August 21 – Happy Birthday Tom Greenwade
He was the guy who signed Elston Howard, Hank Bauer, Gil Hodges, Clete Boyer, Ralph Terry, and Bobby Murcer to their first professional contracts. Those signings alone represented a solid career for any MLB scout, but he’s also the guy who convinced the Dodgers to sign Jackie Robinson and made Mickey Mantle a Yankee and for good measure, convinced Yankee GM George Weiss to trade for an outfielder named Roger Maris. That’s why there are quite a few very astute baseball people who feel today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They’d get no argument from me.
Tom Greenwade was born in Willard, Missouri on August 21, 1904 and lived there all his life. From that base, he would get into his late model Cadillac and search the baseball diamonds of midwestern America for young baseball players who could run fast, had good arms and hit baseballs hard. He had been a pretty good minor league pitcher himself until a serious bout of typhoid fever destroyed that dream. When he managed his local American Legion team to a Missouri State championship in 1937, he got noticed by the front office of the old St. Louis Browns and was offered a scouting job with that organization. He jumped at the opportunity and a couple of years later accepted an offer to scout for the Dodgers and work for” the Mahatma,” Branch Rickey. Though Clyde Sukeforth often mistakenly gets the credit for doing so, it was Greenwade who got the assignment to scout Jackie Robinson and urged Rickey to make him the chosen one.
When the Yankees came calling and offered him a job, the loyal scout discussed it with Rickey before accepting it. The Dodgers were paying Greenwade $3,000 per year at the time and the Yanks were offering $11,000. Rickey knew he didn’t have the bucks to compete with the behemoths in the Bronx and told Greenwade he’d be crazy not to make the move.
Though he was very good at what he did, Greenwade was far from perfect. When he first saw Mantle play as a teenager he failed to realize the kid was a switch-hitter. After realizing his mistake, he moved quickly to seal the deal with the Commerce Comet. Since the rules prevented teams from negotiating with players still in high school, Greenwade drove to Mantle’s house hours before the evening graduation ceremony was to take place and convinced his parents to let Mickey skip the event and play in his semi pro team’s scheduled game instead. Once that game was over, Greenwade got Mantle and his dad Mutt into his car and negotiated the contract that would keep the Yankee Dynasty going for another fifteen years.
Greenwade quit scouting in 1964 and returned to Willard where he lived the retirement life until he passed in 1986 at the age of 81. Greenwade shares his birthday with this former Yankee closer and this former first baseman.