4:00 p.m., April 3, 2003--In "Dollar Sign on the Muscle," Kevin Kerrane discusses baseball scout Hugh Alexander. Alexander was a promising outfielder who was originally signed to the Cleveland Indians by Cy Slapnicka, a legendary scouting figure whose career spanned the ivory hunter and traveling salesman scouting eras. A star athlete with excellent speed, Alexander saw his dream of playing in the big leagues dashed when he lost his left hand in an oil-rig accident in December 1937.
Denied a chance for major league stardom as ballplayer, Alexander turned to scouting, and in 1938, at 21 years of age, he became the youngest scout in the history of major league baseball. During a 61-year career as a full-time scout, Alexander worked for the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Phillies.
While accompanying Alexander on various scouting gigs during the 1981 season, Kerrane found that people in the baseball world treated the man they called Uncle Hughie, with a great deal of respect and admiration.
He was like the guy in the old E.F. Hutton commercials, Kerrane said. When he spoke, everybody listened.
The one that got away
Among Alexanders most famous tales it the one surrounding the time he almost signed Mickey Mantle.
In a chapter from the book entitled Scouts Honor, Alexander tells how he had received a tip about the future Hall of Fame member by a friend, and how he had stopped by at Commerce, Okla., to talk to Mantles high school principal.
What Alexander found out, was that the school did not even have a baseball team. Even worse, the principal told Alexander that Mickey had been injured while playing football and as a result suffered from arthritis in his legs.
Hell, its hard enough to make the majors if youre healthy, and when he told me that stuff, I walked out of the school and when I got to my car I took that piece of paper and threw it away. I can still see it blowing across the parking lot.
Mickey Mantle did make it to the major leagues, where the three-time most valuable player won the American Leagues triple crown in 1956 and finished 11th on the all-time home run list with 536.