One of the unsung heroes in Dodgers history has passed away. Longtime scout Mel Didier has died at age 90.
Sad to report that Mel Didier, beloved Toronto #BlueJays scout,has passed away at 90, according to his wife, Elana. What a beautiful life.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 11, 2017
I was honored to know and work with my dear friend Mel Didier for nearly 50 years. He took on every scouting assignment with excitement. pic.twitter.com/l5763tNLFp— Fred Claire (@Fred_Claire) September 11, 2017
“Mel had a tremendous career in sports whether coaching football, his personal friendship with the legendary Bear Bryant or his unbelievably successful career in baseball,” the Blue Jays — one of several teams Didier worked for — released in a statement. “Mel was a dear friend to everyone in baseball. Few men in our great game have had universal admiration throughout baseball as Mel Didier did.”
Reports surfaced two weeks ago that Didier was not doing well, which prompted this rare tweet from former Dodger Kirk Gibson:
"Padner...as sure as I'm standing here breathing...you gonna see a 3-2 back door slider." Mel Didier— Kirk Gibson (@23KGibby) August 28, 2017
The Louisiana native Didier was known for his southern drawl and called nearly everyone Partner, or “Podnuh” as he spelled it in the title of his autobiography.
Gibson and Didier are forever linked in Dodgers history, for it was Didier’s scouting report on A’s closer Dennis Eckersley that had Gibson looking for a backdoor slider on a full count in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
“The greatest thrill I ever had was calling that shot,” Didier told George Morris of The Advocate in Louisiana last October. "You know how hitters are. They pop balls up and hit ground balls in batting practice when they know what’s coming. He knew what was coming, but he hits a home run, and it was the most spectacular home run and voted the most spectacular Los Angeles Dodger play of all time by the fans.”
Gibson famously stepped out of the batters box just before the 3-2 pitch from Eckersley, and recalled said report from Didier.
"If you look at the tape of the game, you can see Gibson smile," Didier said. "(Didier"s) words rang in my mind," Gibson said afterward. "'If you get him to 3-2, be ready to step into it because it will be a back-door slider.'"
Gibson hit the low slider off his front foot into the fifth row of the right-field seats to win the game. Sparked by the unlikely limp-off home run, the Dodgers won the Series in five games.
"It was by far my greatest accomplishment because it was ranked as one of the 10 greatest baseball feats in the history of the World Series," Didier said."I'll forever be a part of that. But all I did was tell him. He could have popped it up, he could have hit it on the ground, whatever. He didn't because he's a great athlete."
But as Fred Claire, who was the Dodgers general manager in 1988, recalled, Didier did more than just provide that scouting report on Eck.
Mel Didier always will be remembered for scouting report that led to Gibby's HR in 1988 but he had key role in trades for Shelby, Belcher. https://t.co/mZFQyXASO1— Fred Claire (@Fred_Claire) September 11, 2017
Mel Didier loved being in a ballpark and everywhere he went felt like a Major League park because of his presence. He was always welcomed. https://t.co/9vqZhNbYBz— Fred Claire (@Fred_Claire) September 11, 2017
Didier worked for several teams in his seven decades in baseball, most recently the Blue Jays in the last year. He was the scouting director for the Montreal Expos, for whom he drafted Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson.
“With his experience, you know could ask him about anything or talk to him about anything, and he’d have something insightful to say,” Dodgers vice president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos told SportsNet 590 in Toronto on Monday morning. “He just loved players.”