LOS ANGELES – The turning point between Hollywood and baseball is where Dennis Gilbert built his careers, establishing a life insurance agency that serves the rich and famous, and then Moonlight as one of baseball’s most successful and influential agents before taking on a front-office role with Chicago White Sox. Through
LOS ANGELES – The turning point between Hollywood and baseball is where Dennis Gilbert built his careers, establishing a life insurance agency that serves the rich and famous, and then Moonlight as one of baseball’s most successful and influential agents before taking on a front-office role with Chicago White Sox.
Throughout it, like a former Minor League ball player who once teamed up to make ends meet, he always looked for the most translated segment of the game, the scouts.
That is why he co-founded the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, and why in these challenging times he merged the foundation with Baseball Assistance Team, which does the same for retired ball players. BAT launches a professional Baseball Scouts Foundation Grant for “scouts in need of financial, medical and psychological help”, according to a press release.
It is a welcome development, said Gilbert, who for the past 17 years around this time would have just returned from the winter meetings and turned his attention to the planning of the next Scouts Foundation Dinner, the primary fundraiser to support scouts in need.
Instead, there were no winter meetings to attend. When it comes to dinner, it’s history, so he has left to remember highlights from past banquets and comfort himself in the great race it had.
“The winter meetings, the scout dinner, these used to be part of the offseason rhythm,” said Gilbert, 72. “Everything is so different right now.”
But on the day, Gilbert said, the scout dinner was “the best baseball event off the field.” First stayed at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, then the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, and designed the 29 Hall of Famers. Players like Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver and Hank Aaron. Leaders such as Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig, Pat Gillick and Roland Hemond. Legendary broadcasters including Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, Jaime Jarrin and Peter Gammons.
“People came from all over the country,” Gilbert said. “One year we gave an award to Larry King, who had been our master of ceremonies for so many years. Larry wanted Regis Philbin to present it, and Regis got a plane and flew out to do it. It was like the Academy Awards for baseball. . “
There was a distinct Hollywood flavor to the event, and not just because the dinner was held in the same ballroom as the Golden Globes Awards. If it wasn’t Oscar winner Harrison Ford who handed out an award, it was Grammy Award winner Michael McDonald who delivered a mini-concert.
Gilbert recalled that Selig called Aaron “the most dignified and greatest man I have ever met” as he presented him with the Executive Leadership Award, and Aaron recognized his signature scout, Dewey Griggs, for finding Aaron on the ground in Mobile, Ala., ” When I pretended to be Jackie Robinson. “
In 2014, Johnny Bench presented Joe Morgan with the Lifetime Achievement Award, calling him “the best fucking player I’ve ever been with.”
In his acceptance, Morgan said of signing scout Bill Wight: “Frank Robinson and Willie Stargell came out of Oakland – boys six feet tall who could run like the wind and hit the ball a mile. No one was looking for a 5-foot-5, 140 guy [pounds]. They’re talking about five tools, but the sixth tool is up here [tapping his head]. Bill Wight must have thought I was smart enough to overcome my ability. ”
It was at the Scout Dinner that White Sox deputy Eddie Einhorn called on the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to “recognize and acknowledge” the scouts’ work with a permanent honor like those who received broadcasters and journalists.
Brian Cashman presented an award to Yankees scout Damon Oppenheimer: “The reason I’ve held this position for 22 years,” Cashman said, “is because I have good scouts, the honest truth of God. Damon has been our Boy Scout Director since 2005. He survived George Steinbrenner. And he learned from one of the greats, his mother, Priscilla, who worked for 30 years with the San Diego Padres. ”
At dinner in 2017, George Brett said that Bo Jackson would have been a baseball Hall of Famer if he had not switched to football and had suffered a devastating hip injury.
“No doubt in my mind,” Brett said. “God, he was talented.”
One of the funniest moments was given by Dodger’s Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who carefully handed out the leadership award named after him to Bruce Bochy of arch-rival Giants.
“For me, to give him this award, there’s something wrong with this dinner tonight,” Lasorda joked.
“Thanks, Tommy,” said Bochy. “You were my big, beautiful, great – grandmother’s favorite leader.”
Last year, White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito presented an award for Don Sutton which was accepted by Tommy John.
“I had surgery,” Giolito said of John, “and I highly recommend it.”
The funds generated by the dinner went to scouts, many of whom had lost jobs in recent years through downsizing. Most of the money went to buy COBRA health insurance, but sometimes to food and rent.
“Most scouts were players who have little or no colleges and a skill set that does not make it easy to turn to a new career,” said Gilbert. “We became the safety net. I was passionate about it. I’m passionate about it. But I must say that in recent years it has not been easy to sell tickets. That’s just the way things are these days. ”
Ken gurnick has been covering Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.