Tony Lucadello

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Tony Lucadello
Born (1912-07-30)July 30, 1912
Thurber, Texas
Died May 8, 1989(1989-05-08) (aged 76)
Fostoria, Ohio
Occupation Baseball scout
Spouse(s) Virginia Lucadello

Anthony Lucadello (July 30, 1912 - May 8, 1989) was a professional baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs (1943–1957) and Philadelphia Phillies (1957–1989). During his career, he signed a total of 52 players who made it to the Major Leagues, most notably Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins and Mike Schmidt. His total number of Major League signings is considered to be unsurpassed, and some have called him perhaps the greatest scout ever.[1][2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Lucadello was born in Thurber, Texas to native Italian parents, but grew up in Chicago where his family moved so his father could work in the area's coal mines.[5]

From player to scout[edit]

In 1936, Branch Rickey established a new Class D team—the Fostoria Redbirds—in Fostoria, Ohio as part of the St. Louis Cardinals system and the Ohio State League. Lucadello travelled to Fostoria to try out for the team and ended up spending two years as a shortstop and player-manager in the league with the Redbirds and the Tiffin Mud Hens.[4][6] Never a major league prospect as a player, Lucadello eventually took a factory job with the Fostoria Screw Company, met his future wife and settled down.

In 1942, however, he returned to baseball as a part-time scout for the Chicago Cubs.[7] He began running tryout camps, assembling teams and borrowing equipment to outfit them, and playing his finds against some of the best amateur talent in the Midwest.[6] He was offered his first full-time scouting position by Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley after bringing two pitchers in two years to the attention of Cubs manager Charlie Grimm who were signed immediately to the Major League roster. After seeing the second pitcher, Bob Rush, throwing at a tryout at Wrigley Field, Wrigley told Grimm, "Before you sign this pitcher here, if you want him that bad, you better sign that young man right there," and pointed at Lucadello. As he left Grimm's office, Wrigley said of Lucadello, "This young man was born to be a scout."[8]

Scouting fundamentals[edit]

Unlike nearly all other scouts, Lucadello almost never watched a game from behind home plate. Rather, he moved from place to place around the field: a short way up the baseline (to see the batter's face), behind first or third base (to judge the arm strength of both infielders and outfielders), and halfway up the line (to watch pitchers).[9]

Lucadello claimed that the key to identifying a prospect was to focus on the player's body control and footwork, saying, "Eighty-seven percent of the game of baseball is played below the waist."[3]

The four kinds of scouts, according to Lucadello, start with the letter 'P':

  • Poor -- wastes time looking for games rather than having a planned itinerary
  • Picker -- emphasizes a player's one weakness to the neglect of all strengths
  • Performance -- bases his evaluation on what a player does in his presence
  • Projector -- envisions what a player will be able to do in two or three years.

He estimated that five percent of scouts were poor, five percent pickers, 85 percent performance scouts and five percent projectors.[10]

Lucadello's credentials as a "projector" were most clearly demonstrated in his vision for Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt. As a high school senior with two bad knees, Schmidt hit only .179 with one home run, but Lucadello had been watching him since Little League and still saw his potential. "I felt...that Mike was a late bloomer," he explained years later. He tried to keep his interest in Schmidt from other scouts by hiding behind dugouts or bushes or watching from a nearby rooftop. "I watched one game from the back of a station wagon in the parking lot," Lucadello said.[11] According to Schmidt, "Without Tony Lucadello, I wouldn't have been a Philadelphia Phillie. He scouted me from the time I played Little League Baseball all the way up through high school and college. He had me followed when a lot of other scouts had kind of written me off."[12]

The Lucadello plan[edit]

Like many scouts, Lucadello believed that modern players were weak in the fundamentals of the game. For many years he had proposed that young players could constantly improve their skills by using concrete walls to work on their arms and take ground balls at the same time, with or without supervision, similar to the way young basketball players spent hour after hour shooting at a basket. With the help of some high school coaches who worked as part-time scouts for him, he developed and published a series of training drills using the walls in a booklet called "The Lucadello Plan" that he believed could help change the game.

In 1984, American League president Dr. Bobby Brown, also believing the game's skills were in decline among its young players, began seeking a low-level way to reverse the trend. Among the ideas he received from major league baseball scouts was Lucadello's description of his "plan." With encouragement from former Phillies manager Dallas Green, who had seen clinics run by Lucadello in Puerto Rico, Major League Baseball created an instructional video in 1987 called, "A Coaching Clinic," that demonstrated the drills. Orders for the video came from all over the world, and it was given to officials from the former Soviet Union who visited spring training in 1988 in preparation for the creation of an Olympic team.[4][13]

The Lucadello Plan lists six rules for young players to follow to maximize the benefit of practicing with the wall:

  1. Learn to position your feet for ground balls.
  2. Keep your head and glove down.
  3. Grip the ball across the seams.
  4. Throw with a strong, over-the-top delivery.
  5. Take 100 grounders off the wall every day.
  6. Play with enthusiasm.[14]

Major League signees[edit]

Lucadello claimed, along with many of the coaches and part-time scouts he worked with, that his success in signing players was due largely to the close relationship he built with prospects and their families while he scouted them, sometimes over a number of years.[15] Ferguson Jenkins said, "I signed with the Phils because they had worked with me for three years...and 'cause I became real good friends with Tony Lucadello. He came down every weekend to watch me play."[16]

In one case, Lucadello was able to sign a player who had offers of at least $100,000 from seven other teams while all Lucadello could offer from the Cubs was $4,000. Lucadello had been watching the player, Dick Drott, since he was fifteen. On the night of Drott's graduation, the earliest time he could sign a high school player, Lucadello, Drott and both of his parents were in tears about their decision when the mother said, "I don't want the money....Over my dead body is my boy going to sign with anyone but Tony."[17]

These are the Major League players who were originally signed by Tony Lucadello (by ML debut date):

For the Chicago Cubs (Note: * All-Star, + Hall of Fame):
For the Philadelphia Phillies (Note: * All-Star, + Hall of Fame):

Awards[edit]

Lucadello was inducted into the All Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago in 1976.[18] He was named "Midwest Scout of the Year" by The Scout of the Year Foundation in 1986.[19] He was inducted into the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.[20]

Death[edit]

In the spring of 1989, at the age of 76, Lucadello was told by the Phillies that that year's draft would be his last for them. Apparently unable to cope with the impending loss of his work -- "the fear of not being wanted," Mike Schmidt called it[12]—Lucadello committed suicide by a gunshot wound to the head[21] on May 8, 1989 on a baseball field in Fostoria. The field, now named for Lucadello, features a monument honoring the former scout as "Baseball's Friend."[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Robbins, Mike (2004). Ninety Feet from Fame: Close Calls With Baseball Immortality. Pp. 99-100.
  2. ^ Jordan, David M. (2004). Occasional Glory: The History of the Philadelphia Phillies. Pp. 163-164.
  3. ^ a b Spivak, Jeffrey (2005). Crowning the Kansas City Royals: Remembering the 1985 World Series Champs. P. 36.
  4. ^ a b c d Joyce, Gare. Wall of Dreams.
  5. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. P. 1.
  6. ^ a b Hanneman, David (1989). Diamonds in the Rough: The Legend and Legacy of Tony Lucadello, One of Baseball's Greatest Scouts.
  7. ^ Robbins, Mike (2004). Ninety Feet from Fame: Close Calls With Baseball Immortality. Pp. 99-100.
  8. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. Pp. 30-32.
  9. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. P. 42.
  10. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. P. 97.
  11. ^ Searcy, Jay. "Few Saw The Potential: It Took a Persistent Scout, A Family Who Believed and An Invisible Force." The Philadelphia Inquirer. 1 June 1989.
  12. ^ a b Dolson, Frank. "This Scout Was Truly Great At Judging A Player's Heart." The Philadelphia Inquirer. 10 May 1989.
  13. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. Pp. 85-87.
  14. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. P. 15.
  15. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. Pp. 10, 93.
  16. ^ Golenbock, Peter (1996). Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs. P. 395.
  17. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. Pp. 148-152.
  18. ^ Krupp, Paul. "Famous Baseball Scout Overlooked By Hometown." Fostoria.org. December 8, 1983.
  19. ^ Simpson, Allan. "Still waiting for Hall of Fame recognition, foundation honors three more scouts." Baseball America. December 11, 2002.
  20. ^ Winegardner, Mark (1990). Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. Pp. 252-254.
  21. ^ Los Angeles Times

References[edit]

  • Dolson, Frank. "This Scout Was Truly Great At Judging A Player's Heart." The Philadelphia Inquirer. 10 May 1989.
  • Golenbock, Peter. Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs. St. Martin's Press, 1996. ISBN 0-312-14079-7
  • Hanneman, David, Diamonds in the Rough: The Legend and Legacy of Tony Lucadello, One of Baseball's Greatest Scouts. Diamond Books, 1989. ISBN 0-89015-666-2
  • Hochman, Stan. Mike Schmidt: Baseball's King of Swing. Random House, 1983. ISBN 0-394-85806-9
  • Jordan, David M. Occasional Glory: The History of the Philadelphia Phillies. McFarland & Company, 2003. ISBN 0-7864-1260-7
  • Kuenster, John, At Home and Away: 33 Years of Baseball Essays. McFarland & Company, 2003. ISBN 0-7864-1559-2
  • Robbins, Mike, Ninety Feet from Fame: Close Calls With Baseball Immortality. Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7867-1335-6
  • Searcy, Jay. "Few Saw The Potential: It Took a Persistent Scout, A Family Who Believed and An Invisible Force." The Philadelphia Inquirer. 1 June 1989.
  • Spivak, Jeffrey. Crowning the Kansas City Royals: Remembering the 1985 World Series Champs. Sports Publishing LLC, 2005. ISBN 1-58261-826-7
  • Winegardner, Mark. Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout. Prentice Hall Press, 1990. ISBN 0-13-726373-2

External links[edit]