Syd Thrift

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Sydnor W. Thrift Jr.
Born (1929-02-25)February 25, 1929
Locust Hill, Virginia
Died September 18, 2006(2006-09-18) (aged 77)
Milford, Delaware

Sydnor W. Thrift Jr. (February 25, 1929 – September 18, 2006) was an American scout and executive in Major League Baseball who served as the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1985 to 1988, and the de facto general manager of the Baltimore Orioles from 1999 to 2002. During a 50-year career in professional baseball, he also spent time as a player, scout, or executive with the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, and Kansas City Royals.

Early career[edit]

Thrift was born in Locust Hill, Middlesex County, Virginia, part of the historic Middle Peninsula area, where his mother and father ran a general merchandise store. He graduated from Randolph-Macon College and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. While working as high school teacher and coach from 1953 to 1956, Thift was a part-time scout for the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates, becoming the Pirates' scouting supervisor in 1957. He left the Pirates after the 1967 season to join the Kansas City Royals as scouting director and in 1970 founded the Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy. Renowned for its player development, the Academy produced 14 major league players. After two years with the Oakland Athletics, Thrift started a successful real-estate business in Fairfax, Virginia.

Return to baseball[edit]

Thrift had been out of baseball for nine years when in 1985 he was the surprise choice for general manager by a new Pirates ownership group. Thrift hired a relatively unknown Jim Leyland, then the Chicago White Sox third base coach, as manager. Together they turned the last place Pirates around and by 1988 the club finished second to the New York Mets, which was considered by some a miracle. Thrift's time in Pittsburgh ended immediately after the 1988 season when he was fired after butting heads with team ownership. Thrift's management and personnel decisions were later widely attributed for the team's subsequent success, as they won National League Eastern Division titles from 1990 through 1992.

Thrift also served as a consultant to the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In 1990 he and sports writer Barry Shapiro wrote his autobiography, The Game According to Syd: The Theories and Teachings of Baseball's Leading Innovator.

Legacy[edit]

With his Virginia drawl, garrulous nature and endless supply of stories, Thrift brought a fresh eye to evaluating talent and building teams. Rickey Henderson, Frank White, Al Oliver and Bobby Bonilla were among the notable players originally scouted or signed by Thrift.

Retirement[edit]

After retiring from baseball in 2004, he settled in Kilmarnock, Virginia and was the co-host of a syndicated radio program sponsored by Major League Baseball. He was honored by The Sporting News as one of the best teachers in baseball. He received an honorary doctorate of laws by Randolph-Macon College and their Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 1995 he was presented with the Edwin Rommel Award for his years of contribution to the sport of baseball. In 1996 he was inducted into the Middle Atlantic Major League Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame. And in 1998 he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and the Randolph-Macon College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Death[edit]

Thirft died September 18, 2006 at Milford Memorial Hospital in Milford, Delaware at age 77 following apparent complications from knee replacement surgery earlier that day. Survivors included his wife, Dolly Thrift; two sons; and five grandchildren.

References[edit]

Preceded by
Joe L. Brown
Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager
19851988
Succeeded by
Larry Doughty
Preceded by
Frank Wren
Baltimore Orioles General Manager
19992002
Succeeded by
Mike Flanagan (as Vice President of Baseball Operations) and Jim Beattie (as Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations)