Russo, `super scout' of Orioles for over 3 decades, dies at 81

Palmer, Cuellar, McNally were among his finds

February 10, 2004|By John Eisenberg | John Eisenberg,SUN STAFF

Jim Russo, a scout who played a major part in the Orioles' success, died Sunday in Grover, Mo. He was 81.

Russo, who worked for the Orioles from 1954 to 1987, was found at his home, said his daughter-in-law, Lisa Russo. He had been under treatment for a heart condition.

"Jim Russo was vitally important to the Orioles' great run of success," said Dave Ritterpusch, who was the Orioles' scouting director in the mid-1970s and is now the team's director of baseball information systems.

The Orioles' Scout of the Year Award, inaugurated last year, is named for Russo. He was featured yesterday in an article on scouts as part of The Sun's series on the Orioles at 50.

For more than three decades, Russo scouted high school and college prospects and major league teams' players available by trade. He also prepared advance scouting reports on Orioles' World Series opponents.

He helped identify and sign future stars such as Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson and Dave McNally, and his assessments led the team to trade for such players as Frank Robinson, Mike Cuellar and Ken Singleton.

In a recent interview with The Sun, he said his career highlight was seeing his advance report used by the Orioles during their sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.

Born in Huntington, Ind., in 1922, Russo served in the Army during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star. He broke into pro baseball as an announcer for a minor league team in Riverside, Calif. He also was a part-time scout for the St. Louis Browns, and proved so adept at identifying talent that the Browns gave him a full-time scouting job in 1951.

He was one of 10 scouts who came to Baltimore three years later when the franchise became the Orioles.

"He was probably the best scout I ever saw," said Frank Cashen, who was a key decision-maker for the Orioles from 1965 to 1975 and later was the New York Mets' general manager.

Russo's 1992 autobiography was titled Super Scout, a nickname Cashen gave him.

His wife, the former Betty Miller, died in 1980.

Survivors include sons Ronald Russo, of St. Louis, and Clifford Russo, of St. Charles, Mo.; daughters Susan Wrinkle of Barnhart, Mo., Jennifer Baehr of St. Albans, Mo., and Nancy Blakeley of Wildwood, Mo.; and seven grandchildren.

Donations may be sent to the World War II Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 96766, Washington, D.C., 20090, or St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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