Baseball's Endangered Species

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Baseball's Endangered Species

Inside the Craft of Scouting by Those Who Lived It

Lee Lowenfish

344 pages
19 photographs, index

Hardcover

April 2023

978-1-4962-1481-2

$34.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Scouting has been called pro baseball’s personalized way of renewing itself from year to year and a pathway to the game’s past. It takes a very special person to be a baseball scout: normal family life is out of the question because travel is a constant companion. Yet for those with the genuine calling for it, there could be no other life. Hearing the special thwack off the bat that indicates a raw prospect may be the real deal is the dream that keeps true scouts going. Scouts have the difficult task of not only discovering and signing new players but envisioning the trajectory of raw talent into the future. But the place of the traditional scout has become increasingly dire.

In 2016 Major League Baseball eliminated the MLB Scouting Bureau that had been created in the 1970s to augment the regular scouting staffs of individual teams. On the eve of the 2017 playoffs that saw the Houston Astros crowned as World Series champions, the team dismissed ten professional scouts and by 2019 halved the number of all their scouts to less than twenty. More and more teams are replacing their experienced talent hunters with people versed in digital video and analytics but who have limited field knowledge of the game, driven by the Moneyball-inspired trend to favor analytics, data, and algorithms over instinct and observation.

In Baseball’s Endangered Species Lee Lowenfish explores in-depth how scouting has been affected by the surging use of metrics along with other changes in modern baseball business history: expansion of the Major Leagues in 1961 and 1962, the introduction of the amateur free agent draft in 1965, and the coming of Major League free agency after the 1976 season. With an approach that is part historical, biographical, and oral history, Baseball’s Endangered Species is a comprehensive look at the scouting profession and the tradition of hands-on evaluation. At a time when baseball is drenched with statistics, many of them redundant or of questionable value, Lowenfish explores through the eyes and ears of scouts the vital question of “makeup”: how a player copes with failure, baseball’s essential, painful truth.
 

Author Bio

Lee Lowenfish is a freelance writer and cultural historian. He is the author of Branch Rickey: Baseball’s Ferocious Gentleman (Bison Books, 2009) and The Imperfect Diamond: A History of Baseball’s Labor Wars (Bison Books, 2010). He lives in New York City.
 

Praise

“Scouts are like the blues musicians of baseball, whose stories reveal the heart of the game. Lee Lowenfish has dug deeply to bring these tales back to life.”—Dusty Baker, manager of the Houston Astros

“Shining through this book is a pure love of baseball—not only in the scouts’ devotion to finding talent but in the author’s ardent research and affectionate writing. The gift that Lee Lowenfish gives to his readers is really an act of homage to the game itself.”—Kevin Kerrane, author of Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Baseball Scouting

“From the Ferocious Gentleman, Branch Rickey, the greatest scout in baseball history, to the Four Corners Scout and his three oil changes every calendar year, who better than Lee Lowenfish to write about those who have always been at the heart of our game, unfailingly dedicated yet mostly unseen. Thanks to his passion for baseball and understanding of its history, Lee happily tells their stories.”—Joe Maddon, former Major League Baseball manager

“Serious fans and students of the game will appreciate this account of the history and current fortunes of the art of scouting baseball talent. Well told by a deeply knowledgeable writer in a conversational style reminiscent of the late Roger Angell.”—Jean Hastings Ardell, coauthor of Making My Pitch: A Woman’s Baseball Odyssey

“Lee Lowenfish has always been thorough and insightful in his writing, and his latest book is no exception. There may not be any scouts in the Hall of Fame—but being included in this book is an accolade for them as individuals and for their profession.”—Marty Appel, Yankees historian and author of Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain

“A most informative and entertaining book. . . . Lowenfish tells the [stories of greater- and lesser-known scouts] with equal appreciation of what they mean to the game. His ability to detail the personal side of the scouts and the players they pursue—and why they pursue them—is a pleasure to read. It is a master class by a master author.”—Lyle Spatz, coauthor of 1921: The Yankees, the Giants, and the Battle for Baseball Supremacy in New York

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Prologue
Part 1. The Cardinals-Yankees Rivalry That Dominates Baseball, 1919–1964
1. Charley Barrett and the Rise of Branch Rickey’s Farm System
2. Paul Krichell and the Rise of the Yankees’ Dynasties
Part 2. Tales from Baseball Expansion Era
3. Red Murff Joins the Scouting Brotherhood with Mets and Expos
4. Art Stewart and the Rise of the Kansas City Royals Expansion Franchise
Part 3. Two Veteran Scouts Bookend Three Baseball Monogamists
5. Gary Nickels’s Half Century of Scouting Adventures
6. Paul Snyder, the Braves’ Branch Rickey
7. Gene Bennett’s Love Affair with the Cincinnati Reds
8. Billy Blitzer Finally Wins His Chicago Cubs’ Ring
9. Bill Enos’s Roundabout Journey to Massachusetts Scouting Immortality
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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