Esposito: Harry Minor – Scout Extraordinaire – 1928-2017

Legendary baseball scout Harry Minor has passed away at the age of 88 in his hometown of Long Beach, California. The longtime Mets employee, who joined the organization at the beginning of its rise in 1968, and evolved into their most prominent cross-checker until his retirement in 2011, was credited with confirming the talents the likes of Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson and dozens of other future Mets.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Mets scout Harry Minor,” said Mets Chairman Fred Wilpon in an official release by the team.

“Harry was a key part of our organization for many years (and) helped build our championship teams in the 1980s…a Mets legend who touched the lives of countless players. We extend our condolences to his wife, Liz, (and family).”

Minor was extended a very special tribute by the Mets in 2013. on the same day that Mike Piazza was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, Minor was the first Mets scout recognized with their Hall of Fame Achievement Award, honoring “those whose outstanding dedication and service left an indelible mark on the organization.”

Minor also was honored by his peers in 1996 with the MLB Scout of the Year Award, and in 2007, he was recognized by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation with their George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award.

All for having the unique ability of recognizing the roots of baseball talents in a teenaged hopeful, not an easy task.

Minor himself would admit occasionally in some of the speeches given at various baseball functions, “a lot of scouts have “My Way” played at their funeral. I told my wife, Liz, don’t you dare play that at mine, because when you last 40 years with one club, you didn’t do it your way, you did it their way.”

Like many scouts, Minor came from a career in the game and the eternal dream of becoming a major league ballplayer.

After high school successes in baseball and football, Minor signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1946. He bounced around five organizations for over a decade in the minors, until 1960, from the Buccos, to the Philadelphia A’s, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Braves, as a pitcher, first baseman, catcher, third baseman and outfielder.

This right-handed jack-of-all-trades began his professional career on the mound in ‘47, logging 137 innings in 29 games with a career record of 6-10 (6.29 ERA). But he also played 41 games in the outfield that same year, batting .299, with seven home runs, 47 RBIs, and 48 runs scored, a regular Babe Ruth on a very minor scale – no pun intended.

In 1949, Minor hit 24 home runs for the Keokuk Pirates in what was then known as the Central Association, a Class C league.

Unfortunately, he never was able to rise above AAA in any of his minor league years, and those moments came only in 1950, ‘53, and ‘54.

He enjoyed double duty from 1958-60 as a player-manager for the Wellsville Braves in the NY Penn League and was quite successful calling the shots with an overall record of 299-222 (.574) for those three seasons.

In 1961, he switched to scouting for the Braves and found his true calling.

Ironically, the Mets can also thank Minor for their eventual acquisition of one George Thomas Seaver.

Minor signed Seaver in 1965…for the Braves! But due to a technicality and the timing of the signing when Seaver was at USC (the deal was transacted while Seaver was technically still a student, and not eligible), Seaver’s deal was voided and literally tossed into a hat by then Commissioner General William Eckert. The Mets were one of three teams who subsequently put in a claim and their golden ticket was pulled out of the hat.

Chalk up another well-scouted assignment for Minor’s legacy.

Minor joined the Mets in ’68 as an area scout, and actually was a neighbor to Gil Hodges, who also took up residence in Long Beach from his LA Dodgers days. In ’69, Minor filled a need for the organization and went back to managing for their Visalia club, going 80-60 (.571) in the single A California League. Among the players he guided were: John Milner, Chuck Estrada, Tim Foli, Charlie Williams, Tom Robson, Don Rose, Rich Hacker, and a name known to many Mets fans for being available to the club in their first amateur draft in 1965, when a more talented player was just waiting to be gobbled up by the next team in line.

The player the Mets tabbed and later managed by Minor was Steve Chilcott. The player drafted directly after Chilcott was Hall of Famer Reginald Martinez Jackson. Oh, well.

Minor not only had an eye for talented players, but also for other scouts. He gave another famous scout his first gig with a stopwatch, Roger “bubba” Jongewaard, who later worked for the Seattle Mariners and found the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriqguez.

Minor’s son, Bob, is a scout for the pirates, and has been with the organization for 36 years.

Without scouts, baseball organizations would be in chaos, deluged by requests to join the team by thousands of hopefuls every day. Minor helped sort the wheat from the chaff, and to the thousands of unsung heroes who do this thankless job, we salute you.

Contrary to popular belief, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown does NOT honor scouts with some sort of annual induction. Oh sure, there is a display and the mention of scouts here and there, but it sure would be nice if they added a Scout of the Year Award, – like those that honor broadcasters and writers – to the podium during their annual induction weekend.

Here’s our vote to nominate Harry Minor for such an honor.

RIP, Harry, and thanks for ’86.

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