PROPHET OF THE SANDLOTS: Journeys With a Major League Scout by Mark Winegardner

PROPHET OF THE SANDLOTS: Journeys With a Major League Scout

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A winsome account by Winegardner (Elvis Presley Boulevard, 1988) of traveling with late major-league baseball scout Tony Lucadello during his final season on the road. Covering his native Ohio and the Midwest for the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies for over 40 years, Lucadello signed a remarkable 49 major leaguers, including future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. From the late 1930's (when he signed his brother to a Cub contract) to his suicide on an Ohio baseball field in May 1989, he added to the lore and legend of the game with his unusual--and highly successful--methods of scouting young baseball talent. Well organized and methodical, he scoured the Midwest, taking in hundreds of games each year and assessing the abilities of thousands of aspiring athletes. He was extremely secretive about his observations, often leaving a game at an odd moment so no one could discover which player interested him. He would develop a personal relationship with a player and his family that sometimes lasted years beyond the youth's signing or dashed hopes. Meanwhile, concerned that baseball was in jeopardy due to a lack of talent, he invented the ""Lucadello Wall,"" a simple brick construct that a boy could throw against hour after hour. He believed this developed reflexes, instincts for proper positioning, and sound mechanics. A good-natured man with a suitcase full of memories, tales, and anecdotes (many obviously apocryphal), Lucadello is also shown by Winegardner to have been a strange, sometimes obsessive man. He would spend hours before each game searching the grounds for change, which he saved until September 15. On that date, in whatever city he found himself, he would donate the year's findings to the first church he spotted, regardless of denomination. He offered no explanation, and the author probes no further. A bit skimpy on details and background at times, but good reading nonetheless.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1989
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown