The book: “A Scout’s Report: My 70 Years in Baseball”
The author: George Genovese, with Dan Taylor
The vital statistics: MacFarland books, 244 pages, $29.95
Find it: At Amazon.com, at BarnesandNoble.com, at Powells.com, at Vromans.com
The pitch: Many of the players who George Genovese mentored, coached, developed and eventually signed after they were drafted during his career as one of the most prolific baseball scouts in the game’s history, you may already know.
Most of the bigger names were during Genovese’s 31-year-run with the San Francisco Giants, as guardian of the Southern California territory that essentially meant he had to do some convincing to them and their parents that the Dodgers’ hated rivals wanted them more.
It wasn’t even dumb luck when Genovese lost out to a local kid who wanted to stay home. The famous story about the pre-draft 1964 time when everyone was after L.A. Fremont High star Willie Crawford, and then Dodgers scout Tommy Lasorda (who took the time to write this book’s forward) eventually got him after giving a 15-minute eulogy at the funeral of Crawford’s grandfather, which endeared himself to the family. Genovese’s runner-up prize was recommending that his organization take a kid from Riverside Poly High named Bobby Bonds.
From there, it was as if Genovese was picking fruit off the Dodgers’ trees — George Foster (Leuzinger in Lawndale), Gary Matthews (San Fernando), Garry Maddox (San Pedro), Chili Davis (L.A. Dorsey), Jack Clark (Gladstone in Covina), Dave Kingman (USC), Matt Williams (Carson City, Nev./UNLV), Randy Moffett (Long Beach), Royce Clayton (St. Bernard High in Playa del Rey), Jim Barr (Lynwood) …
All Genovese signees, and most all of them, Dodgers tormentors.
As the Dodgers and Giants finish a three-game series tonight, we must tip our cap, again, in tribute to how much the North Hollywood-based scout has contributed to both franchises. He remains, at age 93, a Dodgers’ part-time scout who, to date, has been responsible for inking about 250 players, with nearly 40 of them making the big leagues with some levels of success.
But the ones he couldn’t convince his bosses to believe were the real deal? That’s where this autobiography takes its most sinister turn.
After all, at this point, what does he have to lose?
When the Giants’ new ownership in the late ’80s stopped listening to him, and the Dodgers picked him up in 1995 to help train scouts and consult on trades, Genovese right off the bat doesn’t dance around that fact that it continues to nag at him that he didn’t have the juice to convince Dodgers’ scouting director Logan White to step up eight years ago and believe that this outfielder from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High named Mike Stanton had the tools and was worth locking up.
Genovese got a tip about Stanton from a former player he signed 20 years earlier, Daris Toussaint. Meet me at this building near the Burbank Airport and see this inexperienced 17-year-old USC football recruit take some cuts.
Genovese did, and immediately could size up Stanton’s potential. He had to talk the Dodgers into getting Stanton to show his skills at a specia. Dodger Stadium tryout. Billy Mueller, assistant to the GM at the time, was impressed, yet Genovese didn’t want anyone to really know that he arranged for Stanton’s appearance.
“As I left the ballpark later that night … I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Mueller being impressed meant my scheme had worked,” Genovese finishes Chapter 1, “and we were going to give Mike Stanton serious draft consideration after all.”
Now, flash forward to Chapter 35 — after Genovese generously recounts his career as a player, manager and then scout through his amazing career.
The Dodgers’ top area scout at the time (someone who Genovese strategically does not name here) strongly recommends to White that they go after pitcher/first baseman Andrew Lambo. Stanton was deemed too raw, committed to football, and demanding too much money to sign.
“As the words were spoken, I felt a knot form in my stomach,” Genovese writes. “I knew the information was wrong. … Lambo had been easy to evaluate. He played travel ball, was in tournaments all around the country … Stanton did not. Nobody should have been scared off because he was raw. If you understood the power hitter, you know their skills take longer to develop.”
And if you knew Genovese — and maybe the Dodgers’ younger decision-making team didn’t trust the judgment of this old-timer — how do you not bank on his track record?
Eventually, Genovese said he had to speak up for Stanton.
White asked for another opinion. The area scout stood by Lambo.
So when the 2007 draft took place – as Chatsworth shortstop Mike Moustakas went to Kansas City at No. 2, and teammate Matt Dominguez went to Florida at No. 12, two picks after the Giants took Madison Bumgarner — the Dodgers jumped on two pitchers in the first round, Chris Withrow and James Adkins.
Stanton was taken by Florida in the second round; Lambo fell to the Dodgers in the fourth round, having slipped on everyone’s draft board because of disciplinary issues he had at Newbury Park High in Thousand Oaks.
Today, Withrow is on the DL after having undergone Tommy John surgery a year ago.
Adkins never got past Double-A and was released in 2011.
In 2010, Lambo was given a 55 game suspension for testing positive for drugs. That summer, the Dodgers would trade him to Pittsburgh.
As for Stanton, who grew into his given first name of Giancarlo … Do a Google search. The team is still trying to figure out how to spell his name.
“Evaluations and tough draft decisions like the Stanton-Lambo debate happen every year, with just about every club,” Genovese writes in trying to put this all into some perspective. “Each case shows, in my opinion, why experience and trust in an area scout are so important. There isn’t a more valuable tool in scouting than experience…. Each accolade Stanton (has received since then), every article that was written about him, and all the home runs that he hit brought back some of the frustration I felt at being unable to sell our people on drafting him.
“To be honest, that’s an occupational hazard. To truly be able to sell a player, you have to believe in him, and that’s the crux of scouting.”
Trust us, you’ll enjoy this book about the genius of Genovese, and his cautionary tales.
He can go down the list of players who, for whatever reason, they weren’t buying what he was selling – Locke’s Eddie Murray (an Orioles’ bird scout was tipped off seeing Genovese at his high school game and simply poached the pick), Crespi High’s Jeff Suppan (a pitcher Genovese was told by a new Giants scouting director was worthless, so Genovese gave a heads up to his friend, Red Sox scout Joe Stephenson, who suggested Boston take him based only on Genovese’s word, and the team did, and Suppan’s big-league career lasted 17 seasons), USC’s Mark McGwire and Las Vegas’ Greg Maddux (the Giants were instead hot on Alan Cochrell and Terry Muholland, and took them both ahead of the other suggestions, Taft’s Gabe Kapler, Burbank’s Freddy Sanchez, Roosevelt’s Ricky Romero …
It’s far from sour grapes to hear Genovese’s side of what others might call 20/20 hindsight. But a journey into the mind and heart of someone who became so baseball savvy is what we’ve been waiting for since inowing that the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation named their lifetime achievement award in Genovese’s name. His history in the game, going back to playing with his four brothers in Staten Island — basically, the DiMaggios of the East Coast — to actually getting into three games with the Washington Senators in the early ‘50s, then managing, and finally, a scout, which at that time was thought to be a place to be sent out to pasture.
Genovese, instead, pasteurized, and posterized, this profession.
When the Baseball Hall of Fame begins to recognize scouts as inductees, instead of just giving them a token display, most are in agreement that Genovese should be among, if not, the first to be honored.
More to know:
== In 2013, we reviewed the book “Baseball’s Last Great Scout: The Life of Hugh Alexander,” who the Dodgers had employed in the ‘60s and ‘70s and was responsible for the franchise landing Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Frank Howard.
== A 2009 L.A. Times column when the Dodgers and Frank McCourt let go of Genovese, followed by a 2013 L.A. Times story on Genovese, who was back in the team’s staff.
== In 2012, Santa Anita named a race for Genovese in honor of his 90th birthday.
== From a 2012 piece on Genovese by MLB.com’s Chris Haft, there’s a quote by Gary Matthews, a highly regarded pitcher who Genovese saw as a hitter, got the Giants to take him in the first round out of San Fernando High in 1968 and then became the ’73 NL Rookie of the Year: “George Genovese would draft players on ability and character. He didn’t care if you were raw or not. He could almost look in your eyes and tell whether you were going to be dedicated.”