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Hot Corner Book Club: Scout Mel Didier

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Mel Didier's book was actually published six years ago, but somehow I just discovered it last week. And I had to get it, since I get just about everything written by (or about) scouts. These guys just know baseball so well, and the ones who write books are generally old enough to not give a damn. Which makes for better stories than books by guys who are hoping to spend another 30 or 40 years in the game.

While the book's presented as a memoir of sorts, it's actually written by long-time Metroplex writer T.R. Sullivan and told in the third person. Here's how Chapter 1 begins:

Mel Didier celebrated his 24th year as a baseball scout in 1978 at age 51. By then, the job title did not accurately capture his achievements. Didier had advanced to the rare air of superscout. Along the way, he had developed a series of colorful saying and practical principles that he practiced and preached.

One was quite simple: Never draft a piss-ant.

"I used to preach: 'I don't want any piss-ants,' " Didier said. "If you sign somebody, he better be able to fly or pull this building up on his shoulders. I don't want any piss-ants, a guy who is 5-9 and can hit a little bit but can't run. You can't win with those."

Frankly, there aren't as many great stories in the book as I'd prefer, and more filler than I'd like. There are stories, though, including some unflattering things about Darryl Strawberry and Raul Mondesi. As scouts often do in these sorts of books, Didier takes takes for himself a fair amount of credit for some momentous acquisitions; Luis Gonzalez to the Diamondbacks, for example. But that's fine; why write a book if you can't crow a little?

My favorite story, and I think I've read about this before somewhere, might be about the time Dodgers general manager Al Campanis worked out a trade in 1982 for Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg. Didier didn't know much about the four players the Dodgers were giving up -- he'd just started working for the organization -- but he still didn't like the deal: "He doesn't have the arm he once had," Didier told Campanis. "He's not the player he was. You're doing this wrong."

Campanis ignored Didier. But Sundberg exercised his rights and vetoed the deal. And that's how the Dodgers did not trade Orel Hershiser to the Texas Rangers, which obviously changed a good bit of World Series history.

Like I said, the book really does need more stories. But I sure would love to spend an hour with Didier someday. I'll bet he could really learn me some of his experiences.

Didier's book seems in short supply, but you might find one here.