MOzarks Moments: Tom Greenwade

Clockwise from top left: A photo from the 'Daily Oklahoman' of June 4, 1947 shows Tom Greenwade helping signee Jerry Snyder choose a wardrobe as the youngster prepares to join the Yankees farm club in Kansas City. An ad from the Springfield Leader and Press of Oct. 7, 1964 showing support for democratic candidate for Missouri governor, Warren Hearnes. Tom Greenwade, who nominated his baseball friend to run on the democratic ticket for Greene County Sheriff in 1964. Former professional baseball player from Nixa, Mickey Owen, while serving as Greene County Sheriff.

After Tom Greenwade's scouting career ended in 1978, he remained busy. Greenwade had always loved raising beef cattle and had purchased a 389-acre farm near Willard, where he did just that. At one time he reportedly had 180 head of cattle on his farm. He also loved to grow a big garden each year and share its vegetables with friends, neighbors and those less fortunate.

After Greenwade died, Jerry Lumpe would say, “He was just a great person. According to him and according to me, he grew the best tomatoes in the Ozarks. I’d go out there to his farm after I quit playing and rob his garden, which he gave me permission to do.”

Greenwade was inducted into the National Baseball Congress's Hall of Fame in 1971 and was the first baseball scout to be so honored. On May 30, 1971, the St. Louis Cardinals honored Greenwade with “Tom Greenwade Day” at their game with the Atlanta Braves. 

In 1986, he was among the first class of inductees inducted into the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame. Appropriately enough, another of the three inductees was one of the men Greenwade had signed to a professional contract—Bill Virdon. 

In 2009, Greenwade was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.

Back home in Willard, Greenwade had been active in civic and business affairs his entire adult life. He served on the Willard Board of Education from 1946-1965 and for the last 15 of those years, he was the president of the board. The baseball field at the high school where he had served as the volunteer coach of the Willard Tigers was appropriately named in his honor.

Greenwade and a partner started the Willard Bank, and Greenwade served as president of that institution. He also served many years as the chairman of the Greene County Draft Board. In 1967, a former chairman of that board, Floyd Jones, presented Greenwade with a 15-year service pin. Jones was board chairman of Ozark Air Lines at that time.

Greenwade was also active in local politics and served on the board of the Greene County Democratic Committee. It was he, in 1964, who recommended that they place his old friend and baseball comrade, Mickey Owen, on the ticket for Greene County Sheriff. According to an August 19, 1964, article in the News-Leader, he told the committee, “Mickey will surprise a lot of people. He adds strength to the ticket.” 

True to Greenwade's prediction, Owen went on to win four terms as sheriff.

In 1945, one of Greenwade's Democratic Party friends from the national political scene visited him at his home in Willard. According to a newspaper account of the visit, the man ate a piece of Greenwade's grandmother's pie in the kitchen after she summoned Greenwade from the pastures  to the house by ringing the dinner bell. The pie-eater was fellow Missourian, old friend and U.S. Vice President Harry Truman.

Greenwade also was involved in state politics, although not on as big a scale as in county politics. His uncle, C. W. Greenwade started out as a street car conductor in Springfield and ended up as Springfield postmaster. He served as chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party in the early 1930s. 

In 1964, Greenwade placed an ad in the Springfield Leader and Press that simply said, “We The People: Stan Musial, Bill Virdon and Joe Gargiola have endorsed Warren Hearnes for the Governorship. That's good enough for me. —Tom Greenwade, Baseball Scout.”

Virdon and Garagiola were both major leaguers who were Missouri natives, and of course Musial was a St. Louis Cardinal and St. Louis resident. Hearnes won his campaign for governor and also won a succeeding term.

Greenwade was noted for always having time for folks from “back home.” Lane Davis, former publisher of the Houston Herald in Houston, Missouri, wrote a remembrance in that newspaper in 1995 about when he was a 12-year-old and his father asked Greenwade if Lane could visit the Yankee clubhouse when they were in St. Louis to play the Browns at Sportsman’s Park.

Greenwade not only invited them into the clubhouse, but introduced the 12-year-old Lane to Mickey Mantle, who autographed a baseball and gave it to the boy.

In 1968, Greenwade underwent three major operations as he suffered a serious health crisis, but he recovered and continued his career. In 1976, he spent his 72nd birthday as he had spent the past 13—watching the World Series of Amateur Baseball in Wichita, Kansas, and scouting the players there.

If his young signees needed a suit to wear to the press conference about their contract signings, it was Greenwade who would dig in his pocket for the money. Often, he had to help them pick out the new wardrobe since a lot of them had never yet owned a suit.

Tom Greenwade died on Aug. 10, 1986, in his hometown of Willard at 81 years of age. 

Upon Greenwade's death, Larry Doughty, the former director of scouting for the Cincinnati Reds, was quoted as saying, “He was a gentleman scout. He was respectful of the game, respectful of the people in it.” 

As far back as 1945, Jim McCulley, in his column in the New York Daily News said that, “Tom Greenwade is one of the nicest fellows and one of the most prolific baseball scouts in the business.”

A 1994 review of the book “October 1964” notes that the author, David Halberstam, had interviewed 76 people for the book, “allowing him to create multidimensional pictures of even well-chronicled stars like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and (Bob) Gibson. Some of the most intriguing biographical vignettes are of lesser-known figures like the scout (Tom) Greenwade.”

Intriguing indeed. “Gentleman Tom” Greenwade was a man who made the Ozarks proud in whatever he did.

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