Saturday, December 22, 2007

Forgotten Bucco History - Signing Gino Cimoli

I was flipping through Kevin Kerrane's excellent book "Dollar Sign on the Muscle" on my lunch hour, and I ran across this classic narrative by longtime Pirate scout Howie Haak about scouting and signing Pirate outfielder Gino Cimoli:

Gino's mother didn't want him to leave home. And Joe Devine, the Yankee scout, figured he had Cimoli locked because he told her the Yankees would let Gino start out right there in San Francisco. So in December of 1948 I called Rickey to let him know al this, and he said, "Can you strengthen his father's backbone through his stomach?" I said, "You want me to get Mr. Cimoli drunk?" He said, "I didn't say that." I said, "Well, when you get my expense report there's gonna be some entries on there for Ancient Age."

Gino's father worked from four to midnight, and for four days I went over to their house every morning at eight o'clock with two bottles of Ancient Age. I'd sit there and drink with him - because coffee kills me; I can't drink coffee - and then I'd drive him to work. Then Gino and I would go to a show, and then I'd go back to the house with him and wait till his father got home, and I'd stay till the last scout's car had left - about three in the morning. I knew I couldn't sell Mrs. Cimoli, so I bore down on the father.

After the fourth day I said, "Mr. Cimoli, who wears the pants in your family?" He said, "I do." I said, "I don't believe it. Gino wants to sign with Brooklyn for twelve thousand dollars, and you want him to sign, and your wife's holdin' up the whole deal." He said, "She's not holdin' it up another minute!" So he staggered up and got her out of bed - she was wearin' one of those old nightcaps women used to wear and a great big kimono - and he said, "Go wake Gino up. We're gonna sign this contract right now!"


Both Rickey and Haak were working for the Dodgers at that point, but Rickey became the Pirates' GM in 1950, and Haak followed his boss to Pittsburgh. Rickey was gone by 1955, but Haak stayed with the Bucs, to the team's great benefit. He's the guy who recommended that the team take Roberto Clemente in the Rule 5 draft, and he basically invented the practice of Latin American scouting, signing guys like Manny Sanguillen and Omar Moreno for the Pirates. He died in 1999. Cimoli wore black and gold in 1960 and 1961, and he played a key role in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, starting the Bucs' eighth-inning rally with a single right before Virdon hit Kubek in the throat with that bad-hop grounder.

If you need a last-minute gift for a baseball fan, I can't recommend "Dollar Sign on the Muscle" highly enough. It's still the best book ever written about baseball scouting, and it's right up there with "You Gotta Have Wa" and "Veeck as in Wreck" as one of my all-time favorites.

3 comments:

JBlackbass said...

Loved the post, keep them comin!

richaude said...

Grabbed it for $10 from Half.com. Thanks for the suggestion, Vlad.

Vlad said...

Half.com is the best. I probably drop a hundred bucks a month on music/books from there (and I bet it'd be $250 if I bought all that stuff new).