The Art of Scouting by Art Stewart with Sam Mellinger is a great baseball book. The book explores Stewart’s first hand experience through working as a professional baseball scout since the 1950s. There are many great baseball stories out there, but this one is unique. He tells about how he encountered many of the greats in the beginning stages of their careers. He worked with the NY Yankees in the 1950s-60s where he met so many greats in the organization, Mantle, Maris, and Rizzuto to name a few. When he left the Yankees in 1969, they had won six of the ten World Series over the 17 seasons he scouted for them. The climate with the Yankees changed and became much more formal and run like a corporation. The opportunity came to join a new franchise in Kansas City, my home team, the Royals. He was there from the start, and now has been with the organization the longest. He wasn’t sure what he was getting into, but after the first meeting with Ewing Kauffman, he was all in. Kauffman was not a baseball man, but was a KC grown engineer, a natural leader, and owned the prosperous Marion Laboratories. Stewart said that baseball is full of tradition, but since Kauffman was not a baseball man, he thought outside the box and instituted many changes that led the Royals to be one of the most successful new franchises in baseball history, going to the ALCS in 1977, World Series in 1980, and winning the World Series in 1985.
Stewart met his wife, Donna in 1960, and she was just as enthralled with baseball as he was. She was a strong asset to his scouting, and joined him at every game until her death in 2008. They worked well together and he valued her input, even though she wasn’t an official scout, she knew what she was doing and made Stewart better at the job.
In the early 1980’s one of Stewart’s associate scouts pointed him onto a young, phenomenal athlete, named Bo Jackson. Bo was a three sport star through college in Auburn. The Royals organization was never sure which direction Bo would go, he could do it all. The local Royals’ scout built a strong relationship with Bo and his family and that’s how we ended up with one of the best overall athletes of this century. In the book, it tells all the details of scouting him from high school through college. He was drafted twice before the Royals got to him, but the Royals knew Bo wanted to complete school, it was so important to his mother, so they patiently waited until they got their chance and it all worked out.
The year before Bo joined the Royals, they were also scouting a young man in high school in Florida. The Royals drafted him and the scout was on his way to the home to present a contract. Feeling a little timid of going through a rough neighborhood late at night, the scout turned around and opted to return in the morning. The next morning, the Florida State scout was at the house, signing Deion Sanders to play college ball. The Royals missed out on signing another two sport athlete, could you imagine Bo and Deion playing in the same outfield in KC? The point of the Deion story was to show Stewart’s emphasis on signing right away. He ended up firing the scout.
There was another great scouting story that stood out to me. In 1975, a good NAIA pitcher begged to sign with the Royals. He said if wasn’t drafted he wanted to sign. He had some decent stats, but nothing really stood out to any of the ball clubs so he went undrafted and called the scout, Rosey, to ask for a contract – no signing bonus, he just wanted to play. The scout said it was getting late but he would have a contract ready if he was there within the hour. With a few minutes to spare, the Royals signed the late, great Dan Quisenberry. He went on to make three All-Star teams, closed for four playoff teams, and was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. I’ve heard many great things about Quisenberry and was fortunate enough to meet some of his family members while working in the KC area.
In the 1980’s Stewart was the scouting director for the Royals and he really pushed the program into Latin America, the ground work that eventually landed Salvy Perez, our current All-Star catcher. I really enjoyed a story he shared about his experience in the Dominican Republic. He said their team played one from the Yankees organization and won. They were all so excited they took the team to a Burger King on the way home and they “ate those burgers like a steak dinner at the Ritz.” It reminded me a lot of when my dad coached our sports teams growing up and would take us out for pizza to celebrate the season, good times. My dad by the way, a big Royals fan, gave me this book, and I’m so glad he did. Thank you.
The second half is coming soon…