By Phil Rogers
September 17, 2001
CHICAGO—Duane Shaffer couldn’t stop shaking his head as he looked around Comiskey Park during the White Sox’ practice on Saturday. His heart was unusually heavy, not just for the obvious reasons.
Everywhere Shaffer looked, he saw the handiwork of George Bradley. Shaffer saw Bradley in Sean Lowe and in Chris Singleton. He saw Bradley in Herbert Perry and Keith Foulke.
Kelly Wunsch is at home in Texas recovering from shoulder surgery. But Shaffer rarely thinks about Bradley without remembering how the longtime scout spotted an aging Triple-A pitcher wasting away in the Milwaukee organization and recommended him as a guy who could fill the Sox’s need for a lefthanded reliever.
“His impact on this organization was huge,” said Shaffer, the Sox’ senior scouting director. “Without those guys, we wouldn’t have won.”
Bradley, 58, died of a heart attack on Friday. It was a devastating loss for his aging parents, who lived with him in Tampa. It was also a major blow for the Sox, whose keen evaluation of players and commitment to development has made them competitive with a middle-of-the-road payroll.
Shaffer is right about the American League Central title the White Sox won in 2000. Frank Thomas had a monster season. So did Magglio Ordonez, Jose Valentin and many others. But the Sox would not have been able to end Cleveland’s five-year run atop the Central without the players Bradley sent their way.
When Bradley endorsed Foulke, it was along with Ed Brinkman and others who participated with former GM Ron Schueler in putting together the White Flag trade with San Francisco. But a team should get back some good players for a package of players like Roberto Hernandez, Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin.
The beauty of the 2000 Sox was the huge contributions they got for players whom Bradley recommended and Schueler basically stole. “We didn’t lose anybody to get any of those guys,” Shaffer said.
Singleton and Perry carried their weight in a lineup that produced 6.0 runs per game. Wunsch and Lowe picked up 10 wins while eating up 132 innings in a bullpen that was a quiet strength from April through September.
Perry was claimed on waivers when he was discarded by Tampa Bay. Wunsch signed as a minor league free agent. Lowe and Singleton were acquired in trades: Lowe from St. Louis for minor league pitcher John Ambrose and Singleton from the New York Yankees for minor league pitcher Rich Pratt.
While Singleton has played 404 games for the Sox, Pratt was released in his first spring with the Yankees. Lowe has pitched in 152 games for the Sox; Ambrose never made it to the big leagues with the Cardinals and is still trying to get there with Boston.
Singleton captured Bradley’s attention while playing for the Yankees’ Triple-A team in 1998. Lowe had struggled when he got a handful of chances to pitch for Tony La Russa. But Bradley noticed how efficiently the former first-round draft choice pitched for Triple-A Memphis, where he won 12 games and had a 3.18 ERA in 1998.
While Bradley briefly served as the head of the Yankees’ front office, scouting was the primary assignment of his 34-year career in baseball. He worked for Philadelphia, Detroit, California and the Yankees before being hired by the White Sox in 1991. He was perhaps the most respected voice in a scouting staff that includes veterans such as Dave Yoakum, Doug Laumann and Shaffer.
Shaffer praised Bradley’s work ethic. “He worked at it,” he said. “He got to games early and he stayed late. He did everything he could to get information about players. There were not many rocks he left unturned when he was scouting . . . He was very thorough.”
Shaffer says Bradley was generous with his time, helping young scouts learn the ropes. Among those he helped were Donny Rowland, now the Angels’ scouting director, and Marti Wolever, Philadelphia’s coordinator of scouting.
Bradley often entertained other scouts with stories from his three years with the Yankees. He headed George Steinbrenner’s Tampa office and in 1990 and early ’91 ranked above general manager Gene Michael. It proved to be a short run for Bradley, like many who went before him and came after him in the Yankees organization.
“I wish you could have sat down and listened to him tell those stories,” Shaffer said. “I don’t want to repeat them, but they’re quite interesting. He definitely went through the wringer working for the Yankees.”
Bradley spent time in the White Sox clubhouse as recently as Aug. 24-26, when the team was playing at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field. He was finishing up another season of scouting and preparing for the upcoming organization meetings. He won’t be around to see what the Sox look like in 2002 but his legacy will remain.