Today’s Dead Baseball Player – The Scout

I wish I could take a psychologist with me, I’d like to know if the boys have the will to win. If they do I want them. If they don’t, they’re no good to me.”

Part of the goal of Baseball Minutia is to chronicle some of the strange and complicated webs of baseball history. Everyone knows about Roger Maris, Ted Williams and The Big Train, what reader of this site can say they don’t know about the Babes Called “Shot” or the pine tar incident and the earthquake of 1989?

Few, if any would be my guess. This isn’t any attempt to diminish those players or moments, however let us leave them behind and dig deeper into the trunk of baseball history and take a look at men who gave to the game and might have eluded your prior examinations of the history of the game.

One of the great things about baseball is that it brings father and sons together (and numerous other family members, but I have a theme here) part of this father and son bond can be seen in the pairs of fathers and sons who both plied their trade on the diamond. Many stars have sons who are stars, like the Bonds and Griffey families, or a star has a son who doesn’t match dad’s exploits (big shout out to Dale Berra.) Other player’s sons eclipse their father’s shadow by outperforming the old mans performance (Roberto Alomar and Joe Coleman) Then there is the father and sons who both never amounted to anything above a role player, this can be seen in the Stillwell’s and the Mattick’s.

The Mattick’s?

BORN: 3/12/1887 St. Louis, Missouri
MLB DEBUT: 4/11/1912
.302  .302  .604
BORN: 12/5/1915 Sioux City, Iowa
.233  .281  .269  .550

Yep… two very short careers in pro ball, totaling 1323 AB’s, father Wally played some outfield (mostly CF) for the White Sox in 1912-1913 and had a cup of coffee with the cardinals during the war shortened 1918 season. Son Bobby was also a skill player and played shortstop for the Cubs and the Reds from 1938-1942, finally succumbing to an eye injury. Between the two only dad could claim a home run in both their careers. The game is peppered with all sorts of father and son combinations and this one might be one of the weakest player combos, it also contains one of the most under recognized baseball men in the history of the game as well as the major figure in the building of the Cincinnati Reds in the late 50’s, from there he followed Gabe Paul around from organization to organization and eventually landed a job as one of the main architects of the expansion Blue Jays in the mid 1970’s. Later Bobby became the oldest manager to debut in a season opener when he managed the 1980-1981 Blue Jays. That was his first and only job in the dugout after a career of scouting.

And what a career it was, if you have been lucky enough to get your paws on Dollar Sign on the Muscle then you will appreciate the world of the scout and the way they look at players, and have looked at players since the days before roads between some of the burgs they had to traverse to dig up a player.

If the mans life’s work was the talent he brought to the game then Bobby Mattick was the Ty Cobb of scouts. The list of his finds for the Reds in the mid 50’s is one that is as impressive as any others out there. The prize of the picks was Frank Robinson whom Mattick inked for $3000 after seeing Frank swing at the age of 14 (Mattick at the time was scouting J.W. Porter a catcher, Porter got 65K from the Chi Sox and was out of MLB by the age of 27) Frank was impressive then and even more when he began his climb up the ladder for the Reds in the minors. Robinson’s stance possessed a hitch that Frank’s manager in the minors wanted to fix… Mattick put a stop to those shenanigans. So impressive was young Robinson that during trade talks between the Reds and the Pirates the Pirates GM, Branch Rickey tried to have Frank included as a throw in…. Gabe Paul put a stop to those shenanigans.

Known as an aggressive scout who hung around the families as much as the diamonds, often college coaches found him a bit too aggressive and UC Berkeley’s coach Clint Evans felt his involvement with his star pitcher Bill Gear was a little out of line, calling Mattick a “corner Cutter.” Mattick fame was in finding young talent not college talent and no where was he more successful than in Oakland where Mattick was also able to ink a player who went to school with Robinson, a slight young pitcher with impressive speed and quick wrists named Vada Pinson. For four thousand dollars Vada was willing to sign with the Reds and abandon pitching for the outfield.
What’s more impressive is this also came on the heels of the Mattick also getting the signature of another fleet outfielder from the Oakland sandlots for the Reds, The outfielder had an impressive 26 extra base hits in 27 games and was hitting .620. His name was Curt Flood and he like Pinson got $4000 to sign.

Unfortunately for Reds fans Flood was never to make his mark as a Red and was the crown on the head of Bing Devine’s first trade as a Cardinal GM. The possibility of an all black outfield might have been a hurdle the club wasn’t ready to attempt and when he was in the minors one season the Reds tried Flood at 3rd, 41 errors later he was back in center field.

Mattick scouted and signed three of the best outfielders in the National League in the early 1960’s and spent only $11,000 dollars for them, or approximately 16.9% of the cost of J.W. Porter. That’s an impressive move in an era that awash in bonus signings and unrivaled spending on unproven talent.

Throwing another log on the Oakland fire was the signing of Tommy Harper from the same neighborhood that produced the prior three stars, Harper never had the careers that the others had, however he had quite a career himself, including getting to be part of the Pilots, an honor that no one can ever take away from him.

Mattick’s best pitching find would have to be the slow and laborious dance he performed to get Jim Maloney to sign with the Reds. At the time Maloney was as known for his stick as he was for his arm, in the reverse of the Pinson situation Mattick convinced Maloney to forgo the bat for the mound. From there it is history, with Maloney taking the mantle as best Reds starter from 1963 to 1969, during this time he also was one of the best starters in the National League.

When Reds GM Gabe Paul left to run the Houston expansion team new Reds GM Bill DeWitt signed Bobby to a 3 year contract, letting the world know that he felt lucky to have Mattick on his side, that buzz only lasted 2 months, and after much deliberation Bobby Mattick followed his mentor and the man who first hired him as a scout to Houston.

No one was surprised when Houston signed the sought after Rusty Staub, the man next to him in the signing picture was Bobby Mattick.

Later in his career Mattick also got credit for signing Don Baylor and Gary Carter, and also worked as the cross checker for the Expos before he moved over to the Blue Jays. The result was he was voted in to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame for his work with the Blue Jays and was lionized by admirers all over baseball; perhaps this story involving Buck Showalter best exemplifies what baseball men felt about Bobby Mattick.

When Buck Showalter was managing in Arizona, Mattick once paid a visit during a practice. Buck stopped all activity, gathered his players and told them, “This is one of the great baseball men in the game; don’t ever forget what he did at Toronto. He respects the game and he respects people, and he’s not going to make somebody look bad.”

What’s a baseball man?

Bobby Mattick would be a good answer, son of a player, a player himself, a scout, an administrator and a manager.

One thing’s for sure the man knew talent.

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