Ex-Pirates Scout Howie Haak Dies
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Howie Haak, a Pittsburgh Pirates scout for 38 years who discovered Robert Clemente, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennet and Tony Pena, has died.
Haak died Monday at the Palm Springs Health Care Center near his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 87. Haak suffered two strokes since Nov. 1.
Haak was a Pirates scout from 1950 to 1988 and helped build Pirates teams that won three World Series and nine division titles. He got into baseball after two stints in the Navy as Dodgers owner Branch Rickey hired him as a bullpen catcher for Brooklyn’s minor league team, the Hollywood Stars.
After two years, Rickey made Haak a scout and brought him to Pittsburgh in 1950. In 1955, Rickey sent Haak to scout the Dodger’s minor league club in Montreal. The manager refused to play Roberto Clemente, but Haak saw his talent during batting practice and persuaded Rickey to pick the Puerto Rican in the minor league draft.
``He was the best in the Caribbean. He had one of the best memories. He met a player and five years later, he still knew the birthday and everything,″ said Pablo Cruz, a Pirates scout for 24 years based in the Dominican Republic.
Haak conducted tryouts and scouted extensively in Latin America before many major league teams made that commitment, discovering Sanguillen in Panama, Stennet in the Dominican Republic, Pena in Puerto Rico, Omar Moreno in Venezuela and Al McBean in the Virgin Islands.
``One statement would sum up everything. The Pirates would not have been as good if it wasn’t for some of the things that Howie did,″ former Pirates general manager Harding ``Pete″ Peterson said.
Haak made national headlines in 1982 when he said fans were staying away from Three Rivers Stadium because the Pirates fielded an all-black team.
Haak said he didn’t believe that was true, but he had heard people say that.
Black Pirates, led by then-captain Bill Madlock, supported Haak after his remarks were made public.
Haak left the Pirates in 1988 after a confrontation with then-general manager Syd Thrift and scouted for the Houston Astros for five years.
Haak continued watching baseball on television and offered free talent evaluations over the telephone from his Palm Springs home.
Haak’s wife said he wanted no funeral service or obituary.
``He said, `I’ll haunt you if you don’t do that. He wanted to be cremated. He said, `Just throw me in the trash can.′ He was a tough old bird,″ Crystal Haak said.
Haak used his memory and two notebooks, a red one for the American League and a green one for the National League, to make scouting reports three times a year _ after spring training, at midseason and at the end of the year.
Mrs. Haak would type her husband’s reports and send them to the Pirates.