So much has been written about baseball that it's rare for an author to uncover a fresh theme. But Kevin Kerrane has done just that with Dollar Sign on the Muscle: The World of Professional Scouting, to be published by Beaufort Books in May. As far as Kerrane knows, it's the only book devoted entirely to baseball scouts. In an excerpt in this issue, beginning on page 76, you'll meet men like Socko McCarey and Broadway Charlie Wagner. "You couldn't invent people like that," says Kerrane. "It would take Damon Runyon to do justice to them."
Kerrane, 42, an associate English professor at the University of Delaware, devoted the strike-torn 1981 season to research and another two years to writing the book, which stems from his friendship with a former Philadelphia Phillies scout, Brandy Davis, now with the Chicago Cubs.
"Davis gave me carte blanche to look at reports, sit in on meetings, talk to people in the Phillies' organization," says Kerrane. During the 1981 season he talked with more than 80 of baseball's 500 full-time scouts and found them hungry for appreciation. "They're really the underpaid soldiers of the game," says Kerrane. "It was so appropriate in '81, with all the acrimony between players and owners, to see these men still concerned with unspoiled kids, kids with dreams of making the major leagues."
Kerrane had similar dreams growing up in Huntington, W. Va., where he played Little League and high school ball. "I was always on the team," he says, "but I guarantee I was never scouted." He majored in English at Wheeling College, did postgrad work at North Carolina and began his teaching career at Delaware in 1967.
But baseball remained a preoccupation—Kerrane played and managed off and on in local amateur and semipro leagues, and is pictured here in the jersey he wore while playing for the amateur Knights of Newark, Del. back in 1978. The highlight of his baseball career came in 1981, when, as a righthanded relief pitcher, he won both games of a doubleheader for the Chiefs, another amateur team in Newark.
"I cut out the box scores and circled the winning pitcher's name," says Kerrane. "And then I sent this note to the Phillies' assistant scouting director, Jack Pastore. As I recall, it said something like: 'Urge you to check this guy out. Good face. Looks mature [the author was 39 at the time]. Outstanding straight change.' I signed it, 'A friend.' "
Pastore wasn't taken in. "He knew it had come from me," says Kerrane. "And he knew there was no dollar sign on my muscle."
In July 1982, as Kerrane was writing the book, his wife, Sheila, died, leaving Kerrane to raise their three children (Kate, now 18, Quinn, 16, and Sean, 11). Dollar Sign is dedicated to Sheila. "We would listen to tapes together, talk about themes," says Kerrane. "She contributed."
The resulting book is the last word on a profession even baseball fans may find they knew little about.
KERRANE: PROF WITH A PASSION FOR THE PASTIME