Baseball scouts, and the art of scouting for baseball talent has been detailed in to two recent movies; "Money Ball" where Peter Brand, a Yale educated computers geek who advocated using computers and detailed statistics to find talent others overlooked .
The polar opposite to this "Trouble With The Curve" Clint Eastwood's hard bitten old school scout Gus Lobel, who is losing his eyesight, dispels all this with his from the hip response, "Computer? Anybody who uses computers doesn't know a dam- thing about baseball? You know what a computer can tell you? When to scratch you a--.
Peter Brand is a composite character of Paul DePodesta, who like Brand uses the same methods to review players. He conducts his assessments of players in a radically different way than traditional scouts have.
Eastwood's Gus Lobel, is similar to several noted 'old school" scouts whose work is recognized by baseball among them, Hugh Alexander ( signed Allie Reynolds and Dale Mitchell), Joe Devine (signed Joe DiMaggio), Paul Kritchell (signed Lou Gehrig), and Tony Lugadello (signed Mike Schmidt).
Lobel's character fervently believed that eyes on and experience was the way to find a player with major league potential.
Joe Cambria is one scout who personified that.
Born in Missoni, Italy in 1889, his father John, a shoemaker, migrated to Boston with his three Carlo, (Joe), Charles, and John in 1890. By the time he was an adult Joe had become enamored with the game of baseball. An injury derailed his playing career, so he began a career in the management/administration end of it and eventually purchased the Albany team in the International League.
He profited in the depression era by selling players to the major leagues. He sold Babe Phelps, Ray Prim and Tommy Thompson for a substantial gain for the times of $40,000. It was during this period that Cambria and Clark Griffith began a life long association.
He was called "Joe the Salesman'' then.
Cambria established a relationship with the Washington Senators and began supplying them with players almost exclusively. He did so at a bargain price that other teams would not get. In the case if George Case, a player he could have made as much as $10,000, he took $1,000 for Case. Mickey Vernon, another fine lawyer sent to the majors by Cambria was another bargain for Griffith.
The benefit for Washington in having Cambria was that scouting expenditure were substantially reduced, money could be used in other areas. Now when the Senators needed a player, he supplied one. In 1943 and 45, the Senators always "first in peace, first in war, and last in the American League, finished second.
The deal did secure him some benefits in return. He received advice and administrative assistance with costs and expenses. Washington gave additional financial and administrative assistance to the other teams Cambria owned. Griffith also stepped in on behalf of Cambria during issues he encountered with Commissioner Landis.
Landis was always an opponent of farm systems, summoned Cambria to his office to answer some questions because Branch Rickey had complained that two Cuban minor leaguers in his chain had complained that they could make more money playing for Cambria's teams. It seemed upon checking it was discovered the registered contracts of Cambria's players did not reflect that. Griffiths stepped in and helped make the problem go away.
His covereage of Cuba is legendary beginning with the signing of Bobby Estalella and ending with Pedro "Tony" Oliva.
Julio Becquer, an Angel first baseman, thought highly of Cambria. "We called him "Papa Joe," because really, to most of us, he was like a father. If we had any problems, well we go to Papa Joe."
Cambria signed over 400 players to contracts which in total numbers is more players than any other scout in history. In addition to signing players like Early Wynn, Pedro Ramos, Camile Pascual, Gil Coan, Preston Gomez, Cal Ermer, George Case, Webbo Clarke, Joe Haines,and Pete Runnels.
Additionally, he signed some rather interesting players including one arm player Pete Gray, a left handed catcher Loy Haines and an ex-convict from Sing Sing prison named Alabama Pitts. It is a fact that he scouted Fidel Castro. Castro had a fairly good breaking pitch, but no fast ball. During the takeover he guaranteed Cambria's safety, even sending men to guard him. He stated that everyone was to treat the scout with the utmost respect
The Cubans began to rialize at some point that Cambria wassapping Cuban basebal of it's amateur talent and sending it off to play in another land. It was then that problems begain to arise. That is where the jokes about his causing the Cuban missle crisis took root.
isriter Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, author of "The Pride of Havana," one of a flurry of books on Cuban baseball portrayed Cambria in the lass than favorable light of a "cagey man, whose operations had become notorious and controversial by the post war era."
Becquer bristled at this,"No, no, no. If you go to is office you would see eight to ten players around his desk. He helped many players, many times."
In 1961 Becquer became an Angel, but when he got to spring training he found himself behind power hitter Steve Bilko and Ted Kluszewski resulting in him being sent down to AAA. His wife was still in Cuba. Cambria and Griffith contacted him and assured him everything would be okay and managed to get her a visa to leave.
In summing up Cambria's career, the one thing that is without question is the mutual loyalty between Cambria and Clark Griffith that was survived over all those decades. Cambria for many years was the Senators only scout.
The days of sunshine began to fade for Cambria when his old benefactor and friend Clark Griffith died in 1955. Then Castro took over in Cuba. He worked until his health failed him in 1961. The franchise move in 1961 was something else that saddened him. He passed away in 1962.
BTW..The Cubans named a brand of cigar after him.
Money Ball - 2011
Trouble With The Curve - 2012
Baseball Biography Project....Joe Samaria
ESPN.com p2 Goes to Washington....The Cuban Senators by Matt Welch
Baseball-Reference.com statistics and history