorous barb or insult, glad-handing
and slapping backs and shoulders like a well-trained politician. The scouts reciprocated, openly enjoying
the presence of the old man. After a few minutes of shared camaraderie, the old man found an empty seat
in the bleachers and sat down. He adjusted the baseball bat perched on his head, wisps and strands of
white hair sneaking out from the cover, and fiddled with the sunglasses. A smile creased his face, the
extra skin gathering in the corners of his mouth and eyes.
The scouts had trekked to the college stadium in Georgia to evaluate Evan Morris, a strapping
third baseman with prodigious power for the home team. Eligible for the forthcoming baseball draft,
Morris excited the scouts with his potential. Before the arrival of the old man, the scouts had buzzed
during batting practice as Morris launched pitch after pitch over the outfield fence. Morris stood out from
the rest of the players, bigger and stronger, brimming with talent and a brash air.
The stadium, a modest-sized venue with aluminum bleachers for seats, a concrete press box
behind home plate and an electronic scoreboard behind right field, held several dozen fans watching the
game that day, mostly students. The section immediately behind home plate had been claimed by a
contingent of twelve scouts from ten major league baseball teams, all intently observing and evaluating
Morris. Radar guns and stopwatches at the ready, the scouts recorded observations and output from the
devices in notebooks. All the action took place under a sunny but breezy Wednesday afternoon in mid-
May.
“ Who the hell are we watching?”Whitey said. Whitey had no equipment and no notepad, just an
empty paper cup and a pouch of tobacco.
“ Morris,”a thin middle-aged scout with a large nose said. “ Third base.”
Whitey gazed at Morris, studying the physique with a trained eye. “ Big kid,”Whitey said, dipping
his hand into the tobacco pouch, ready to load his cheek with the shredded brown leaves. “ Reminds me of
that kid from Valdosta a couple of year back. Parker, right. Remember him, Jimmy?”
Jimmy, the thin middle-aged scout with the large nose, turned o address Whitey, a knowing grin
spread across his face. “ What happened with that kid?”
“ Ate his way out of the minors, last I heard,”Whitey said, grinning as he plugged his cheek with a
wad of cut tobacco. “ I told Brewer the kid would find something to eat in the bushes. All that fast food,”
Whitey said, nodding to Jimmy.
“ Well, this kid is a little thinner. He likes to work out; hits the gym every day they say,”Jimmy
said, turning back to the baseball field.
“ Shit, they all say that,”Whitey said. The stands fell silent for a few moments as the game played
out before the scouts. The visiting team had a man on second and two outs. The home team pitcher ran a
fastball inside to the hitter and the resulting check swing punched the ball into play. Morris charged the
ball, scooped it bare-handed and fired a strike to first base to retire the runner. Morris accepted the high-
fives and slaps from his teammates as he left the field.

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“Hey, Whitey, when are you going to get off the road?”a fat scout sweating profusely in the mild
May sun said.
“Well, Barber, when the Good Lord gives me a territory or the state takes away my driver’ s
license,”Whitey said, leaning over to paternally pat Barber on the shoulder. “ Someone’ s gotta keep you
guys in line.”
Barber chuckled and shook his head. “ Just let me know what road you’ re taking out of here so I
can avoid getting run over.”
Whitey and a few other scouts laughed. White had driven close to a half a million miles in his life,
by his own reckoning. Ninety thousand miles a year for fifty years –the math might be off a few miles
here and there, but the basic truth held. Whitey had toured the entire country several times over during his
life as a scout. Whitey had driven on every road in the south-eastern part of the country, he liked to brag.
“Like that time he drove ninety miles an hour to get to Carver to see that righty pitcher. Weaving
in and out of traffic, blowing past red lights –you’ re a menace,”a tanned scout sporting a full mustache
and a deep voice said, elbowing his way into the conversation.
“Hell, Mike,”Whitey said, chortling at the memory before spitting tobacco juice into his paper
cup, “ the only reason I was going all out to get there was I had to meet the cross-checker, remember?
Daniels. What a tight ass. If I was late, he would have fired me.”
The players finished the warm-ups between innings and the game continued, peppered by a
running commentary provided by Whitey. Every play and player triggered a memory which led to an
anecdote. The other scouts contributed an aside or comment every so often, but Whitey dominated.
“ Look at this,”Whitey said, gesturing to the field. “ Collins still likes those breaking ball artists. None of
these pitchers can throw a fastball.”Whitey referred to the manager of the home team, an itinerant
manager who had guided several college programs over the past twenty years to varying degrees of
success.
“He blames you,”Mike said. “ He said guys like you steal all the fire-ballers out of high school and
he has to recruit the slop throwers.”
“Bah,”Whitey said, waving both hands at the field. “ They ran him out of Florida because he
couldn’ t recruit. They’ ll do the same here.”
“He got Morris,”Mike said.
“No pitching!”Whitey said. He leaned forward, speckled hands on bony knees, ready to defend
his point to any and all detractors. The veteran scouts recognized the pose. Whitey didn’ t follow politics
or movies or music or anything save baseball. But, once challenged on a topic, Whitey would defend his
point to the end, never conceding or admitting defeat.
“Like that kid Emery you popped a couple years ago?”a blonde scout wearing a long-sleeve t-
shirt said. One scout always seemed willing to take the bait with Whitey.
“Hey,”Whitey said, his tone tightening, leaning forward further to address the blonde scout, “ that
kid had a fastball. Ninety-eight on a bad day. He had movement, too.”
“He had the worst mechanics ever,”the blonde scout said, his tone still casual and playful. The
other scouts tried to hide grins of amusement and enjoyment. Age had not diminished Whitey’ s capacity
to argue; if anything, it amplified his need and desire to argue.
Whitey unleashed his response in a loud voice that attracted attention from the other fans near the
scouting section. “ What mechanics? That boy just stepped to home and threw. Why mess with that?
Those dumb assholes tried to get him to turn his hips and they screwed him up.”Whitey spit into the
paper cup.
“If it works, it works. But those red-asses have to mess with it. Useless. That’ s why I never got
into coaching –I’ d let a kid do it his way. But they want everybody to throw the same way, to hit the

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same way. Horseshit! Let a kid get as far as he can his way before you try and change him,”Whitey said,
agitated.
“My S.D. liked that kid, but he took the assistant G.M. to see him one day,”the blonde scout said.
“Cloutier took one look at that kid and told Mitch to not even bother turning in a card.”
“Hell,”Whitey said, relaxing his tensed posture at the mention of the assistant general manager by
the blonde scout. “ Cloutier wouldn’ t know a ballplayer if Teddy Ballgame sat down next to him. Guy
never played.”
“I know, Whitey, I know,”the blonde scout said, nodding in agreement. It had not been a classic
Whitey tantrum, but the blonde scout thought better of perpetuating the argument with Whitey. The
blonde scout didn’ t want to be the one who caused the fatal apoplexy that downed a scouting legend.
“You turning in a card on Morris?”Mike said, glancing back at Whitey, his deep voice seeking to
calm the old man.
“Sure. Kid can hit. Looks okay in the field,”Whitey said, leaning back against the bleacher, his
hands thrust deep into the pockets of his windbreaker. “ Plus, they look at me funny if I claim miles and
don’ t turn in at least one kid.”
Mike smiled and shook his head. “ You should write a book on how to defraud a team with
expense reports,”Mike said.
“The man with the longest driveway in America,”Barber said.
Whitey laughed. “ Hell, you guys believe what you want, but I never sent in an expense report that
wasn’ t legitimate. What I think are expenses and what the team thinks are expense –well, we just
disagree,”Whitey said. The scouts laughed and turned back to the game.
The game ended with the home team victorious and Morris impressing the assembled scouts with
his hitting and fielding, cementing his status as a top prospect. The scouts packed their belongings and
made their way from the stadium to the parking lot. A few of the scouts lingered, chatting and trading
rumors and gossip. Others packed and left immediately, headed for another game or eager to start a long
trip home. Whitey stood at the center, still talking and spitting tobacco juice.
“Whitey,”an average sized scout with protruding ears said during a lull in the conversation, “ how
are you doing?”The big-eared scout had sat apart from the other scouts and had not involved himself in
the reverie during the game.
“Hey, Dave, I thought that was you. All business, this guy,”Whitey said, shaking hands warmly
with the big-eared scout. “ How are the Angels treating you?”
“Pretty good,”Dave said. “ This is Brad. I’
m breaking him in.”
A tall muscular scout sporting a large watch and athletic sunglasses stepped forward, offering a
hand to Whitey. Whitey stared at Brad for a moment, absent-mindedly taking the proffered hand.
“You go to school around here?”Whitey said.
“No. California,”Brad said.
Whitey held Brad’ s hand a few extra moments. “ You remind me of this kid, I swear. Hey,
Barber,”Whitey said, turning to the fat sweaty scout. “ Doesn’ t he remind you of that kid from Emporia.
What’ s his name?”
“Who? Evans?”Barber said, arms folded, pondering the question.
“No, not Evans. That big kid, outfielder,”Whitey said, head cocked to the side, struggling to recall
a name and face from just few years past.
“Wesson?”Barber said, equally perplexed.
“No, not Wesson,”Whitey said, annoyed at the loss of memory. He still held Brad’ s hand, but had
turned his focus to the parking lot pavement.
“Jeffrey Lombard,”Dave said. Dave had waited for Whitey to find the name before speaking.

3
Whitey looked up from the ground, smiling. “ Davey-boy, that’ s the kid. Hell of a player. Couldn’ t hit a
curve for shit, though.”
Whitey released Brad’ s hand and loosed a victorious spit of tobacco juice into the paper cup, now
half full of brown liquid.
“ Anybody up for Munce’ s for dinner,”Barber said to remaining scouts.
“ Sure,”Whitey said, putting a friendly arm around Barber’ s shoulders. Barber’ s face lit up at the
gesture. Earning praise or respect from Whitey meant a lot to Barber. “ Who’ s paying?”
“ Separate checks, Whitey,”Barber said. Whitey laughed and patted Barber of the shoulder.
“ See you there,”Whitey said. Whitey gave the group a quick wave and ambled over to his car.
“ When are you going to buy a new car?”Mike said, raising his voice both for distance and to
account for Whitey’ s age. The car in question, a silver Buick Regal with as many dents, dings and
scratches as miles, sat askew in the parking space.
“ It still runs,”Whitey said, turning back to the scouts. Whitey gave a final wave and got in his car.
The group dispersed as the silver Regal left the stadium parking lot.
“ You coming?”Barber said, nodding to Dave.
“ Sure,”Dave said.

Dave and Brad pulled out of the college stadium parking lot and headed for the restaurant, a local
eatery known to the scouts for its quick service, decent food and cheap prices. Dave ran a hand through
his short black hair flecked with stray patches of white as he drove the car through the college town. Brad
teased and tussled with his shaggy brown hair in the passenger’ s seat, using the rear-view mirror.
Satisfied, he turned the rear-view mirror back and Dave made a detailed adjustment for his sight line.
“ So, who is this guy?”Brad asked.
“ Whitey? He’ s a real old-timer,”Dave said.
“ He’ s still a full-time scout?”Brad said.
“ Whitey? No, not now. He’ s more like an honorary scout. The Pirates keep him on the payroll and
he gets around the area a bit, but they have a full-time guy covering the territory,”Dave said.
“ Does he live around here?”Brad said.
“ Close by,”Dave said.
“ Do you know him?”Brad said.
“ Oh, yeah,”Dave said. “ I broke in with Whitey. I spent a summer driving him around the territory
while he gave me the benefit of his years of experience.”
“ How’ d that go?”Brad said, taking off his sunglasses and wiping them with his t-shirt, the sun
reflecting off the large and expensive watch Brad wore.
“ It was…it was an education,”Dave said.
Brad put on his sunglasses and turned his attention to the street, hanging his arm out of the car
window. “ You like the guy?”
“ He’ s an institution,”Dave said after a pause. “ I like the guy fine, but he’ s not for everyone. He
talks a lot and tells all kinds of stories. He’ s one of those guys,”Dave said, smiling at the thought. “ He’ s
one of those guys that swears everything and everyone was better back in his day. It was tougher to scout
back then, that sort of thing.”
The car paused at a red light. Dave leaned against the car door, propping his head with his hand,
his view tilted slightly, right hand dangling on the steering wheel. “ Yeah, Whitey is a pretty unique guy.”
“ Yeah?”Brad said, still staring at the sights outside the vehicle, leering at the co-eds dressed in
shorts and t-shirts.
“ He signed when he was eighteen back in 1939,”Dave said. “ Played ball and then went in the

4
service. He got out after the war was over and went back to playing baseball. He bounced around a lot in
the minors. He got a couple cups of coffee in the bigs. When they stopped paying him to play, he became
a scout. Started in the mid-1950s and is still going strong. Forty years on the road.”The wistful recitation
of Whitey’ s life history ended just as the light turned green.
The car lurched forward and turned left, drove a few blocks and turned right into the restaurant
parking lot. Dave and Brad exited the car and strode toward the restaurant. The small group of scouts
stood outside the building, waiting for the late arrivals.
“ Okay, this is it,”Barber said and the group went inside. The restaurant looked used and worn
inside and out, decorated in faded flowery wallpaper and red curtains. The hostess seated the scouts at a
table with chairs rather than a booth. The young blonde hostess left the menus and wandered back to her
station, followed surreptitiously by Brad’ s leering stare. An older brunette waitress with a stained apron
and scuffed shoes appeared to take the drink orders. The scouts perused the menu, chatting about the
selections and recommending one dish or another. The brunette waitress returned after several minutes
with a tray full of drinks. She stayed, took the meal orders, gathered the menus and headed back to the
kitchen.
“ I love the meatloaf here,”Whitey said, rubbing his sides. “ But, my asshole doctor wants me to
watch my sodium.”Whitey sat facing the kitchen, Barber to his immediate right and then Brad. Mike and
Dave sat facing the front window of the restaurant, Mike opposite Whitey and Dave opposite Brad,
leaving a chair empty between them.
“ Does he know what else goes in that body?”Mike said, his deep voice louder in the confines of
the restaurant. The group chuckled, even Brad, though he had no idea why he laughed.
“ Well, I made it this far,”Whitey said. “ So, what’ s everyone up to?”
“ Hell, same old shit, Whitey,”Mike said, waving a hand in disgust. “ My guy tells me there’s no
way we’ re taking Morris or Benton in the first. He’ s got a hard-on for some Texas fire-baller. They may
no pop any of my kids until the fifth round, it sounds like.”Mike folded his arms and rested them on the
table top. Well-built, Mike appeared neat and trim, his actions and words succinct.
“ Eh, not much,”Barber said, quickly following Mike. “ Kids are in school. The oldest girl
graduates high school next year. You believe that?”Barber shook his head in disbelief. Even inside in the
comfort of air conditioning, Barber continued to sweat, his cheeks red from the energy he spent walking
to from the parking lot to the table. The sweat stained his shirt, dark semi-circles appearing under his arms
and breasts.
“ What about you, Dave?”Whitey said. Dave turned his head towards Whitey, smiled and stirred
his iced tea.
“ Oh, not much is going on. I’ m just breaking in the new guy,”Dave said, nodding toward Brad.
“ Yeah,”Whitey said. “ Hey, kid, what’ s going on?”
Brad smiled and hunched over the table. “ I’m just trying to learn the business.”
“ Yeah,”Whitey said. “ You come out of California, you said.”Whitey stared at the young man, his
eyes bright and focused under the tangled thatches of eyebrows.
“ Yep.”Brad said.
“ He’ s retired,”Dave said.
“ They retire you or did you retire?”Whitey said, looking at the young scout while he tore open a
sugar packet for his iced tea.
“ Knees retired me. I blew out my right one in Richmond a couple of years ago and it never came
back,”Brad said. “ The shortstop never heard me call for the ball. I knocked him out, at least.”
“ It happens, you know,”Whitey said. The group of scouts nodded collectively, sipped drinks and
shuffled napkins at the table. “ See any time in the show?”

5
“Yep. Made a couple of plays up there,”Brad said.
Whitey smiled at the young scout. “ It’
s just me and you earning a pension, huh?”
Barber, Dave and Mike grinned, some ruefully, some cheerfully. Everyone has expectations about
their life. Some are exceeded. Some are met. Some go unfilled.
Barber, a catcher, had gone undrafted out of high school and college. A friendly scout looking for
a backup catcher to fill out the minor league rosters signed Barber out of try-out camp after Barber
graduated from college. Barber never imagined that he would play professional baseball and his wide-
eyed enthusiasm went over well with the coaches and front office types. Barber spent three seasons on the
bench in rookie ball before the team released him, rarely playing but never complaining. Impressed by his
willingness to put the team ahead of his personal goals, the team offered Barber a position as a part-time
scout. Barber spent five years as a part-time scout but worked his way to a full-time position, which he
had held for the past ten years. Barber proved to be a good organizational soldier as a player and scout.
Dave played baseball because he hated football, the sport his father preferred and championed. An
older brother went to college on a football scholarship, and sibling rivalry pushed Dave to excel at his
chosen sport. Dave, an infielder, entered professional baseball as a draftee, picked in the twenty-second
round. Given a small bonus to sign, Dave spent five years travelling through the minors, shifting positions
and growing weary of the grind. Released in spring training, Dave refused to pursue another playing job,
opting to call it a career. He re-entered baseball quite by accident two years later. He met the scout that
signed him at a youth baseball game. Dave, simply a by-stander to watch his nephew play, talked with the
scout. Dave knew the game and impressed the scout with that knowledge. The scout mentioned that he
could work something out with his team if Dave wanted to get back in the game. Single and unsure of his
path in life, Dave agreed, wanting to expunge baseball once and for all from his body, mind and soul.
After a few years as a part-time scout with the Indians, during which time he met Whitey, Dave hired on
full-time with the Brewers and then to Anaheim.
Mike, an outfielder, had signed out of high school, intent on getting to the big leagues. His father
and uncle had played professional baseball, both topping out in the low minors. Mike wanted to be the
first in his family to run out on a major league baseball field as a player. Dedicated and bull-headed about
his desire, Mike did whatever proved expedient and necessary to facilitate his dream. Mike stormed past
the rookie leagues and low minors, establishing himself as a player to watch. Mike made it to Double-A
just three years after signing, and experienced his first bout of failure. The competition in Double-A
proved better than expected and quality breaking balls got the best of Mike. He kicked around Double-A
for years, stubbornly refusing to give up his dream. Eventually, teams stopped giving Mike the chance to
play. He never retired from baseball as a player –the teams stopped signing him. Mike spent a few years
away from baseball, but the pull of his dream refused to die. Mike contacted some acquaintances in the
game and landed a coaching position. After several years of coaching, Mike transitioned to scouting and
stayed on the road ever since, some twelve years, three teams and two wives later.
“I had three cups of coffee in the big leagues,”Whitey said, tapping the tabletop three times for
emphasis. “ Twice for the Browns and once for the Giants. I got my first hit in 1941 in Detroit off of Andy
McKellan.”
“You still owe him for grooving that fastball to you,”Mike said, eliciting a laugh from the group.
Whitey waved both hands playfully at Mike.
“Hell, they released him after that; they had to,”Whitey said, enjoying the joke at his expense.
“Say, Whitey,”Barber said amidst the dying laughter at the table, “ tell the kid about Johnny
Smith. I love hearing that story.”
“Wait, let me get my punch card out,”Mike said, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet.
“Oh, to hell with you,”Whitey said, playfully chastising Mike.

6
“Who’ s Johnny Smith?”Brad said.
The men at the table fell silent and stared at Brad. Realizing he had committed a faux pas, Brad
leaned forward to look at Whitey and redress his mistake, but Whitey spoke ahead of Brad.
“Kids nowadays,”Whitey said, shaking his head. “ They want to make all this money and they
don’ t know shit about the game.”
Brad looked uncomfortable, glancing at Dave to perhaps bail him out of the situation. Dave sat
passively. Whitey, eager to tell his favorite story, pushed back his chair a few inches from the table, licked
his lips and spoke, alleviating the awkwardness at the table with each practiced word.
“I had just gotten in to scouting. I was working for the Phillies back then and I had everything
north of Florida, south of Pennsylvania and east of Kentucky. Big territory, a lot bigger than you guys
work today,”Whitey said.
“And you had to walk from game to game, right?”Mike said, chiding Whitey. Whitey frowned at
Mike before speaking.
“I first saw him in 1958. He was a skinny kid playing second base on a semi-pro team. He had a
real nice swing and looked like he could play the field. I remember Al White saying that Johnny was good
enough to play shortstop, but the regular short owned a bar, so, you know, they had to let him play.”
“Anyway,”Whitey said, wiping his nose with his napkin as he continued the story, “ I made a note
to follow that kid. I thought, you know, if he grew up a little, put on some weight, he’ d be okay. Well, I
stayed on that kid and, man, that kid was great!”Whitey gently slapped the table for emphasis. “ I mean,
he could hit, catch the ball and he had a cannon arm. You start to think, to project, right. He can hit
leadoff and he’ s quick enough to swipe some bags, but he can hit down in the order, too. I think he hit
third in school. He was the best player in the city and county and probably the state.”
“South Carolina has talent,”Barber said, nodding and looking around the table. Loyal and
deferential, Barber doubted his scouting abilities and constantly sought approval and affirmation from his
superiors and other scouts on his opinions of players.
Whitey nodded in agreement. “ See, back then, before the draft, you could sign anyone. If you
liked a kid you, pop him as soon as you can. You had to work at it, get to know the kid, know his family. I
mean, live with them if you had to –anything.”
“Now if you even look at the family they tell you to talk to the advisor,”Mike said, his deep voice
tinged with bitterness. Barber nodded his agreement at the implied sorry state of affairs. Dave sat
passively, hands clasped on the table. Brad leaned forward to watch Whitey as the old scout spun his tale.
“Well,”Whitey said, “ Johnny really played great, just great. It’
s a couple of years later and he’s
ready to graduate. Other scouts started paying attention, started poking around. All the guys were in on
Johnny, everyone. I got my work cut out for me, you know, because those guys could just wave that
checkbook at a kid and get him to sign. They didn’ t have to work a kid like I did.”
“It’s still that way today,”Mike said, snorting in disgust. His organization spent the bare minimum
at all levels, a penurious decision that sapped the morale and competitive spirit of the employees and
players.
Whitey nodded and sipped his drink. “ It’s always been that way and will always be that way.
Anyways, Johnny and his family were poor, I mean really poor. His mom was waiting on tables at a local
diner, I think, and the dad was a laborer, you know, a guy you hire to do whatever. I knew the family
since I saw that kid in the summer league playing semi-pro, which counted for something.”
“How many Sunday meals did you show up for?”Mike said, smiling.
Whitey frowned at Mike, while Barber chuckled. Brad looked at the scouts, unsure how to react.
Dave continued to sit passively, the story long imprinted in his memory.
“With that family, never. They couldn’ t even feed themselves, forget about feeding me,”Whitey

7
said. He shifted in his chair and pressed on with the story. “ Johnny was coming up to graduate high
school, which means he can sign to play pro ball. So scouts came sniffing around and they start throwing
out big numbers, okay, to the family.”
The waitress appeared from the kitchen, balancing a large tray of plates as she weaved her way
through the empty restaurant. Whitey paused to allow the waitress to serve the food. She set the plates in
front of the hungry scouts, took drink refill orders and left the men to their meal. Everyone tucked into the
food, an ear cocked to the far end of the table to listen to the story.
Whitey arranged his napkin in his lap, shuffled his silverware and began to cut into his meal. “ I
got a problem, see. I got sixty thousand I can spend on Johnny as a signing bonus,”Whitey said, chewing
his chicken and sipping from his drink. “ Sometimes it was like having a nickel in Kaufmann’ s, you know.
Those big time scouts would come in and just buy a kid away from you. And you can’ t blame the kid or
the family –that might be the only jackpot they ever hit. So take the big money.”
“But I learned,”Whitey said, “ that you have to work harder than those guys. They got a big
checkbook, but I’ ll out-scout them. I’ ll hit every little town and find the real talent hidden away on a back
road and make my quota that way. Some of those guys, they were good scouts, right. But sometimes all
they had to do was flash around the checkbook and boom, they signed a kid. Hell, the goddamn Detroit
team used to give cars to the families. Sign with us and go collect a brand new car. How can you fight
that?”
“Really?”Brad said, incredulous at Whitey’ s statement. He looked to Dave for confirmation. Dave
nodded, chewing his food.
“Sure. Everybody had their little tricks back then. There wasn’ t a draft, so you had to sign the kid
or someone else could come in and outbid you or sweeten the deal in a lot of different ways,”Whitey
said. Brad’ s face registered his disbelief, but he made a gesture between a shrug and nod and Whitey
continued his story.
“Well, Johnny graduated high school, right. The day after, the very next day, I was at the house
with a bunch of other scouts,”Whitey said.
“The next day?”Brad said, puzzled. “ Was that legal?”
“Sure,”Whitey said. “ A kid had to have graduated and if he was under eighteen, the parents had to
witness it. Even then, you found guys skirting the rules. It wasn’ t unusual to sign a good prospect like
Johnny as soon as he graduated. Sometimes you’ d see scouts waiting to sign a kid the minute he
graduated. Standing right there outside the hall or wherever the kid was graduating, contract in hand. I
never did that, but I know guys that did. A kid had to be really great to go that far, but usually you wanted
to get it done as soon as you could, in case the kid got cold feet or someone else gets the jump on you.”
“Imagine trying to do that now,”Mike said, his fork poised in mid-air. “ The agent would shit
himself.”
“Anyway,”Whitey said, putting his fork down to concentrate on the tale, “ all those scouts were in
front of the house, arguing like a bunch of old ladies. They were going back and forth, trying to set the
order. Who goes first, who goes last.”Whitey chuckled softly at the memory. He stared at a random point
on the table, savoring the memory. He looked up and smiled, ready to continue.
“I said, I’
ll go first. I wanted to get in and make my pitch and convince the family not to sign
anything that day. Just wait, right, let me go do some things and I’ ll get the real last chance,”Whitey said.
“Cashing in on those Sunday dinners,”Barber said, winking at Mike.
“Well,”Whitey said, unperturbed at the asides and comments from the listeners, “ I go in and meet
and talk. It was Johnny, his mother, the dad and the high school baseball coach. Coach Blunt? Bundy?
Something like that, something with a ‘ B’ . What the hell was his name?”
“Barlow,”Dave said, breaking his silence to correct Whitey.

8
“That’ s it, Barlow,”Whitey said, snapping his fingers, pointing and smiling at Dave. “ See,”he
said, turning to Brad, “ getting old is the worst. I could remember everyone’ s name back five years ago.
Instant recall. Tell me once and wham, right in the brain.”
“Except whose turn it is to buy a round,”Mike said, enjoying the opportunity to needle Whitey in
front of the other scouts.
“Look who’ s talking, Mr. Alligator Arms,”Whitey said, making a face at Mike. He turned to Brad
and drew his arms up into his chest so just his hands dangled free. “ This guy got arms that don’ t reach
into his pockets when the bill comes.”
Barber laughed at the image and barb, nearly choking as he tried to swallow his food. Brad smiled
and looked to Mike, gauging a reaction. Even Dave allowed a smile to appear. Mike just waved both
hands at Whitey, wordlessly dismissing the charge.
“Well,”Whitey said, picking up his story, “ they were all sitting in the living room. I go in, you
know, and I tell them the deal. I said, now, all these guys are going to come in and make all kinds of
promises. Offer you all kinds of money. But whatever you do, wait a day.”
A short pause followed for Whitey swallow food and sip from his drink. “ Now, they were poor;
really poor. Whatever they got from Johnny signing was going to be the most money they ever had. And I
can’ t compete. I got sixty thousand, tops. And if the big guys want him, they’ ll just write that check for
seventy or eighty thousand.”
“But I got a plan, you see,”Whitey said. “ There was this kid up north by the name of Everett
Templeton. All kinds of skinny, but he could run. White kid. Punch and judy hitter. You could knock him
over with a loud fart. His ceiling was as a pinch runner or defensive sub, right. I never thought he would
hit enough to make it. Knock the damn bat right out of his hands.”
Whitey coughed and picked up the story. “ This kid, Templeton, he could run and catch and hey,
who knows, you know. Maybe he adds some muscle and they don’ t the bat out of his hands. I had twenty
thousand to sign the kid.”
“How did you get the money? Did the G.M. approve the bonuses?”Brad said.
Whitey leaned forward to look at Brad and smiled paternally at the young scout. “ See, back then,
you didn’ t have cross-checkers or any of that. It was just you and your territory. You’ d call up the front
office and say, hey, I got this speedy outfielder. You give them a comp so they know what kind of player
the prospect might turn out to be. You always gave them the best case scenario if the kid makes it all the
way to the show. You told the front office how much you needed to sign the kid. If they said yes, then you
got the money and signed him. If they said no, well, you tried to work around that if you really liked the
kid.”
“Same shit today, Brad,”Mike said. “ You go back to the S.D. and tell him Morris wants one-five
to sign and I bet you anything the S.D. puts the kid in the reject pile.”Barber nodded in agreement with
Mike’ s statement.
“No slotting back then,”Dave said, breaking his silence.
“Well, I had it all set up, with this Templeton kid. I told the front office he wanted twenty grand to
sign. A couple of teams sniffed at him, looking at him ‘ cause of his speed. But he wasn’ t going to get
more than ten from anyone else,”Whitey said.
“Was that a lot of money back then?”Brad said.
Whitey shrugged, a quizzical look contorting his face. “ Maybe. It all depends, you see. I signed
kids for a hundred bucks and some it took a couple of thousand. But that’ s what Templeton wanted and I
needed a kid just in case Johnny Smith fell through, you know.”
Brad nodded at the explanation that hadn’ t answered his question. Whitey straightened in his chair
and carried on with his story. The other scouts, despite having heard the saga many times prior, all gave

9
Whitey their attention. Everyone had finished eating save for Whitey, who had half a plate of food
remaining. Barber wiped his hands and face with a napkin while Mike leaned back in his chair, arms
folded across his chest. Brad pushed his plate out of the way and leaned forward to hear Whitey. Dave sat
passively.
“Here’ s the catch.”Whitey paused for a moment to heighten the suspense for his tale. “ I knew,”
Whitey said, looking at each of the scouts in turn, “ I heard from a guy that Everett knocked up his girl.
And he was going to do right and marry her. So I heard that and, bam, I had a plan. I’ ll give Templeton
ten to sign. He needed the money and he knows me and he wants to play. So I now I got ten thousand left
over. I can use that ten to get Johnny Smith.”
Whitey beamed and twinkled as he delved deeper into the tale, relishing every memory of his big
score. “ So I drove up to sign Templeton. I got him for the ten thousand. He’ s happy, I’ m happy,
everyone’ s happy.”Whitey paused as the waitress appeared to remove the plates and take orders for
dessert. Barber and Whitey both ordered pie and coffee, while Mike and Brad opted for coffee. Dave
declined coffee, asking for tea.
“The next day I drove back to sign Johnny Smith. I get there and I talked to the family. They told
me that the Cards made the best offer –eighty grand. When I heard that, I shit myself. I was smiling on
the inside, you know,”Whitey said, grinning on the outside as he relived the triumphant moment. The
waitress arrived with the coffees, tea and desserts, interrupting the story. After everyone had settled in
with their after-dinner repast, Whitey took up the story.
“I get them all in the same room and I start,”Whitey says. “ I said, I can’t offer you more money. I
can go to seventy thousand. But let’ s look at a couple things. St. Louis is a great town and a hell of a
ballclub. It’ s halfway across the country. And all their minor league teams, Class A to D, are all over the
place. I fibbed on that, but hey, it’ s a business and that’ s not my fault. I said, how can you go see Johnny
play?”Whitey said, pausing to sip from his coffee.
“I know the Mom is a real mother hen, you know, she watched out for her boy,”Whitey said.
“ And the thought that her boy was going all the way across country, out of her sight and she couldn’ t see
him, that’ s my angle. I looked straight at her when I said all that, too, right at her.”
“Classic,”Barber said between mouthfuls of apple pie. Whitey licked his lips, eager to finish the
story.
“St. Louis, they got so many minor league teams that you could get lost in the system. That’ s my
next argument. Now, the Cards weren’ t as big as some and not as small as others, not like it used to be in
the 1930s. But hey, a little white lie, a little fib, that ain’ t going to hurt anyone,”Whitey said, slyly
admitting his transgression. “ I looked at Johnny. It could take years for you to get to Class A. You could
be stuck in Class C or Class B for years, maybe forever,”Whitey said, looking at each scout in turn.
“What’ s Class B and C?”Brad asked, brow furrowed as he struggled to keep up with the story.
“It’s what they used to call Triple-A and Double-A back in the day,”Mike said, explaining the
past classification system to the young scout. Brad nodded his understanding and Whitey took over the
conversation.
“And Johnny, I said, you want to get to the big leagues as quick as you can. He nods, you know;
yeah, he does. See, once you’ re in the big leagues, you make the real money. And that’ s what everyone
wants, right? Playing in the big leagues and making real dough,”Whitey said, pausing to eat his pound
cake and sip his coffee.
Sated for the moment, Whitey continued the tale. “ Now, my team, I said, we ain’ t that good. But
that works to Johnny’ s advantage. He shows what he can do and he gets to the big leagues quick. I mean,
it’s not like we had All-Star players at that time. And you want to get to the big leagues quick ‘ cause life
in the bushes, that’ s tough. I don’ t care who you are or what team you play for; it’ s rough. Twenty hour

10
bus rides in the Texas League, the bad food, the flea-bitten motels. Rough.”
“ What’ s changed?”Mike said. “ I remember riding in a bus all night from El Paso to Shreveport.
Someone had to stay awake to keep the damned driver awake.”
Whitey nodded and picked up the story. “ I got the mom and Johnny on my side,”Whitey said,
ticking the achievements off on his fingers, “ but I got to work on the father. I turned to him and I said,
you know the game of baseball. Look at Johnny; a great player already and getting better every day. You
taught him how to play and now a bunch of teams want to sign him, right? I’ ll hire you to be a scout for
me here. I need a guy with a good eye for talent to keep an eye on the area. If you see someone who looks
good, let me know. If I like the kid you tell me about, there’ s twenty bucks. If I sign the kid, there’ sa
hundred to you.”
“ Bird dog,”Barber said, pushing his cleaned plate away and reaching for his coffee cup.
“ Right,”Whitey said, nodding. “ So I got the Mom, Dad and Johnny, I got them all thinking about
it. I looked at them. I tell them, we take care of our boys, you know. We’ ll treat him good and make sure
he stays out of trouble and all that.”
“ Were you wearing a cross that day?”Mike said.
“ Aw, hell, everyone does it,”Whitey said, sheepishly admitting to his falsehoods. “ Of course
that’ s a lie. Hell, some of the teams I was on were full of criminals; real low-lifes, always getting into
trouble. But I don’ t say that to the mother, ‘
cause she’ s worried about her little boy leaving and being on
his own. No drinking or cursing, I said; we’ re real strict about that. Just baseball and training and what
have you.”
“ How did you keep a straight face?”Mike said.
“ Practice,”Whitey said, a guilty grin spread across his face. “ It sounded good to the family. The
coach, he said Johnny should sign. The old man, he’ s proud as can be, you know. That’ s his boy and he’ s
ready to be a man and be a great ballplayer. The mother, well, she’ s still worried. Her big boy is going off
on his own and she’ s a good mom and worried and all that. But in the end, Johnny signed the contract and
there you go.”
The three experienced scouts smiled at the conclusion of the story, even Dave, Whitey’ s former
protégé who had heard the story hundreds of times and could recite it from memory.
“ What happened to Johnny Smith?”Brad said.
“ Oh, he had a great career,”Whitey said. “ Of course, the Phils traded him to the Cards after a
couple of years and he had a great run in St. Louis. Then he kicked around to the Reds and White Sox
before he retired.”
“ He made the Hall of Fame a couple of years ago,”Barber said, turning to Brad.
“ Wow,”Brad said, impressed.
“ Yeah,”Whitey said, smoothing his hair and gazing at the table. “ Son of a bitch thanked everyone
in the goddamned world except me.”
“ That’ s the way it always is,”Mike said. “ They forget who gave them their first chance.”
“ Damn straight,”Barber said.
The waitress appeared and left the checks, clearing away the cups and plates from table. The
scouts haggled for a few minutes over the checks, complained about the workload and work politics
before leaving the restaurant. The group stopped in the parking lot for a round of farewells.
“ Listen to what this guys tells you,”Whitey said as he shook Brad’ s hand. “ He learned everything
he knows from me.”Whitey winked and ambled over to the silver Regal.
“ He’ s a character,”Barber said, standing at Brad’ s shoulder. “ They don’ t make guys like that
anymore.”

11
A week after meeting Whitey, Brad and Dave pulled in to a high school in North Carolina, still on
the trail for talent. They reached the baseball field behind the school and Dave stopped.
“You are in luck,”Dave said as Brad caught up, lagging behind with the bulky radar gun case.
The pair walked to the bleachers and climbed a few rows. An old man sat alone behind home
plate. He rested his slender hands on a cane, an imperious look daring any to make his acquaintance. He
wore a wide-brimmed sun hat that covered his long face in shade. The man maintained perfect posture,
sitting erect, gazing at the baseball field with purpose.
“Alfred,”Dave said, extending a hand to the old man. The old man looked over and recognizing
the scout, accepted the greeting.
“Hello, David,”Alfred said. “ How are you?”
“Good, good. You?”
“I’m doing well, thank you,”Alfred said, looking past Dave at Brad. “ Who is this?”
“Brad, meet Alfred Tucker,”Dave said, introducing the young scout. “ I’m breaking in Brad,
showing him the ropes.”
“I see,”Alfred said. He spoke in a formal tone, affecting a slight accent and air or regality. “ Well,
young man, you would do well to listen to David.”
“Nice to meet you,”Brad said, disengaging hands with Alfred. Alfred’ s hands returned to their
perch on the cane as if drawn by a hidden magnet.
“Can we join you?”Dave said. Alfred nodded his permission and the scouts sat down on the
bleachers.
The game started and the scouts and Alfred watched the teams on the field. After three innings
spent in relative silence, Dave turned to the old man.
“Guess who we ran into last week?”Dave said.
“I can’ t imagine,”Alfred said, still focused on the baseball field and the ongoing play.
“Don Westhofer.”
Alfred visibly tensed, his erect posture becoming more rigid. He slowly turned to Dave and eyed
the scouts with a menacing glare, for once a pair of eyes not hidden behind sunglasses.
“Did you?”Alfred said. His voice sounded icy and distant, clearly displeased at the mention of the
name.
“Yeah, down in Georgia,”Dave said, turning away from Alfred to suppress a waggish smile.
“I see.”
“Yeah, we met for dinner afterwards with a couple other guys and he told us the Johnny Smith
story. Brad,”Dave nodded toward the younger scout, “ wanted to know if it was true.”
Alfred turned to face the scouts, a sour look accentuated by his jowls. “ Don’ t believe a thing you
hear from Don. Anything he tells you is a lie. Do the opposite of what he says and you might make a
decent scout.”Alfred turned back to the game, the plain and simple advice offered with distinct venom.
“So it’s a lie?”Brad said, moving around Dave to look at Alfred.
Alfred eyed the game. “ As far as Johnny Smith, that’ s just pure imagination on Don’ s part.”
“Tell the kid the truth, Alfred,”Dave said, encouraging the old man to speak. “ He needs to hear all
sides of the story.”
Alfred scrutinized the game in silence until the inning finished. Alfred turned to face Dave and
Brad. He spoke in an even tone with a touch of aloofness but did nothing to hide his obvious distaste for
Whitey.
“Paul Keller found Johnny Smith playing on the high school team,”Alfred said. “ Whatever drivel
Don told you is just that and couldn’ t be further from the truth.”
“Have you heard the story before?”Brad said.

12
“ Understand, young man, that we’ re all salesmen, but more so back then,”Alfred said, ignoring
the query. “ Some scouts went that extra mile to sign a prospect. A scout back them might get friendly
with the family or the coach. Some slipped money under the table to manipulate a coach to influence a kid
to sign. I never did it, but a lot of scouts did –I am sure of that. The coach steers the kid and family your
way and it makes it easier to sign him. I’ m not saying we’ re all angels, but Don seemed to take every
shortcut he could.”
Dave stretched his arms and arched his back as Alfred spoke. He had heard this rebuttal a few
times before.
“ As far as signing Johnny Smith,”Alfred said, “ there were four of us on the player, as I recall. It
was me, Dan Cassidy, Paul Keller and Don. I liked Johnny. I thought he could be a good player. Paul
liked him the most and wanted him the most.”
Unlike the informal dinner with the scouts a week past, Alfred controlled the conversation, not
allowing or tolerating interruptions.
“ We all went in and met the family,”Alfred said. “ It was the mother and Johnny. I liked him for
seventy thousand dollars –that was a pretty good bonus back then, but Johnny Smith was worth it. Paul
went to eighty. I forget what Dan bid, but it was about the same as me, I guess. Don was in at sixty
thousand and we all knew he wasn’ t going to be able to sign Johnny for that.”
A loud ping and players shouting on the baseball field distracted all three men for a few moments.
The excitement passed and Alfred turned to the scouts to finish his story. “ Johnny and his mother were
ready to sign with Paul, and that was okay. Don’ t think it is sour grapes, young man. You win some and
you lose some; you move on. For some reason or another, they had to find the father before they would
sign the contract. He was a real piece of work, as I recall, that man. He was a drunk and real ornery –
probably abusive to the mother and kids. I have met thousands of parents in my scouting life. They tend to
blur together as I get older, but I still recall this cuss.”Another ping momentarily distracted the scouts and
Alfred, but the story regained their attention.
“ I figured I was out of it and I had other prospects I wanted to get under contract, so I tipped my
hat to Paul and left. I recall that I had a good trip to South Carolina that year. I picked up Roy Eastman
and Lyle Collier,”Alfred said, his voice tinged with pride at the mention of the names. “ They had time in
the majors, anyway. I didn’ t think about Johnny Smith at all afterwards.”
“ I ran into Paul a few weeks later and he’ s mad.”Alfred pounded his cane on the aluminum
bleacher for emphasis. “ That so-and-so, he says, that dirty cheating fellow; he stole my kid. Paul told me
that Don got the father and the high school coach drunk and convinced them to force Johnny Smith sign
with him, with Don. Paul said he heard it from a fellow that was at the bar, a local Paul knew. Paul was
from around there, not South Carolina, but just over the border in Georgia and knew a lot of those
people,”Alfred said. He paused as he shifted on the bleacher.
“ Paul said this fellow told him that all three of them were really drunk, and Don said the old man
wasn’ t in charge of his own house. That he was letting his wife and boy sign with Paul when the old man
wanted him to sign with Don. So they marched back to the house and made Johnny sign with Don.”
Dave stifled a smile, pretending to wipe his lips with his hand. Brad gazed at Alfred with a tedious
expression, less interested in Alfred’ s version of the story.
“ Johnny really wanted to sign with Paul, not Don. Johnny didn’ t like Don; he didn’t trust him,
even at eighteen. But the father was in charge, you see, so they had to do it.”
“ That sucks,”Brad said, finally interrupting Alfred. Alfred shot Brad a withering look for the
interruption and word selection and continued the story.
“ Don probably told the father not to sign with Dan Cassidy on account of who he worked for, the
Dodgers. That was pretty common down south at that time. You had to be careful, because people like

13
Don would use it against you to get a player. You have to remember, this was before real integration in
society. Lots of folks in this territory didn’ t have the highest opinion of black people. Shameful. And
unscrupulous louses like Don Westhofer would march into a family’ s home and remind them that it could
get tough around those parts if their son signed with the –“Alfred paused, unable to utter the phrase.
“ Well, it is a horrible word and I don’ t condone it, not one bit.”
“ That wasn’ t the first or last time Don stole a kid from one of us. We all swore a blue streak at one
time or another because of that man. And it didn’ t stop when they implemented the draft in 1965. He
found ways –loopholes, he boasted. Bah,”Alfred said, pouting and shaking his head. “ I don’
t think many
people who scouted that region liked Don. Oh, he has friends all over the game, I know. But not me. And
not Paul Keller, may he rest in peace.”
Alfred finished speaking and turned his attention the baseball field and the game. Dave turned and
smiled at Brad. The three men watched the baseball game, looking for playable prospects and finding only
fringy candidates. The men left the bleachers at the conclusion of the game.
“ I know I was a better scout than Don,”Alfred said, stabbing the air with his cane to stress his
point as the three men walked to the parking lot. “ He goes on and on about my checkbook, but it wasn’ t
just that. I signed two Hall of Famers myself, but I don’ t boast about it. Paul signed two. We both signed
too many All-Stars to count. But Johnny Smith is the only great player Don signed. Ever. And he’ ll never
let you forget that.”
“ Well, you’ re just different people,”Dave said. The men walked slowly in deference to Alfred and
his arthritis. Alfred leaned on the cane, but even then he stood a few inches taller than Dave and as tall as
Brad. The party reached the parking lot and walked to Alfred’ s car, a well-conditioned burgundy town
car. Dave and Brad offered handshakes to Alfred.
“ How someone so bad at his job stayed employed this long is beyond me,”Alfred said, shaking
his head. He looked at Brad. “ Take care and ignore anything Don told you about scouting and you’ ll be a
better scout for it.”

“What’ s with that guy?”Brad said, reclined in the passenger seat. The pair had left the high school
parking lot, headed for the next stop of the scouting trip.
“Alfred?”Dave said, driving in his usual pose with the right one hand on the steering wheel and
the left propping up his head. “ He used to scout for the Yanks. He never worked for anyone else. They let
him go last year when they cleaned house.”
“Is he scouting now?”Brad said.
“Nope. After they fired him, he called the owner and demanded to know why he had been fired.”
“No shit?”Brad said, laughing at the thought of the pompous old man demanding an explanation
from the equally pompous owner.
“It’s true –he told me himself,”Dave said, smiling. “ He’ s a good scout, just a little full of himself.
I got to know him when I took over this territory. He’ s real big on respect and stuff like that. A guy like
Whitey rubs Alfred the wrong way.”
“No kidding,”Brad said. “ So which version is true?”
“Probably Alfred’ s,”Dave said. “He and Whitey hate each other. Whitey thinks Alfred’ s full of it.
Alfred thinks –well, you heard what he thinks.”
“Man, if I get that way, just shoot me,”Brad said.
“What?”Dave said, glancing at Brad.
Brad rolled his eyes before speaking. “ I mean, whatever, right. It’s all, like, ancient history.”
“It is, but those guys are walking history. When they go, all that history goes with them,”Dave
said.

14
“ Okay, but who wants to be a scout for fifty years? Dude, that’ s nuts,”Brad said. He leaned
forward and fiddled with the radio dials, searching for something palatable.
“ Yeah,”Dave said, sighing. “ The funny thing is that those two are almost exactly alike. Alfred
never went to college or played in the big leagues. Whitey never went to school period and you could
count his at-bats on your fingers and toes. They both stayed in the bushes looking for talent. Whitey
probably did everything anybody’ s accused him of, but he’ s proud of it. Alfred did have that checkbook –
he tries to deny it, but it worked for him back then. They are both stubborn. Whitey gets away with it
because he’ s your best pal. Alfred’ s not a talker or one to mix it up with the guys.”
Brad found a station and flopped back in the passenger seat, his large frame sprawled
uncomfortably in the limited space. “ But they only had, like, a couple of years before the draft came and
then it was like it is now.”
“ Yeah,”Dave said. “ It changed things, but not much. You still have to scout and find the players.
The only thing the draft does is limit how many teams a player can talk to and sign with.”
“ Yeah,”Brad said. “ It reminds me of my draft year. All kinds of scouts kept showing up at my
high school and following me on the road. It was a little creepy, dude. They called the house, like, all the
time. They talked to my folks and friends and teammates.”
“ We do that now,”Dave said.
Brad shrugged. “ It’s different being on the other end of it, I guess.”
“ You’ re starting out. Wait until you get to be my age or Whitey’ s age and you’ re still scouting,”
Dave said.
“ Not me. If I don’ t get off the road in a couple of years, I’ m hanging it up,”Brad said.
“ Really?”Dave said.
“ I played baseball because I was good at it. But I don’ t know if I love the game that much to stick
around and put up with this,”Brad said. “ I didn’ t want to walk away because of a bum knee and I was,
like, let’s try this just to get it out of my system.”
“ And?”
“ Baseball is a boring game,”Brad said. “ Honestly. I watch these games and I’ m like, whatever.”
“ You’ re supposed to be watching the player, not the game,”Dave said, gently scolding his pupil.
“ So you don’ t like baseball?”
“ Yeah, I like baseball. I watch the games in the hotel a lot of times,”Brad said.
“ You like watching the majors, not high school or college games.”
“ Yeah.”
“ At least you’ re honest about it,”Dave said.
“ What, you enjoy watching five errors in an inning and guys that can’ t throw strikes?”
“ On Day One of this I told you Rule Number One –don’ t watch the game, watch the player. Rule
Number One, Brad. This isn’ t the majors, but that’ s not the point. You’ re here to find the talent and
evaluate the player. Don’ t watch the game. Don’ t keep score. Watch the player,”Dave said. Dave
remembered hearing those very words uttered by Whitey during their time together, scouting saws passed
from mentor to apprentice.
“ Yeah, and look for the tools and the body and the face,”Brad said, mocking the lessons Dave had
imparted over the course of the summer. The pair fell silent for several minutes, the radio filling the blank
air.
“ It’s not for everyone, I’ ll give you that, “ Dave said. “ I wonder why I’ m still out here twelve years
later, still beating the bushes. Watching pie throwers and plow horses. No one ever sent me a thank you
note or a Christmas card. I’ m away from my wife and kids from February to October. I get shitty pay and
no benefits. Nothing. And it’ s better for us than it was for Whitey and Alfred.”

15
“So quit,”Brad said.
“And do what?”
“I don’ t know, be an insurance agent or something,”Brad said. “ Open a gas station or flip
burgers.”
“I like scouting, though,”Dave said. “ I like being on the road and seeing these kids play. It’ s like
all those annoying books and poems and TV shows about the sanctity of baseball, the poetic rhythms and
rhapsody of the game.”
“Listen to you,”Brad said.
“I’m serious. Playing catch with your dad in the front yard isn’ t baseball. It’
s just something you
do. But here, watching the Babe Ruth and AAU and American Legion games, plus high school and
college –this is baseball. One kid in a hundred might be worth looking at, but they keep doing it.”
“It’ s fun for them,”Brad said. “ I loved playing in high school. It was awesome. We went to the district
finals my junior and senior year.”
“So that’ s the pastime, the game of baseball. That’ s it, right there. And we represent the business
of baseball. We take that childhood innocence and enjoyment and we put a dollar sign on it. We look at
these kids and decide, yes, you can play, no, you can’ t play,”Dave said.
“Does that bother you?”Brad said.
“It does,”Dave said. “ It bothers me that I am picking and choosing the next generation of
professional ballplayers based on the Good Face and some guy’ s opinion of a teenager. It bothers me that
guys like Alfred and Whitey and Barber and Mike don’ t have that worry. It bothers me that Alfred thinks
he is the Duke of Scouting and that Whitey is the patron saint of scouts. St. Whitey the Marlin.”
“Easy, dude,”Brad said. Dave’ s voice and tone had stayed the same, rising in pitch ever so
slightly.
“I’m trying to teach you to be a scout, to watch the player, to focus on the tools,”Dave said,
regaining his composure. “ Can he hit for power? Can he throw? Does he run fast? What kind of range
does a kid have? All that is something you learn over time, with experience. Even then, you make
mistakes. You fall in love with a kid because he reminds you of someone. You stay away from little right-
handers and tall catchers, because a hundred years ago some scout said these guys can’ t make it. The
Good Face –what’ s that? Whitey would tell you that you can look at a kid’ s face and tell right then and
there if he’ s a prospect.”
“No shit?”Brad said.
“Yeah,”Dave said. “ All that arcane bullshit that I had to sit through when I started is just
superstition, man. We use a stopwatch and radar gun. In football, they have all kinds of drills and tools to
evaluate a kid. We have the idea that Italian kids get fat as they age and Polish kids lose their baby fat
later than everyone else.”
“That’ s funny, dude.”
“You can hate scouting, Brad,”Dave said, suddenly serious. “ I am not offended because I sit here
and I get started thinking about it and I just go nuts. I could be home banging my wife and flipping
through the channels or yelling at my kid to take out the garbage.”
“But you’ re here, driving on a state road in Carolina, headed for another high school, game,”Brad
said.
“I know,”Dave said. It felt good to confess all his fears and worries to Brad, to someone untainted
by the scouting lore and legend. “ I can’t explain –not to you, not to Bev, not to anyone. Every February, I
get depressed because I have to get on the road and start this goddamn cycle all over again.”
“Man, I just hate the travel and the boredom and the paperwork. At least in the minors, you might
travel just as much and make the same money, but at the end of the day, there was a game to play, dude.

16
It’s not like this, where you don’ t even watch the whole game. We leave after three innings,”Brad said,
equally serious.
“Yeah.”
Dave wanted to say more, to expunge all the ire and wrath he had built up for the profession that
paid little reward and regard. Brad would not understand, but it would make Dave feel better. Whitey –
that old son-of-a-bitch, he had warned Dave about getting the blues on the road all those years ago. And
then, you end up at a game on a brilliant spring day and you see the one –the Best Player I Ever Saw. The
kid who could do everything with ease and grace, the kid ready to play now and not in six years after
slogging through the minors. You would look around and not see another scout in the stands –just you,
triumphantly writing up the kid.
The memory of that day, Whitey used to say, beats every other stinking memory by a mile. All
those miles on the road, the ballpark food, the months spent away from family, they all receded with
every motion of that kid. After that, you want to recapture that feeling, the pure joy, so it’s back on the
road.
You never get away from it, Whitey said. Like a hunter, out in the bush, looking for that bear or
lion or elk. You miss some, but when you finally nail that sucker, you have a prize worth displaying –a
pair of antlers; a bearskin run; pure white ivory tusks.
The two sat in silence, the radio playing songs and static. The later afternoon sun started to
descend ever so gently to the west, behind the car. The car drove past mile markers, exit signs and
billboards, the monotony of the state road broken rarely by a small town or stoplight.
“What’ s the next stop?”Brad said.
“Night game in Charlotte,”Dave said.

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