Tom Greenwade

This article was written by Jim Kreuz

The Mick

Each scout is typically associated with his top signee, that marquee player no one else took note of but him. For Tom Greenwade that player was Mickey Mantle. How the two became forever linked has been retold many times, but the most accurate recollection can be found in an October 1952 letter from Greenwade to The Sporting News publisher, J. G. Taylor Spink, reprinted in 1995.

To the best of my knowledge and memory, the first person to talk to me about Mantle was his manager, Barney Barnett, in the Ban Johnson League. All the Midwestern scouts know Barney and drop by to see him. This must have been in the early part of the 1948 season for I went to Alba, Mo., about August 1948 to see Mantle and other players that I had heard of on both clubs. Mantle, who at that time was referred to as “Little Mickey Mantle,” was small and played shortstop. He pitched a couple of innings in this game. I wasn’t overly impressed, but bear in mind he was only 16.

The following spring an umpire in the B.J. League, Kenny Magness, told me about a game the night before in which Mantle played, and he was very high on him. I caught the Baxter club at Parsons to see Mantle again. This was early in May, 1949. Mantle looked better and must have put on 20 pounds since the past August, and I became interested in a hurry for that was when I discovered he could really run, but wasn’t hitting too much. So I inquired from other sources, probably Barney, when Mickey would graduate. It was to be the last Thursday in May, 1949, from the Commerce, Okla. H.S.

On Friday I drove to Commerce, and this is the first time the Mantles ever knew there was such a person as Tom Greenwade. I found out the graduation exercises had been postponed till that night for some reason. Since I had no desire to violate the H.S. tampering rule, I was careful not to mention contract or pro ball either, but had understood Mickey was to play in Coffeyville that night and I wanted to see him play and I didn’t mention that I had seen him play before. Well, they talked things over with the coach and superintendent and decided to pass on the exercises since Mickey already had his diploma and go to Coffeyville instead.

Of course, I was there. Mickey looked better at bat, hitting left handed. I still don’t know he switches since the only pitching I have seen him against is right handed. After the game Mr. Mantle tells me Mickey will play Sunday in Baxter Springs. I told him I would be at his house Sunday morning and go to the game with them. I was there about 11 A.M. I was scared to death for fear some scout had been there Saturday. I asked Mr. Mantle if anyone had been there. He said “no.” I was relieved.

We all went to Baxter Springs, and for the first time I see Mickey hit right-handed. Mickey racked the pitcher for four “clothes lines,” and I started looking all around for scouts, but none were there.

When the last out was made, Mr. Mantle, Mickey and I got in my car behind the grandstand and in 15 minutes the contract was signed. We agreed on $1,500 for the remainder of the season and the contract (Independence of the K.O.M.) was drawn calling for a salary of $140 per month. Mickey reported to Harry Craft at Independence. He was slow to get started and as late as July 10th was hitting only .225, but finished the season over .300. The following year at Joplin he hit .383, I believe. You know the rest.[1] 

The Greenwade R?sum?

Our scout was born on August 21, 1904, in Willard, Missouri, and lived there his entire life. His first money in baseball came when Jim Austin, a traveling salesman from a cookie company, saw him pitching in Willard and offered him $25 a Sunday to pitch for the town team in Clinton.[2]  He began his professional baseball career in 1923 as a pitcher with the Portsmouth, Arkansas, club managed by former Detroit Tigers catcher Charley Schmidt. He was sold in 1924 to Denver in the Western League and was optioned to Muskogee under Gabby Street. Greenwade was sold to St. Paul that year and the St. Louis Browns purchased his contract. He was sold to Tulsa in 1925, and he found himself with the Springfield, Missouri, club in 1926.[3]

Disappointed with his playing time, Greenwade quit Organized Ball and opted to play independent ball in Trinidad, Colorado, for $75 a week, later moving to Casper, Wyoming, and going 22-2 in 1926. The following year, still in independent ball, he pitched his Phoenix, Arizona, club to the Denver tourney championship. He was reinstated in organized baseball in 1928, reporting to the Waco, Texas, club. The 1929 season found him pitching for and managing the Palestine club in the East Texas League, going 19-2 and leading his club to the league title.

While with Atlanta in the Southern Association in 1930, Greenwade had a fine year in the outfield, hitting .315 as well as pitching. Typhoid fever kept him out of baseball for the next two years, and after recovering he hooked up with the western branch of the House of David.[4]

Tom Greenwade took a break from baseball and worked for the Internal Revenue Service in Kansas City until 1937, when he returned to the game, working as a coach and scout for the following two years. In 1940, while he was managing the Class D Paragould Browns in the Northeast Arkansas League, the Brooklyn Dodgers made him an offer to come scout for them and he jumped at the opportunity. There he became Brooklyn’s, and later Branch Rickey’s, top scout.

Major-league players he is credited with signing include George Kell, Loy Hanning, Rex Barney, Leroy Jarvis, Cal McLish, Tom Warren, Red Barkley, Red Durrett, Monty Basgall, Bill Virdon, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Hank Bauer, Tom Sturdivant, Elston Howard, Ralph Terry, Bobby Murcer, and one you’ll learn more about later on, Jackie Robinson.

Like any fisherman of ballplayers, you don’t land them all. Some get away. For example, the St. Louis Browns refused to sign a player Tom saw playing in a national semipro tournament, for $1,500, but the Red Sox didn’t, and Johnny Pesky later became a fixture at Fenway Park. But this didn’t happen often to Greenwade.

He would occasionally make a recommendation to trade for an established player. Few know that he was the man who suggested the Yankees trade for a young Kansas City Athletics outfielder named Roger Maris after the 1959 season, and it didn’t take long to prove Greenwade’s genius.  The new Yankees right fielder won back-to-back MVP awards, in 1960 and 1961, and broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home-run record in the latter season.

One of Greenwade’s traits was his desire to not just befriend his signees but stay in close contact with them throughout their careers. When a slumping Mickey Mantle was sent down to Kansas City in 1951, he sought out his scout for some consolation before meeting with his father, Mutt Mantle. The Yankees organization recognized this bond as well. In a November 30, 1954, letter to Mantle, George Weiss, the Yankees general manager, passed on suggestions from manager Casey Stengel that Mickey work on his drag-bunting during the offseason, as well as eliminate a lift in his swing and thereby produce more ground balls. Tom Greenwade was copied on the letter. 

Silvio Garcia, not Jackie Robinson, Was Dodgers’ First Choice

Every baseball fan knows that Jackie Robinson was the Brooklyn Dodgers’ choice as the player to break the color barrier. But the man they first set their sights on was Cuban shortstop Silvio Garcia, and Tom Greenwade made an attempt to ink him to a contract two years before Jackie was signed.

It’s been quite a while since Jackie Robinson first set foot on a major-league playing field in 1947. The select few who were privy to the details leading up to this event have all since passed away, and one would assume their story as well. Robert Redford’s plan for a motion picture in 2009 titled The Scouting of Jackie Robinson was scrapped when he discovered baseball experts had no information on the subject.  Not even a morsel. So how is it that the story behind this monumental event that not only changed the game of baseball but life in America as well has been kept quiet, until now?  That’s an easy one – the Dodgers brass knew how to keep a secret. 

1943 – The ‘Colored’ Scouting Begins

The first thing club president Branch Rickey did after moving over from the St. Louis Cardinals organization was gain approval from the Brooklyn Dodgers owners in early 1943 to begin signing “colored” ballplayers. The war had depleted not only the Dodgers’ roster but their farm clubs’ talent as well, and Rickey saw this as a way to rearm the organization as well as “righting a wrong.”

With the owners’ blessing, the Dodgers president rushed to set up a secret meeting with his top scout, Tom Greenwade, at the Biltmore Hotel in Kansas City to relay his plans. This took place more than 2½ years before the signing of Jackie Robinson. Rickey was so intent on keeping their meeting a secret that he signed the hotel registry as “Tom Greenwade,” which threw the real Greenwade for a loop.

Greenwade described their undercover rendezvous in an article in the Springfield (Missouri) Leader in 1953: “All that secrecy had me buffaloed. And I got more curious after he sat and talked to me about things that had happened in his life. He told me one story about the time a hotel refused to allow the catcher of his Ohio Wesleyan team to have a room. The catcher was a Negro, and I began to get the idea.”[5] 

Rickey directed Greenwade to go to Mexico in May 1943 to look for “colored” talent for the Dodgers’ farm system and in particular to examine Silvio Garcia, a dark-skinned Cuban shortstop who was playing in the Mexican League that year.

The scout only had two issues with this trip. One, he didn’t want to keep it a secret from his wife, Florence; and two, he didn’t speak Spanish. Rickey quickly dispatched both issues by suggesting that he take his wife, and that a translator accompany them. Florence made it to Mexico, but the translator did not. It seems he went on a drinking binge in San Antonio and was left behind.

Their secret session at the Biltmore Hotel was to be their only face-to-face meeting before the scout’s trip south. All correspondence that followed consisted of secret memos signed by Rickey giving detailed information and directions to Greenwade. These memos were provided to the author by Tom Greenwade’s daughter and son, Angeline Greenwade McCroskey and Bunch Greenwade.

The first was sent on April 24, 1943, in the form of an Inter-Club Communication from Rickey’s office in Brooklyn to Greenwade’s home in Willard, Missouri, and was titled, “PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL.”  “Dear Tom:  I am enclosing some very confidential material. In the newspaper you will see averages. I don’t believe you can afford to show these to Tuero. You will have to work them out for yourself.”  Tuero is probably Oscar Tuero, a Cuban pitcher who had played with the St Louis Cardinals from 1918 to 1920.

The second confidential memo, dated April 29, 1943, underscores the secrecy of Greenwade’s mission in Mexico: “I am very sure that his (Tuero’s) services will not be required more than two four weeks and not that long if you find that you can get along very nicely without him. Of course, at no time now or in the future will he know anything about part of the objective of your trip. …”  Rickey later added, “Tuero is not at all above chiseling. He was a chiseler as a ball player, so far as that is concerned, and if he shows very decided tendencies to do the chiseling act with us, I am inclined to have you go on down on your health seeking job without him. … As a matter of fact, I don’t trust him. …”  OK, we get the picture, Branch.   

The scouting trip could have been run under the guise of a new Brooklyn Black Dodgers club that would join the established Negro Leagues, and I’m sure that is what they had hoped Oscar Tuero would conclude. Why was he needed?  Tom Greenwade was adept at evaluating a man’s baseball talent, but did not have the resources in Mexico to evaluate his character. Tuero was someone who could provide that information.

In this memo Rickey wrote that he was “hoping that we will be able to get several of them signed to Durham or Olean contracts, or even Montreal if we can find one good enough.”  Jackie Robinson spent his first year with the Dodgers top minor-league club in Montreal in 1946. Greenwade knew from his Kansas City hotel meeting that “them” meant “colored.”           

A three-page background check provided to Greenwade along with two photos of Silvio Garcia leave no doubt that the Cuban shortstop, playing in the Mexican League and considered to be one of the best ballplayers from his country, was “colored.”  It’s also plain to see that Rickey did not want to “steal” a player from the Negro Leagues which would have potentially caused an uproar with the league’s owners, and opted instead to search in Mexico.

Greenwade beat the bushes for the Dodgers until December 1945, when he signed on with the New York Yankees. He conferred with Rickey before making the move and Rickey chose not to hold him back, knowing the Yankees would make him the highest-paid scout in baseball, which they did. His annual salary leaped from $3,600 to over $11,000 (including an annual bonus).

The Dodgers’ interest in Cuban shortstop Silvio Garcia began when Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher witnessed his diamond exploits in Mexico during the previous winter, and was impressed, so much so he told Rickey that Joe DiMaggio couldn’t carry Garcia’s glove. But why all the secrecy?  That’s simple – Americans as a whole were still racists and may not have been agreeable to a “colored” major leaguer.

Norman Macht provided a perspective of Americans’ stance on blacks in a presentation at the Society for American Baseball Research 2007 National Convention titled “Does Baseball Deserve Its Black Eye?”  He noted that Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1945 never proposed any civil-rights legislation and did nothing to eliminate the lynching of blacks, yet no one labeled FDR as a racist. At the height of World War II, 10,000 union members shut down the city of Philadelphia for a week when eight Negroes in the transit system were promoted to drivers, until then a “whites only” position. Fans today point the finger at Commissioner Kenesaw M. Landis for prolonging baseball segregation, but he never restricted the signing of blacks. Macht’s point was, don’t judge Judge Landis or the baseball owners negatively for barring Negroes unless you, too, lived during that time period.

Scouting in Mexico

By May 10, 1943, Tom Greenwade was receiving transmittals in Mexico City from Rickey in Brooklyn. You can feel his enthusiasm knowing his plan is unfolding as he wrote:

“Dear Tom,

“I am enclosing some information herewith. Write me fully airmail and mark it personal and confidential on the outside of your envelope and give me all the dope on players. We can certainly use some good Mexican boys right now at both Durham and Olean. The Durham Club is terrible. I don’t believe you should try to sign any boys until you get a full report on everybody and know exactly what you want to do with everybody before you start to work on anybody.  I hope you will be able to work quietly without any newspaper publicity whatever.

“If you run into anything especially good I will send help to you or I might even come myself.” 

Judging by this memo, Rickey was attempting to sign not just one “colored” ballplayer, but several, and didn’t want to begin signing them until the Dodgers had made up their minds which ones they were interested in.

Silvio Garcia – The First Failed Attempt at Signing

A 1946 Springfield Leader article gives details on Greenwade’s attempt to sign Cuban shortstop Silvio Garcia when he broached the subject with Mexican League President Jorge Pasquel:  “About two years ago the Dodgers sent Greenwade to Mexico City to scout an infielder and it was there he contacted the Pasquels. Memory of the first interview lingers with Greenwade, because when he interviewed Don Jorge (Pasquel), the latter unholstered a pistol and laid it on the desk between them. Meanwhile, another brother, Alfonso, paraded the room wearing a gun strapped to his belt. Greenwade took no players from the Mexican League.”[6]  The obvious conclusion from this was that the Pasquel brothers did not want the Dodgers to sign infielder Silvio Garcia because he was a popular player that filled their stadiums and therefore put pesos in their pockets, and conveyed their feelings not with words but with a show of force.”  It would have convinced me as well.

The first published account of Greenwade’s interest in Garcia is found in the 1953 Leader article cited earlier:  “Rickey wanted to send a close-mouthed scout to Mexico to inspect a Negro shortstop named Silvio Garcia. ‘They say DiMaggio can’t carry his glove,’ Rickey told him. All manner of cloak and dagger strategy were used. Rather than have to tell Mrs. Greenwade where he was going and leave word behind, Rickey sent her on the trip. A bank account had been set up for them in Mexico City. An attorney had been retained, and Greenwade set out. As it developed, Garcia never did make it. Greenwade turned him down, but he did recommend a squat 19 year-old Negro who caught for the Monterrey team. His name was Roy Campanella.” 

Both Leader articles give the year these events took place as 1944, but Campanella was playing for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro League at that time. He did play the entire season for Monterrey, Mexico, in 1943 (at age 21). Another indication that 1943 was the correct year is that our batch of secret transmittals from the Greenwade family were all from ‘43, and they include information on a bank account being set up in Mexico for Greenwade.

Greenwade gave another account of his mission to Mexico in an October 3, 1956, article in The Sporting News by Harold Rosenthal.

“The man Greenwade was first sent to scout was Silvio Garcia, a shortstop from Cuba, playing in the winter league in Mexico.

“The war was on at the time, and Branch Rickey, Sr., who had succeeded Larry MacPhail as the Brooklyn boss, made an elaborate cloak and dagger production of it, swearing Greenwade to secrecy, ordering him to communicate by cable in code.

“On Greenwade’s say-so, the Dodgers steered away from Garcia, who never made it anywhere in the majors, but is still playing. ‘He couldn’t pull the ball,’ Greenwade said of Garcia. ‘He was a right-handed hitter – everything went to right field.’” 

I’m convinced that Tom was not in favor of signing Silvio, but Rickey was, based on Leo Durocher’s evaluation. In addition, he didn’t want to tarnish Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments by mentioning in this interview that the Dodgers had tried to sign Garcia first.

The Second Attempt at Signing Silvio Garcia

In a Los Angeles Times interview with Walter O’Malley, written by Braven Dyer, we find the second attempt by the Dodgers to sign Garcia. “O’Malley (and not Rickey) almost became the man to sign the first (sic) Negro for major league baseball. Early in his affiliation with the Dodgers O’Malley went to Havana, Cuba, to sign a Negro shortstop named Silvio Garcia. On arrival he discovered Garcia with 49 other Cuban Army conscripts in a pup tent encampment.

“As a big sports hero, Garcia was the first man tapped by the military. Not hankering to tangle with the whole Cuban army, O’Malley staged a strategic retreat and Garcia never appeared in a major league line-up.”[7]

According to Murray Polner’s 1982 biography of Branch Rickey, “Walter O’Malley…went to Cuba in 1944 with a letter of credit for $25,000 with instructions from Rickey to sign Silvio Garcia, a black player, only to learn that Garcia had been drafted into the Cuban army.”[8] I spoke to Polner by phone from his home in New York and he recounted the O’Malley interview. The author could find no other living source in the early 1980s who could corroborate O’Malley’s story, yet portions are backed up by the background check on Garcia provided by the Greenwade family, which mentions that he might be redrafted soon back into the Cuban army.

I quizzed the only living Dodgers employee from that era, Buzzie Bavasi, and he had no recollection of this event. He thought that O’Malley was simply on one of his numerous vacation trips to Cuba and nothing else. But I believe Walter O’Malley, because his story makes sense. Greenwade tried to sign Garcia in Mexico, but Jorge Pasquel would have nothing of the sort, so Branch Rickey sent the Dodgers’ legal counsel, Walter O’Malley, to Cuba after the conclusion of the Mexican season to handle the signing. O’Malley was familiar with Cuba from his frequent vacations there, was one of the few who was already in on the secret, and was not a known baseball personality. Therefore, he could travel about the country without standing out. Lastly, his story again matches what is in Garcia’s background check, that he was about to be redrafted into the Cuban army.

It’s interesting that O’Malley and Greenwade both at times mention 1944 as the year they were linked to Silvio Garcia. Were they in error, or trying to cover up the true date of 1943?  I’m convinced they both simply forgot what year it was when telling their story. The clincher is below, the first published interview with O’Malley concerning our secret signing, and he got the year correct – 1943.

I’ve saved the best for last.

Writer Milt Gross wrote about his conversations with O’Malley, who described his trip to Havana in the fall of 1943 to sign Silvio Garcia. On the plane from Miami to Havana he caught sight of former New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, who was rumored to be trying to buy a piece of the New York Giants. He called the Dodgers office and was told, “Duck him if you can, but get to Garcia before him. We understand he’s trying to sign Garcia for the Giants.”

O’Malley got to Garcia’s house and was told that the Cuban conscription had just begun and 20 people were called up; Silvio was number three. Gross wrote, “When Walter told me the story recently there was still some doubt in his mind. I was never certain if Stoneham also was after him.”[9]

New York Giants Also Tried to Sign Silvio Garcia

“The next day I questioned Horace Stoneham, the Giants owner. He admitted trying to sign a Negro three years before Rickey signed Robinson. Why, I asked, hadn’t you mentioned this before?  ‘I wanted a baseball player,’ Horace said simply, ‘not a sideshow. Would I have mentioned it if he were white?  Did it make me a bigger man because he was a Negro?  I was trying to help my team, not myself.’ ”[10]

I had hoped to uncover more proof on the Garcia signing from Roberto Echevarria’s book The Pride of Havana, but it wasn’t to be. The author states that Garcia was generally considered to be the greatest shortstop in Cuban baseball history, and mentions the Dodgers’ attempt at signing him. “Legend has it that Silvio Garcia was seriously considered by Branch Rickey to be the man to break the color barrier in the United States, but that when asked what he would do if a rival hurled racial slurs at him, the Cuban answered: ‘I would kill him.’  This ended his chances.”   

Garcia died in 1978, so there is no way we can substantiate this story. When Roberto Echevarria mentioned to me that Garcia has a son living in Miami but did not know what his first name was, I was tempted to try to locate him. But after realizing the magnitude of the task (how many Garcias are there in Miami?) and the fact that neither Tom Greenwade nor Walter O’Malley ever actually approached his father (therefore the family would have no knowledge of his attempted signing), I gave up. The ballplayer thought to be the best shortstop in Cuban baseball history won two Mexican League batting titles and was considered a superb fielder, so he had the talent to possibly play in the major leagues. He spent four years in Organized Baseball, three with Sherbrooke in the Class C Provincial League (1949-1951), and one with the Havana Cubans, the Class B affiliate of the Senators in 1952. He also spent time in the US playing in the Negro Leagues.

It’s amazing how fate works in everyday life – the Pasquel brothers and the Cuban army kept Silvio Garcia from a shot at breaking MLB’s color barrier. And if you pay attention during the 1950 movie The Jackie Robinson Story you’ll hear the actor playing Branch Rickey telling Jackie during their first meeting that the Dodgers looked all over the United States, Mexico, and Cuba for the right player.

On a side note, Hall of Famer Monte Irvin told the author he played against Garcia in the Cuban Winter League (1948-49) and would have won the Triple Crown that season had it not been for Garcia beating him out for the RBI title by two RBIs. He added that the Cuban star was a fine ballplayer and a gentleman, and was well liked by everyone.

The Scouting of Jackie Robinson

Branch Rickey obviously had second thoughts about proceeding with his plan to sign a black ballplayer by his actions to delay any further progress until the American public was overcome with euphoria after the Japanese surrender to end World War II on August 15, 1945. Two weeks later, on August 28, he met privately with Jackie Robinson to discuss the breaking of the color barrier. Before this date, very little was known about the actual scouting of Robinson, until now.

John Thorn and Jules Tygiel penned an excellent piece titled “Jackie Robinson’s Signing: The Real, Untold Story,” yet the earliest evidence pertaining to the Dodgers scouting of Robinson that they could uncover was dated April 1945.  The document, a hand-written memo found in the Rickey Papers, gives instructions to Dodgers scouts to “cover Negro teams for possible major league talent.” The memo was signed “Chas. D. Clark.” No one knows who this man was. It could have been a fictitious name. That’s as far back in time as baseball historians were able to go.[11] 

Jackie’s Scout – Tom Greenwade (and no one else)

In the 1956 Sporting News article, Harold Rosenthal wrote, “In Brooklyn, Greenwade played a vital role in one of the game’s greatest dramas, the cracking of the color line. He was the only scout used on the Jackie Robinson job; he was also the man entrusted with the Mexican mission when the Dodgers sought to crack ancient prejudices with an earlier Negro of possibly major league proportions.”[12]  This statement was also repeated to me by Greenwade’s son and daughter – that their father was the only Dodgers scout looking for black ballplayers.

Greenwade had this to say about Jackie’s arm: “When I scouted Robinson I told Mr. Rickey that he didn’t have a shortstop’s arm. It wasn’t strong and he needed to dance a step and a half before cutting loose. Maybe he’d make a first baseman or second baseman, but never a shortstop, I told Mr. Rickey.”  Jackie had played shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs, but played first base one season before switching to second base for the Dodgers, just as Greenwade had predicted.

“I saw Jackie play about 20 times … but I never spoke to him once. When I finally did speak to him he had already made the Dodgers and I was scouting for the Yankees. John Griffin, the Brooklyn clubhouse man, introduced us in St Louis.”[13] Greenwade must not have mentioned to Robinson during this meeting that he was the scout who recommended him because in a 2007 interview, Robinson’s wife, Rachel, told me she had never heard her husband bring up Greenwade’s name. She did appreciate knowing who the scout was that recommended her husband.

Greenwade added in the Rosenthal article, “ ‘The war was still on, there wasn’t much transportation available, and the Monarchs (Kansas City’s Negro League team) got around by bus. Most of the time I chased them.’ … ‘I want to make it very clear that I was the only scout used on Robinson. The only time Clyde Sukeforth went to see him it rained and they didn’t play.’  In various published stories and motion picture scenarios on Robinson’s life, Sukeforth has been depicted as the scout who followed Robinson.” 

My impressions of Tom Greenwade are that he was a very modest man, and did not go around bragging about his exploits, but wanted to keep the facts straight.  Keep in mind that if his recommendation of Robinson had resulted in a bust, Greenwade’s reputation would have been scarred. He had quite a bit riding on this and therefore should receive due credit.

Clyde Sukeforth: Robinson Recommendation

Clyde Sukeforth has at times been given credit as the scout who recommended Jackie Robinson, yet we now know he was used as a checker by the Dodgers to confirm Tom Greenwade’s recommendation. In a November 28, 1993, phone conversation, Sukeforth described his involvement in this process.

“I didn’t see him play before we signed him. (Rickey) knew a lot about Robinson. He just sent me down there to check out his arm. (Robinson) naturally couldn’t understand (why Sukeforth was there), was very interested in why Rickey was interested in his arm, and it developed that he had fallen on his shoulder the night before and was out of the lineup for a couple of days, maybe more.

“So I asked him to meet me down at my hotel, and he did. He kept asking me (why), and I just told him, ‘I just work here. I can’t tell you anything but I do know there is a lot of interest in you.’  There was a colored (baseball) club in Brooklyn not affiliated with the Dodgers but you had a right to assume that it was. So I told him, ‘Mr. Rickey can answer your questions, why don’t you come on back to Brooklyn with me?’ ”  Rickey and Robinson met soon after, on August 28, 1945, and the rest is history.

Tom Greenwade’s Final Chapter

Greenwade went on to sign a number of ballplayers for the Yankees, his most notable being Mickey Mantle, but the player he was most proud of recommending was Jackie Robinson. His uncanny ability to evaluate a ballplayer led him to believe early on that he could not have chosen a better person or player to have broken the color barrier. And he was dead-on right. Jackie won the Rookie of the Year award in 1947, the National League MVP award in 1949, retired in 1956, and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He died in 1972 at the age of 53.

In 1964 Tom Greenwade left the Yankees and his scouting career to live out the rest of his life in his home town of Willard, Missouri. He died in 1986 at the age of 81. If Tom Greenwade isn’t the best baseball scout who ever lived, you could probably fit those deemed better in the front seat of his Cadillac next to him.


[1] The Sporting News, August 21, 1995

[2] I.H. (Murph) Cohn, “It Pays To Be a Good Scout, Willard Ex-Famer Discovers,” unidentified newspaper clipping from 1946.

[3] Springfield (Missouri) Leader, spring of 1944.

[4] Details on Greenwade’s travels as a player come from the above-cited column by I.H. (Murph) Cohn. Records show him playing for Bartlesville in 1931.

[5] Springfield Leader, December 3, 1953

[6] Undated newspaper clipping found in Greenwade papers.

[7] Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1958

[8] Murray Polner, Branch Rickey: A Biography (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. Publishers, 1982. Revised 2007)

[9] New York Post, January 29, 1954

[10] Ibid.

[11] John Thorn and Jules Tygiel, “The Signing of Jackie Robinson: The Untold Story,” Sport (June 1988)

[12] The Sporting News, October 3, 1956

[13] Ibid.

Full Name



August 21, 1904 at Willard, MO (USA)


August 9, 1986 at Willard, MO (USA)

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