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Lennie Merullo died on Saturday. He was the last of the Cubs who could say he'd played in a World Series for that team. Bill Littlefield met him a couple of decades ago and has this appreciation.
The rain didn’t start until I was part of the way to Worcester. Then it came down harder, and I thought about turning around, because there would be no Major League Scouting Bureau Tryout in the rain.
Then it let up, so I continued to the ball field where the tryout camp was supposed to happen, and by the time I got there it was raining harder, and the tryout had been called off by somebody with more sense than I had.
[sidebar title="Remembering Ernie Banks" width="630" align="right"]'Mr. Cub' passed away in January at the age of 83. A Chicago newspaperman remembers their one encounter.[/sidebar]But Lennie Merullo was still there. Lennie was the Major League Scouting Bureau’s New England guy. I’d made an appointment to meet him, but he should have figured that I wouldn’t show up in the rain, just as I should have figured he’d have gone home.
We sat in the dugout and watched the rain and talked a little baseball, and he told me where the next camp would be.
The camps are supposed to be business. Scouts from the various teams show up to see the few young men whom they’ve invited to the camps. The rest of the players are dreamers. At one camp I met a guy who’d brought his wife and two kids, just so they could know he’d tried. At another there was a gangly young man dressed in one of those old Celtics sweatshirts with pictures of the players. He was wearing black high tops. He was trying to borrow a glove.
Lennie told me at one point that he was just supposed to put the candidates through their paces so the scouts could see them run and throw.
“I’m not supposed to help them out,” he said.
But he did. He’d pull aside a boy with no chance of impressing a scout and demonstrate how to get something behind his throw from the outfield. In a long-sleeved t-shirt, baseball pants, and spikes, Lennie could still do that in his seventies.
“He tries again and he gets a little better,” Lennie would say. “The next one’s a little better than that. So he goes back to his high school team happy.”
But what I will remember about Lennie is not that he was a big league shortstop, or even that he was a terrific story-teller, though I’m aware of the merit of those distinctions.
What I will remember about Lennie Merullo is that he wasn’t supposed to help those guys at the tryout camps, and he did.
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