“The Sinister Scout of the New York Giants”

19 May

Damon Runyon took credit for tagging John McGraw’s favorite scout, Dick Kinsella with the nickname “Sinister Dick.” Runyon said in his column for the Hearst Newspapers in 1930 that the sobriquet might not make sense any longer:

“The nickname is perhaps misleading. You look for a dour fellow of wicked aspect—a piratical-appearing bloke with perhaps a cutlass between his teeth. Instead, you see a well-dressed, quiet man, deep in his fifties, with kind eyes wrinkled by smiles…Well, twenty years back the man from Springfield (IL) was indeed a sinister looking chappy. He had beetling black brows, and a fierce black mouser, or mustachio, which gave him a positively violent appearance.”

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

McGraw told Runyon:

“It isn’t the fellows he sends to me that makes him great. It’s the ones he keeps me from buying. He saves my ballclub a lot of money every year by keeping me off the dead ones.”

Kinsella had spent more than 20 years scouting for McGraw, though Runyon said:

 “(H)e used to retire at frequent intervals. So often, in fact, that you never could tell when he was officially a scout or just a businessman.”

Damon Runyon

In addition to providing his nickname, Runyon was also responsible for a story about how Kinsella supposedly missed signing Edd Roush for the Giants in 1912, when Roush was playing in the Kitty League.  The earliest version of the story appeared in Runyon’s column in The New York American in 1913, with a more complete version appearing in 1916:

“One broiling hot summer day a couple of years ago a sinister looking man arrived in the town of Evansville, Indiana. This sinister looking man was of somber aspect. His hair was a sinister black. His sinister eyebrows hung heavy above a glowering, sinister glare. He wore sinister city clothes, and there was a sinister bulge to his coat just above the right hip.

“With sinister deportment, he accosted a citizen of the town of Evansville and made inquiry of him with sinister significance in his voice.

“’Where’s the ball orchard?’ demanded Sinister Dick Kinsella for it was none other than the sinister scout of the New York Giants, as you doubtless have already divined from the sinister import of this narrative.”

According to Runyon, Kinsella went for a haircut after watching that day’s game and said to the barber:

“That’s a right likely looking outfielder that fellow Roush,’ suggested Sinister Dick. ‘Hits good, and can go fetch ‘em, but don’t throw much, hey? Bad arm hey?’

“’Well, I’ll tell you about that stranger,’ said the barber, pausing in his operations and assuming the attitude of a man about to impart grave news. ‘He used to have as good a throwin’ arm as anybody you ever see, but he hurt that arm and he’s been learnin’ hisself to throw with the other arm.”

With that, said Runyon, “a sinister train bore Sinister Dick on his sinister way” out of town, while a scout for the White Sox, Ted Sullivan, “Purchased Roush for $4000 [sic, $3,000]”

Kinsella left the Giants after the 1930 season, John B. Foster of The New York Sun suggested that an instance of the scout not saving money for McGraw’s ballclub might have led to his departure. In 1927 Kinsella had signed pitcher Bill Walker for $25,000. After Walker finished 1930, 17-15 with a 3.93 ERA and Kinsella had departed, Foster wrote:

“The failure of Walker to succeed may be one of the reasons why Dick Kinsella failed to remain with the New York club as a scout, because a large outlay was made for Walker.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s