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Farewell, George Genovese

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George Genovese, seen here on the club level at Dodger Stadium in 2013.
George Genovese, seen here on the club level at Dodger Stadium in 2013.
Photo: LA Times via Getty Images

Longtime baseball scout George Genovese passed away on Sunday at age 93. He worked with the Dodgers since 1995, including as a part-time scout in recent years.

A native of Staten Island in New York, Genovese was a middle infielder as a player, and had a sip of coffee in the major leagues in 1950, appearing in three games for the Washington Senators, twice as a pinch hitter and once as a pinch runner.

He walked in his first plate appearance, grounded out to second base in his second plate appearance, then scored as a pinch runner in his third game.

Despite his .500 on-base percentage, Genovese never played in the majors again, though he did continue playing in the minors until 1957. He started managing in the minors while still playing, and continued to manage through 1963. He became a scout in 1964 with the Giants, and had that job basically until he died.

As you might imagine, someone like Genovese who has worked in baseball for decades upon decades has several great stories, some of which might have been heard in recent years on the club level at Dodger Stadium, where Genovese would watch Dodgers home games.

Here are others telling Genovese's story about his life in baseball.

From Dodgers historian Mark Langill:

"George was one of the greatest scouts there ever was," said Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, a Dodger scout between 1960 and 1965. "I scouted against George and I scouted with George. He put a lot of guys in the big leagues. He was an exceptional man and one of my best friends. I’m going to miss him."

During his scouting career, Genovese signed close to 250 players, 44 of whom reached the Major Leagues. He signed future Giants Bobby Bonds, Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, George Foster, Jack Clark, Chili Davis, Dave Kingman, Royce Clayton and Matt Williams. On September 13, 1973, seven of the nine players on the field for San Francisco had been recommended or signed by Genovese.

From Chris Haft of MLB.com:

Genovese unearthed many prospects while supervising an amateur team he called the "Giants Rookies," who traveled around Southern California to play other amateurs. Playing on one of Genovese's squads, Matthews received his first pair of baseball spikes -- as well as a positive influence he'll forever cherish.

"I don't know if we have enough time to go over all the stuff that George Genovese has done, not just for me, but also for a lot of players, from George Foster to Dave Kingman," Matthews said. "He's a big reason why I was in the Major Leagues, to be quite frank. He'd stick by you and work out with you. He has a special place in my heart."

From Cormac Gordon of the Staten Island Advance:

When some suggested Clark couldn't run well enough to be a big league player, George's response was, "When you hit the ball as far as he does, you just have to trot."

Clark would become a four-time All Star who hit 340 major league home runs.

"No matter how long you've been around, if you watch an entire game with George, you will learn something new," former Dodgers general manager Dan Evans told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times in 2009. "For me, he's the greatest scout of all time."

More from Gordon:

And, after his one brief stint in the big leagues, was given his first non-playing job in the game by Branch Rickey, at the time the GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"A visionary," he called Rickey, the man credited with planning and executing the breaking of baseball's color line when he promoted Jackie Robinson from the minors to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

"I believed in what he was doing," Genovese has said.

In his days as an underpaid minor league player and manager Genovese supplemented his income delivering the mail in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, hauling his leather bag to the mailboxes of stars like Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.

From the SABR bio of longtime scout Bob Zuk:

In 1971 Genovese had visited the home of prospect Gordon Carter. As Genovese left the home after signing Carter, he recalled Gordon telling him that he would be back in 1972 for Gordon’s little brother, Gary. Genovese followed up in 1972, as did Zuk. But early in the season, most scouts were down on Fullerton High catcher Gary Carter and believed he would honor his college commitment to play quarterback at UCLA.

What happened later that spring is the stuff of Southern California scouting mythology. The way Zuk told the story, he visited Amerige Park in Fullerton when he discovered a night game only by the lights in his rear-view mirror on a local freeway. Drawn to the lights and by his own instincts, Zuk rediscovered Carter. He loved the energy Carter showed, and he saw a player with multiple tools – right-handed power at a premium position, a plus arm, a plus runner, and a plus defender. Zuk persuaded the Expos front office to come see Carter, and he went to pains to make sure the front office slipped into town undetected. He arranged a private workout rather than risk scouting Carter in a game, knowing that if other scouts knew Zuk was heavy on Carter, he might never get to the Expos. The front office was sold and the Expos drafted Carter in the third round of the 1972 draft. Carter was in the big leagues to stay in 1974.

From David Wharton in the LA Times:

At spring training that year, Rickey called his managers to a daily meeting. Genovese kept suggesting they release a struggling outfielder, but the boss refused to listen.

"Mr. Rickey put his fingers to his lips," Genovese recalls. "He told me, 'We can't cut that guy. He's my goose-shooter.' "

The rookie manager spent days pondering, troubled as to why he'd never heard that particular baseball term. Then he learned the truth: Rickey loved to hunt and the prospect in question had a duck blind on his family's land.

"Goose-shooter," Genovese says, laughing. "That's why Mr. Rickey kept him around."

Later that year, the organization wanted to release a big left-handed pitcher on the Batavia roster to make room for another prospect. Genovese kept stalling, so Rickey called.

The team traveled in a decrepit bus that broke down frequently. One night, stranded in upstate New York, the players slept in empty cells at a jailhouse.

The big pitcher couldn't help on that occasion, but was a good enough mechanic to get them back on the road other times. Genovese told Rickey: "I can't cut the guy. He's my goose-shooter."

Genovese released an autobiography earlier this year, A Scout's Tale: My 70 Years in Baseball, co-written with Dan Taylor, one I have been meaning to read but haven't yet. Just reading some of these stories about Genovese makes me think that book is a must-read.

May he rest in peace.