Scout has spent 63 years with St. Louis
by Tracy Ringolsby
DENVER—Times were tough for the McAlisters of Lynchburg, Va., in the early 1940s. The son, Freddie, dropped out of high school to get a job and help the family out.
No matter how hard he worked, though, Freddie always had the energy to play baseball. He was on both an American Legion team and a semi-pro team. Then one day in the summer of 1945, the 17-year-old McAlister was approached by a bird dog scout from the Cardinals.
"He wanted to know if I ever thought about playing pro ball," McAlister, 76, recalled. "I told him that's all I ever thought about."
The scout told McAlister to come by the ballpark when the Lynchburg team got back to town. It needed a shortstop, and he could have the job. McAlister showed up. He signed. But less than a week later, he found out he wasn't going to be playing with his hometown team in Lynchburg after all. George Genovese was being released from the Army, and was taking back his job as the Lynchburg shortstop.
"I wasn't complaining," McAlister said. "I was in pro ball. It's all I wanted to do."
Six Decades And Counting
What's amazing is, 60 years later, McAlister is still in pro ball, and has never had another job. And more amazing in a sport known for its transience, 60 years later the Cardinals are the only organization he has ever drawn a check from.
"I'm not the number one guy, though," McAlister said. "George Kissell has been here 63 years." What's a couple of years when six decades of service is the topic of discussion?
And it's been six quality decades, including a 13-year run as Cardinals scouting director from 1981-93 when McAlister put together one of the more impressive résumés in the scouting business.
Thanks to free-agent compensation, he had 17 first-round picks in those 13 years. Fifteen of those players made it to the big leagues, including outfielder Brian Jordan, a football player he took a gamble on with the third of three first-round picks the Cardinals had in 1988. A total of 60 players signed during McAlister's 13-year term as scouting director played in the big leagues for the Cardinals.
McAlister played in the Cardinals farm system from 1945-59, missing the 1947 season while he was in the Navy, and became a player-manager at Class D Dothan (Alabama-Florida) in 1960.
He began his scouting career in 1961, covering Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico for six years before moving into the front office as the assistant farm and scouting director in 1967.
McAlister became the Midwest scouting supervisor in 1970. Twenty-three years later, at the age of 65, McAlister decided to scale back his workload, and took a position as a special assignment scout, which he still handles today. "I guess when you get connected with a good thing you stay with it," McAlister said.
Obviously, the Cardinals feel the same way.
• The mass exodus is under way in Los Angeles. First came a house cleaning in player development; now the Dodgers are restructuring professional scouting. John Boles resigned first. Then came the departure of Jeff Schugel and the decision not to retain Don Welke, who was the man who orchestrated the swindle of the Blue Jays that netted shortstop Cesar Izturis. The Dodgers seem to be taking on the same persona as the Red Sox: limited, if any, one-on-one contact between the front office and pro scouts.
• Tony DeMacio knew he was on the way out as Orioles scouting director the first day of the June draft. He was overruled on his first two choices for the Orioles' first-round pick. As late as the roll call on the conference call, DeMacio was planning to take high school shortstop Chris Nelson, but he was called out of the draft room and ordered to take a college pitcher. His pick was righthander Thomas Diamond, but again he was trumped, and forced to take Wade Townsend, whom the Orioles failed to sign.
Tracy Ringolsby is the national baseball writer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. You can contact him by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.