The Obit For Spider Jorgenson

Spider Jorgensen dies at age 84

Longtime Cubs scout passes on after short illness


UPLAND - Some remember him standing tall behind the backstop at high school baseball games with a radar gun in his hand.

Others remember him simply as the "Cubs scout."

Most knew him as Spider.

All will remember him fondly.

John Donald "'Spider" Jorgensen died Thursday morning at San Antonio Hospital after a short illness. He was 84 years old.

Jorgensen, who spent his entire life working in baseball in some form, was still scouting locally for the Chicago Cubs when he passed away.

"He was a fixture when it came to watching high school baseball out here," said Upland High coach Mike Alonso. "He had a great life and he was a good guy."

Jorgensen scouted the area for talent since 1970, the last 22 years with the Cubs.

"I don't think there is a person in the world who didn't love him," said Ontario High baseball coach Bob Beck. "To my knowledge, he didn't have an enemy in the world. He had an unassuming manner about himself. He was just very friendly, accommodating, but he didn't miss a trick.

"He always knew what was going on."

One thing everybody talked about was the mood Jorgensen was in. He was always upbeat and ready to work.

"I was talking to this other scout and we never saw Spider in a bad mood," said Bob Bishop, a scout from San Dimas. "To me, this is a huge loss, not only as a scout but as a person."

Jorgensen played five years in the major leagues, the first three-plus with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He finished his career with the New York Giants.

As a player, Jorgensen hit .266 for his career with nine home runs and 107 RBIs. He followed that up as a manager and then scout, never leaving the game he loved.

"He really loved the game of baseball," said former Progress-Bullein sports editor Jim Bryant, a friend of Jorgensen's. "Everybody knew Spider. He was a tremendous local personality."

One thing that made Jorgensen famous was his ability to tell stories from baseball's old days.

"I could sit and listen to him all day long," said Alonso. "He was so sharp and so good at telling the story, you just wanted to listen."

Jorgensen's most famous story is about the day he broke into the major leagues.

He was not the most famous of rookies in the Dodger lineup on Opening Day back in 1947.

In fact, he didn't even have his own glove, having already shipped it off to Montreal where he expected to start the year in the minors.

So Jorgensen had to borrow a mitt from a friend.

That friend, Jackie Robinson, was also making his major league debut that day.

So with one of Robinson's gloves on his hand, he began his career with the Dodgers.

"I was so scared, but Jackie helped me relax," Jorgensen told the Daily Bulletin a few years back.

Jorgensen was good at both relaxing and enjoying life to its fullest.

In fact, he was still a big square dancer right up until his final days. He was also always working, taking Spanish classes so he could better communicate with Latin players.

Two of the biggest names signed by Jorgensen were the Mark Grace, then of the Cubs, and Philadelphia pitcher Bob Walk.

Funeral arrangements are pending.