Rays scout Zuraw retires
Englewood resident has been involved in professional baseball since 1956.
By DENNIS MAFFEZZOLI
ENGLEWOOD -- One of the most successful and respected baseball scouts is calling it a career.
George Zuraw submitted his resignation as major league scout and consultant for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It was accepted by Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Zuraw's final day is Jan. 15.
"I'm officially retired," the 75-year-old Zuraw said.
Named as the "King of Baseball" by Baseball America during the 2002 Winter Meetings, Zuraw has been involved in pro baseball since graduating in 1949 from Charleroi (Pa.) High School, where he played baseball, football, basketball and was a band member.
The Englewood resident was an outfielder in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh and Cleveland organizations through 1956. Zuraw missed the 1951 and '52 seasons serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
In 1956, while attending California State College in Pennsylvania and working in the display advertising and sports departments at the Charleroi Mail, the local newspaper, the Pittsburgh Pirates hired Zuraw as an associate scout.
Three years later, he became the Southeast scouting supervisor for the Pirates.
Zuraw moved to the Cincinnati Reds in 1968. He spent 20 years there, including the "Big Red Machine" era. Zuraw picked up his second, third, fourth and fifth World Series rings while with the Reds, who won in 1975 and '76, adding to the winning ring he received in 1960 with the Pirates.
In 1988, he was named assistant general manager of the Seattle Mariners. Six years later, the Mariners went from doormats to division contenders, following the hiring of manager Lou Piniella.
After leaving Seattle and returning to Pittsburgh in 2000 as assistant GM, Zuraw joined the Rays in 2003 as a major league consultant.
"It's been a good ride," Zuraw said.
A grassroots-type scout, Zuraw personally signed 27 players who played or managed in the major leagues, including Ray Knight, Dave Miley and Tampa Bay's first manager Larry Rothschild.
The signings that made him most proud were the "fill-ins" who made it to the big leagues. On the list are Jeff Treadway, Sarasota's Doug Corbett and Steve Christmas, a shortstop converted to catcher.
One season during his years with Cincinnati, Zuraw was responsible for signing 44 of the roughly 125 players in the entire organization.
Zuraw also likes to tell the story of two who got away.
He claims to be the first to scout Steve Carlton and Don Sutton, only to have them sign elsewhere.
Zuraw saw Carlton as a sophomore at North Miami High School. Following his senior year in 1963, Zuraw offered the left-hander a $4,000 signing bonus. A scout from St. Louis signed Carlton to a $5,000 bonus.
In 1964, Sutton was a senior at Pensacola Tate High. The right-hander was seeking a signing bonus to cover the the cost of his college education, about $10,000. Zuraw's bid was a few thousand dollars. Sutton went on to Gulf Coast Junior College in Panama City.
That summer, Sutton played in a collegiate league in Kansas. The Los Angeles Dodgers landed him with a $25,000 bonus.
Both Carlton and Sutton are in Baseball's Hall of Fame.
While his forte was signing professional players, Zuraw is proud of the fact he helped many high school players land college scholarships.
Zuraw spent the past four seasons close to home with the Rays. He was a fixture at Tropicana Field.