Cardinals mourn McAlister
Longtime scout once called 'most valuable person' in organization
Another link to the St. Louis Cardinals' rich history was lost on Sunday with the death of Fred McAlister, who had been in the organization since 1945.
The Cardinals lost other longtime fixtures this year, in instructor George Kissell, coach Dave Ricketts and executive Marty Hendin.
McAlister, 80, died in Katy, Texas. He was the Cardinals' scouting director from 1980 to 1993, and, most recently, had served as a special assignment scout.
"There are a lot of people in this game who have a passion for baseball but there are very few who spend an entire career in one organization," said Jeff Luhnow, the Cardinals' current scouting director.
"He represented everything about the Cardinals that was great. He was loyal to the club, and his sole purpose was to help us find and develop players who could contribute at the big leagues, and he did that over and over again."
McAlister was a baseball Ph.D from the old school, recalled Lee Thomas, former farm director of the Cardinals.
"He didn't need a radar gun, he didn't need a stopwatch. He knew what was in a guy's heart," Thomas said. "He was a scout, man."
A shortstop, McAlister signed out of high school, played in the St. Louis farm system until 1960 and, at various times, was a player-coach or player-manager. He served as assistant farm director from 1967 to 1969 and was a scouting supervisor and special assignment scout from 1969 to 1979.
"He was a great guy to work for, just such a humble guy and a great storyteller, and he really knew a lot about the game of baseball," said scout Marty Maier, who worked with McAlister for years. "He played 15 years in the Minor Leagues with the Cardinals, and he'd always say, 'I played in every league but the big leagues.' "
During his time as scouting director, McAlister's first-round selections in 12 of 13 Drafts reached the Major Leagues. From 1981 through 1987, each of his No. 1 picks made the Majors -- Bobby Meacham, Todd Worrell, Jim Lindeman, Mike Dunne, Joe Magrane, Luis Alicea and Cris Carpenter. More than 70 of his Draft picks played for the Cardinals, and 17 others reached the Majors for other organizations.
"He was one of the best judges of amateur talent in the history of the game," said former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog. "Every year we'd be picking between 15th and 22nd, but he'd always have his first-rounder get to the big leagues. He was a true Cardinal in every sense of the word."
While Dal Maxvill was general manager, he once called McAlister "the most valuable person in the Cards' organization."
The astute, genial McAlister became a scouting wizard.
"He was a great guy to learn from, because he came from a totally different era, where there wasn't a whole lot of double-checking or going back and seeing guys," said Maier, now with the Kansas City Royals. "You went in one day and saw a guy, and you either liked him or you didn't like him. That was it, and Freddy had no problem making a decision. When you left, you knew whether you were in or you were out. That's what scouting is all about."
McAlister gave Luhnow a good initiation in 2004.
"The first game I went to with Freddy, he was sitting up there at Minute Maid Park, and it was a college tournament. I had my stopwatch, like any good scout does, and I was getting the times down the line," Luhnow said. "Every time a runner would touch first base, he'd say, '4.4' or '4.5,' and I was shocked at how accurate he was -- he didn't need a stopwatch."
Luhnow noted that McAlister also used his skills as a people person.
"He loved to talk to the scouts and quiz them on what they were seeing. He'd talk to the parents, and he'd talk to the fans, and he'd talk to the players, and he gathered a lot of information about the players on his personal interaction," Luhnow said. "It helped him form an overall assessment of who could make it and who couldn't. He knew better than anybody the grind of being in the Minors and what it takes to get on a bus and go from ballpark to ballpark, not get paid a lot, have some meal money and hope that someday that you're going to make it."
McAlister is survived by his wife, Patty. Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday in Katy.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.