The Obit For Hugh Alexander
The New York Times, November 29th, 2000

Hugh Alexander, 83, a Scout For the Next Stars of Baseball

Hugh Alexander, who became a baseball scout at age 20 and went on to sign
dozens of future major leaguers in a career that spanned six decades and
countless miles on the back roads of America, died Saturday at a hospital
in Bethany, Okla. He was 83.

Known as Uncle Hughie, Alexander was a venerable judge of baseball talent
and a gifted storyteller. But before he spent all those afternoons looking
for future stars at small-town ballparks, a career as a major league outfielder
beckoned.

  After two outstanding seasons in the minor leagues as a right-handed-hitting
slugger, Alexander joined the Cleveland Indians late in the 1937 season
and played in seven games, getting 1 hit in 11 at-bats. But that December,
while he was working with oil-drilling equipment in Seminole, Okla., his
left hand was torn by a piece of machinery. He drove 14 miles to find a
country doctor, who amputated the hand. The anesthetic was two gulps of
whiskey.

''I said then, that date, 'Nothing can ever hurt me the rest of my life,'
'' Alexander would remember.

One career ended but another began when Cy Slapnicka, the Indians' general
manager, hired Alexander as a scout.

''I think they felt sorry for me,'' Alexander said. ''I was 20 years old
and there were only about 20 scouts in the entire league. But all I knew
was how to play baseball.''

Alexander parlayed that opportunity into a career as one of baseball's
best-known scouts, working for the Indians, the Chicago White Sox, the
Los Angeles Dodgers, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs.

The first player he signed was pitcher Allie Reynolds, who won 182 games
over 13 seasons with the Indians and the Yankees. The second player he
signed was Dale Mitchell, who became a fine outfielder for Cleveland. He
discovered or helped sign more than 60 major leaguers, among them the Dodgers'
Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Frank Howard and Bill Russell.

Alexander said he had no regrets about missing out on a playing career.

''I never think about having one hand,'' he said. ''I made up my mind to
completely forget about it. Driving down the highway, I may reminisce to
myself, but I'm not going to be sad about it. I said, 'I'm not going to
let this kill me,' and I know that's what made me a successful scout.''

But he called upon more than grit in his scouting work. Alexander was adept
at selling himself and the baseball organization he was working for when
he visited the sometimes skeptical parents of a prospect. He read Dale
Carnegie's ''How to Win Friends and Influence People'' four times.

His stamina matched his social skills. While scouting for the Dodgers,
Alexander drove 60,000 miles a year, by his estimate, through the Southwest
and the Deep South.

On July 10, 1987, the Cubs honored Alexander at Wrigley Field to mark his
50th year in major league baseball. He remained in the game until last
May, when he retired from the Cubs organization as a consultant.

Alexander, who lived in Spring Hill, Fla., and Oklahoma City, is survived
by a daughter, Patricia Baker, of Dallas; a sister, Edith Porter, of Oklahoma
City; and a grandson.

Amid all the successes, there were the prospects who got away.

Alexander told how a friend once gave him the name of a teenage athlete
in Commerce, Okla. He noted it on a piece of paper, then went to see the
boy's high school principal, who said that the school did not have a baseball
team. The principal said that the young man had been hurt playing football
and had developed arthritis in his legs.

''It's hard enough to make the majors if you're healthy, and when he told
me that stuff I walked out of the school, and when I got to my car I took
the piece of paper and threw it away,'' Alexander recalled. ''I can still
see it blowing across the parking lot.''

And that's how a baseball scout extraordinaire did not sign Mickey Mantle.


 

Baseball scout in 8 decades dies

Former Hernando County resident Hugh Alexander, 83, was "one of the last living legends'' in his profession.

By GREG AUMAN

St. Petersburg Times, published November 29, 2000


In 1937, back when professional baseball players needed off-season jobs, Hugh Alexander was working on an oil rig in his native Oklahoma when his left hand was severed in an accident.

The injury cut short a promising career that had allowed the 20-year-old just 11 at-bats with the Cleveland Indians. At the same time, it opened the door to another career.

Alexander spent the next 62 years as a major-league scout, and his longevity was matched only by his love of the sport. He was 83 when he died in Oklahoma City on Saturday morning after a relapse of cancer.

"He loved baseball," his sister, Edith Porter, said from Oklahoma City on Tuesday. "It was his life. It was all he ever knew."

Alexander lived in Hernando County from 1994 until May, when his sister convinced him to move back to Oklahoma City. He moved into the house across the street from her.

"He would call me every week (from Florida), but he wasn't eating right and was falling in the house, so I insisted," Porter said.

"I told him I would meet him at the airport, and I'm glad he could be with his family," she said. "We've gone here and there, everywhere together this year."

Two months before he left Florida, he scouted a spring training game at Clearwater's Jack Russell Stadium for the Chicago Cubs, meaning he put in time as a scout in eight decades.

"Hugh was one of the last living legends in the scouting profession," said former Cubs general manager Ed Lynch, now a scout for the team.

"I don't think anybody will ever again be able to say they'd scouted in eight decades. This is a great loss for baseball."

Alexander, known as "Uncle Hughie" to friends, roomed with Hall of Famer Bob Feller as a rookie, and the two remained friends long after Alexander left the Indians 14 years later.

"He didn't have an enemy in the world," Feller said Tuesday. "He must have loved scouting, because he did it for so long, and he was highly thought of all over the baseball world."

After working for Cleveland, Alexander had five seasons with the White Sox, 15 with the Dodgers, 16 with the Phillies and 13 with the Cubs. In 1987, the Cubs celebrated his 50th year of scouting with a day in his name at Wrigley Field, giving him a special ring bearing the logos of all five teams. Alexander willed the ring to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and following his wishes, he was cremated Sunday.

A memorial service will be held in Oklahoma on Dec. 7, the day before baseball's owners convene in Dallas for their annual winter meetings.

Texas and Oklahoma were Alexander's first scouting territory, and friends said he was on a first-name basis with Texas Gov. George W. Bush when he owned the Texas Rangers. The day before Alexander died, a plaque arrived at his sister's house, honoring his induction into the Texas Scouts Hall of Fame.

"Uncle Hughie was one of the most memorable and unique men I have ever known in baseball, or for that matter, the whole world," Phillies chairman Bill Giles said in a statement.

"He was one of the great examples of what makes baseball people so special, and that is the interesting people that work in the game. His storytelling was legendary. His judge of baseball talent was exceptional. His courage was remarkable. He should get a lot of credit for the Phillies' success on the field from 1976 to 1983."

Alexander moved to Hernando County from Palm Harbor, buying a ranch outside of Brooksville where he lived until he moved to Spring Hill in 1999.

Spring Hill's Mike Maurer, who lived with Alexander and helped out on the ranch for four years, said he had bought the property because his wife always had said she liked it whenever they passed it in their travels. She died before they could move in.

He lived alone in the Spring Hill home, and when news spread that his health was failing, former Phillies manager Dallas Green, a longtime friend of Alexander's, offered to let him move to his Pennsylvania home. He chose instead to return to his home state and his family.

"He always liked Florida because he preferred the climate there to Oklahoma's," his sister said. "He didn't want to leave, but I was glad he could be here with his family at the end."