The former pitching great took in the Scrappers-Blue Sox game Monday.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Don't expect Claude Osteen to ask you many baseball questions. What he doesn't know about the game probably isn't worth learning.
Now a scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Osteen was in town to take in the Mahoning Valley Scrappers' homestand against Utica and Williamsport.
"This is my first year out of uniform in 43 years," said Osteen, who turned 62 last week.
While usually assigned to games in California and Texas, he came to the Midwest as a pinch hitter after the wife of another scout in the system became ill.
Great career: Over the course of his 18-year major league career, Osteen pitched in 541 games and posted a 196-195 win-loss record. He started 488 times, had 140 complete games and 40 shutouts.
With that resume, he knows baseball.
After pitching with the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Senators, he threw for the Dodgers for nine years (1965-73). In 1969 he had a 20-15 record, a 2.66 ERA and threw an incredible 321 innings.
He then pitched for Houston, St. Louis and ended his career with the White Sox.
Osteen pitched on a Los Angeles staff that had two Hall of Fame pitchers -- Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
"I was the third man; I was that other pitcher."
Former coach: After his playing days, Osteen coached for 15 years in the big leagues, including seven seasons as pitching coach with Philadelphia.
He also spent several years coaching in minor league baseball.
He said he's been scouting at the major league level all year, and this was his first exposure to the New York-Penn League.
"I'm looking for good arms and guys that can run and guys with quick bats," Osteen said of his current duties.
"I think this is much tougher scouting than to scout in the major leagues because you have to take a picture of these kids three or four years down the line and figure out where they're going to be."
He pointed to his chest, near the heart cavity, and said, "The hardest thing is you can't look inside of here.
"We don't know anything about these kids."
Osteen was at another NYPL site last week, getting a look at more young players. He had kind words about a few Scrappers.
"I've seen a couple of pitchers, I liked the way they threw the ball," Osteen said.
He did not name names, of course.
Conditioning better: The emphasis on physical conditioning of athletes has evolved a great deal since he began playing, and it will have a serious impact on the development of a prospect.
"You take a guy that doesn't have bat speed now and he goes to work over a couple winters and starts pumping weights and he'll show up in spring training and he'll look like a monster," Osteen said with a chuckle.
The toughest part of the job for Osteen?
"The hardest thing for me at putting down numbers for these guys is for me to say a guy is not a prospect," he said, "because I've seen so many situations where guys weren't even drafted and made it big."
Few, though, will ever make it as big as Osteen.