After 42 Years, Scout Dismissed With A Phone Call -- Herb Stein's Career At Abrupt End
Fort Myers News-Press
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Herb Stein wears his two World Series rings most of the time.
In one quick glance, he can summon all the memories and savor them like the hot pastrami sandwich he buys at Loesser's kosher deli down the street from his apartment in the North Bronx.
He remembers the uncertainty he felt in 1952 when the Washington Senators hired him as a scout, and the reassurance he received from new boss Sherry Robertson: "You played baseball. You know what a player looks like."
He remembers the exhilaration of the secret workout he staged in Yankee Stadium in 1964 with a raw 18-year-old Panamanian named Rod Carew, the midnight negotiations and the signature on the contract.
He remembers signing Frank Viola in 1981 and watching six years later as he was named MVP of the World Series, then Cy Young winner the following year.
The rings. He'll always have the rings. Until the day he dies. Then they'll go to his sons, Alan and Jeffrey. Alan always liked the 1991 ring. Which was fine with Jeffrey, because he always liked the 1987 ring.
"The rings are part of my life," Stein said in a telephone interview. "They're gonna remain with me forever. Both are accounted for. They tell me, `Dad, we don't like to talk about when we get the rings.' I tell 'em, `I just want to let you know these belong to you. Wear 'em. Be proud of 'em."'
They are all he has from his days as a Minnesota Twins scout - along with Carew's original contract, which the Twins gave him after the Hall of Famer's 3,000th hit.
Stein does not have his job.
He was released Nov. 10, one of three scouts to be dropped in a restructuring effort caused in part by strike-related economic factors.
But that wasn't what really bothered the 77-year-old Stein, who signed more than 100 players, eight of whom reached the majors.
What really bothered him was the method. A phone call, he said. Late in the afternoon. And he was finished.
Forty-two years with the organization, which is back here for another spring training with replacement players filling in for striking major leaguers. No face-to-face meeting. No handshake. No thank you. Just goodbye and good luck from director of scouting Mike Radcliff.
"The way they did it - ice cold," he said. "He said, `Terry (general manager Terry Ryan) gave me a list of names.' I said, `Well, dry your eyes and tell me.' This thing has turned me upside down."
Stein said he enlisted the help of long-time friend and lawyer Jay Brustman, who wrote a letter to owner Carl Pohlad. He said there was no response.
"He lost his job, and I feel for him," Radcliff said. "Jiminy, we all do. Everybody who had a relationship with him. You're never happy when you tell somebody they're not coming back. With this particular situation, how else are you gonna do it?"
Stein said there are ways. He said the Los Angeles Dodgers flew a dozen scouts down to Vero Beach, wined and dined them, gave them severance pay.
He wanted to go out on his own terms. Maybe in a year or two. Not now. Not through a fiber optic connection.
Stein fills these bitter-cold winter days by shopping with his wife, Marie, or taking a walk to the deli, where the slogan is: We have to answer to a higher authority. "A higher authority! That's great, isn't it?" he said.
He plucks a $172.05 pension check out of his mailbox every month. He thinks of what is, and what should be.
"From the neck up, I'm 21," Stein said. "There's no reason for me to be out of baseball. I'm not a vindictive guy. But they treated me terribly.
"If it's a question of economics and money, I'd have been happy to listen to something like cutting salary. But don't put me out of baseball."
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