Legendary scout Didier dies at 90

Worked for 10 teams during long, distinguished career

Legendary scout Didier dies at 90

Mel Didier, who spent more than 60 years in professional baseball as one of the game's greatest talent scouts, died on Sunday night. He was still working for the Blue Jays at the time of his passing, which occurred at home in Phoenix with his wife Elena near him. He was 90.

Didier, a Minor League pitcher for two seasons, started as a part-time scout for the Tigers in 1954 while working as a high school football coach in Louisiana. He worked for the Tigers, Braves, Expos, Dodgers, Mariners, Indians, D-backs, Orioles, Rangers and Blue Jays during his distinguished career.

"Truly one of baseball's great treasures," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Didier was universally respected and acknowledged as one of the premier scouts in the game.

"Mel had a tremendous career in sports whether coaching football, his personal friendship with the legendary Bear Bryant or his unbelievably successful career in baseball," Blue Jays president emeritus Paul Beeston said. "For over 60 years in professional baseball, the last seven of which were with the Toronto Blue Jays, Mel was a dear friend to everyone in baseball. Few men in our great game have had universal admiration throughout baseball as Mel Didier did. On behalf of the Toronto Blue Jays, I would like to extend my sincere condolences and sympathies to his wife Elena and the entire Didier family."

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart, who hired Didier both in Cleveland and Texas, said Didier was "the essence of the game."

Didier's most famous moment came in 1988 while working for the Dodgers and doing advance work on the Athletics in preparation for the World Series. The night before Game 1, Didier told Dodgers hitters that Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley liked to throw a backdoor slider on a full-count with first base open.

That was the situation when Kirk Gibson pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers trailing 4-3 in Game 1. Gibson hit the full-count slider from Eckersley into the right-field seats for one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history.

As Gibson shook hands with third-base coach Joey Amalfitano rounding the bag, he smiled and said, "Backdoor slider, Joe."

Didier began his career as a part-time area scout while working as head football coach at Opelousas and Glen Oaks High Schools in Louisiana and raising four children: sons Mel Jr. and Bob and daughters Cindee and Lori. Bob Didier was the starting catcher on the 1969 Atlanta Braves, who won the 1969 National League West title. He followed his father into scouting. Mel Jr. went into high school coaching in Louisiana.

Didier was close friends with legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and joined the Louisiana State football coaching staff under Charlie McClendon in the late 1960s. At one time, Didier was regarded as a potential successor to McClendon, but his doctor warned him that he needed to get out of high-stress football coaching for health reasons.

In 1969, Didier committed to baseball full-time and became the scouting director for the Montreal Expos. Among the players drafted under Didier were catcher Gary Carter, outfielder Ellis Valentine, third baseman Larry Parrish and pitcher Steve Rogers.

Didier's best pick was taking Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson in the 11th round of the 1975 MLB Draft out of Florida A&M.

Didier left the Expos to work one year for the Dodgers, and then, at owner Walter O'Malley's request, went to Seattle to help owner Danny Kaye and the expansion Mariners. After leaving the Mariners, he worked with the Indians and revived the baseball program at Southwestern Louisiana University (now Louisiana-Lafayette) before returning to the Dodgers.

Didier was the Dodgers' top scout and right-hand man under general managers Al Campanis and Fred Claire, and he was instrumental in assembling the talent for their 1988 World Series championship team.

Didier left the Dodgers to work for the D-backs under GM Joe Garagiola Jr. and manager Buck Showalter as the team's first farm director. Again, he was instrumental in assembling the talent that won a World Series for the D-backs in 2001.

"The keeper of all things right about the game," Showalter said. "The type of pure-hearted, sincere competitor that quality organizations try to surround themselves with."

Didier, a native of Baton Rouge, La., who was named after Hall of Famer Mel Ott, was a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame along with his brother Raymond. He was third-team All-America football player at LSU and captain of the 1947 Southeast Conference baseball champions.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.