UPSTATE N.Y. SPORTS LORE: Bill Enos made a career out of creating baseball opportunities
In 1937 the Gloversville-Johnstown Glovers of the Canadian-American League featured an 18-year-old first baseman by the name of Bill Enos. While he was one of the youngest to ever suit up for the Glovers, he had been previously signed to a professional contract two years earlier at the age of 16. Ingenuity got him noticed, and perseverance led to a career in professional baseball that would last for parts of eight decades.
William (Bill) Donovan Enos was born in Cohasset, Massachusetts, on August 5, 1920, to Abraham S. and Helena F. Enos. Abraham had played on local semi-professional teams in the area with Everett Gammons, uncle of renowned sportswriter and media personality Peter Gammons. The couple had two children, which included Bill and his younger sister Anne. Bill acquired a love for the game from his Father and gained the reputation as being one of the better ball players in New England by the time he was a teenager.
His fondness for the game was further inspired in 1933 when long-time Washington Senator first baseman Joe Judge was in Cohasset and 12 year old Enos was invited to meet him. Judge had recently been traded to the Boston Red Sox and was impressed by the young player’s attitude during their meeting. Knowing Enos was a left-handed first baseman, Judge gave him the first baseman glove that he had used for most of his career with the Senators from 1915-1932, including while playing in the 1924 World Series. While the padding in the glove was worn out, it would be the glove that Enos would use for many years to come.
As a teenager, Enos spent his summers playing for local semi-pro and industrial league teams, where he became a fan favorite on the South Shore area of Massachusetts. And like most young boys, he dreamed of one day playing professionally, if only he could be seen by a professional organization. In 1935, at the age of 14, Enos snuck into a tryout at Braves Field, home of the National Leagues Boston Braves. He waited by a corner near the stadium with his Joe Judge glove in hand, and when a group of young prospects were about to enter the park, he melded in with them like he was also invited.
Upon entering the stadium, Enos was given a uniform and took the field to work out. It was not until the fourth day of taking infield and batting practice, that it was discovered that Enos was not an invited prospect and was dismissed. However, he had held his own with the other prospects for the duration of his time there, entering his name into the minds of the Boston organizations management.
In 1936, at the age of 15, Enos transferred from Cohasset High School to the Thayer Academy, a private college preparatory day school in Braintree Massachusetts and played first base for their baseball team. That same year, he was formally invited for another round of tryouts at Braves Field, now home of the Boston Bees (formerly the Boston Braves) of the National League.
The Bees had an initiative to look for prospects from the Northeast, and Enos had caught their attention the summer before when he snuck into their tryouts. After a strong season for Thayer Academy in which he had no errors in the field, the Boston club decided to take a closer look at him. He spent the entire summer going through their workouts when the Bees were home. After watching him all summer they expressed an interest in signing him to a contract after he graduated from high school in two years. In the evenings, he played for the semi-professional Cohasset Blue Blades.
In October of 1936, the Sporting News publication announced that they were holding a subscription selling contest. The top 10 sellers in the United States and Canada would earn an all-expenses paid trip to participate in the prestigious Ray L. Doan Baseball School in Hot Springs, Arkansas in February of 1937. The baseball school operated in the 1930’s and featured many legendary baseball players as instructors, including Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, Bob Feller Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, Rogers Hornsby, George Sisler, Tris Speak and Cy Young.
Through 6 week sessions, they trained and developed amateur players, getting dozens of them signed to professional contracts each year. Enos saw this as another opportunity to be seen by professional organizations and began selling subscriptions. He was not old enough to have his driver’s license, so from October 1936 through February 1937, he walked, often-times in snow, through the Massachusetts towns of Hingham, Hull, Scituate and Cohasset selling subscriptions to the Sporting News. When the contest results were tallied, Enos had sold 72 subscriptions to place second in the contest and earned a trip to the prestigious baseball school.
He was given a leave of absence by the Thayer Academy and at the age of 16, he left by train out of South Station in Boston to travel to Arkansas for the six-week school.
Enos excelled at the school, batting over .450 and used his Joe Judge glove to perform faultless fielding. This earned him a spot on the all-star team and being chosen as one of the best 18 rookies out of the 600 in attendance. Members of the St. Louis Cardinals were instructors at Doan School and were impressed by Enos, and labeled him as “best of the lot.”
Frankie Frisch, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, saw the scouting reports from his players and offered Enos a professional contract, even though he was only 16. The Enos family was advised not to sign the contract, but to instead have Bill continue his schooling. When the Doan School finished, Enos returned to Cohasset in time for Thayer’s first game in April.
In early May, the St. Louis Cardinals (famed ‘Gas House Gang’) were in Boston for a two game series with the Boston Bees. Enos received a telegram from Cardinals executive Branch Rickey instructing him to report to Braves Field for a workout and to take batting practice with the team. Later that month, just two hours after completing his sophomore season at Thayer, his parents conceded and allowed the 16 year old to sign with the Cardinals.
Enos was informed that he would be initially sent to the Rochester Red Wings, the Cardinals AA affiliate in the International League to be their first baseman. Instead, he received a telegram from Cardinals Manager Frankie Frisch ordering him to report to the Polo Grounds in New York City to meet the team when they faced the New York Giants. Expecting to merely work out with the big league club, he learned that he was there to possibly fill in at first base. Frisch told him that both his regular first baseman Johnny Mize and back up Dick Siebert were injured and he might need him to play. However, Mize ultimately suited up and Enos instead had a front row seat in the Cardinals dugout as future Hall of Fame pitchers Dizzy Dean and Carl Hubbell faced off. He would spend the next few weeks traveling with the Cardinals during their east coast trip and was then released by the organization.
Unsure of why they did not send him to play for Rochester, he suited up to play for the Orleans Cardinals (Orleans, MA) of the Cape Code League, where he batted .360 and did not make a single error at first base. When he was released to make room on the roster for the player he was filling in for, he returned to semi-professional baseball with Frisoli of the Suburban Twilight League in Massachusetts.
Going into the 1938 baseball season, Enos enrolled in the New York Giants Baseball School in Baton Rouge Louisiana. The school was conducted by Giants manager Bill Terry and charged 97 aspiring players $25 tuition for four weeks of training for the month of February. It was also around this time that it became evident why the Cardinals had released him the previous summer.
For several months, Major League Baseball had been investigating the Cardinals and their farm system practices. In March of 1938, Major League Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis ruled that the St. Louis Cardinals were in violation of the working agreements with their minor league clubs. This released 74 St. Louis Cardinal minor leaguers from contract, making them free agents.
After returning from spring training at the Giants Camp, Enos split the 1938 season playing for the Braintree White Sox and the Weymouth Sons of Italy teams in the semi-professional South Shore League of Massachusetts.
In February 1939, Enos returned to the Doan Baseball School. The school had relocated to Jackson Mississippi, and future Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Burleigh Grimes were now instructors. Once again, Enos excelled at the school and received three different professional contract offers. He was convinced by Grimes, who was the Brooklyn Dodgers manager at the time, to sign with the Brooklyn organization. He then reported to the Dodgers spring training camp in Lake Wales Florida, and worked out with the Montreal Royals.
When spring training camp broke, he was assigned to the Gloversville-Johnstown Glovers (Gloversville, NY) of the Class C Canadian-American League, who were a Brooklyn Dodgers affiliate.
At just age 18, he won the first baseman job with the Glovers during their pre-season workouts at the Riceville Diamond in Mayfield. He would finally suit up for his first official professional game on May 11, 1939 against the Cornwall Maple Leafs. In front of 1,000 fans at Berkshire/Glovers Park, he got his first professional hit and showed the local fans how well he could field. He appeared in 106 games that season, with 13 doubles, three home runs and a .982 fielding percentage.
He routinely turned poor throws into outs with great stretches and scoops of balls thrown to him out of the dirt. His defense helped the team win many games and earned him the nickname of “the stretch kid.” He was a fan favorite in Gloversville and was voted by the fans as the hardest working first baseman in the league, and given a gift of two leather coats. He was also voted as the most popular player on the team and was awarded the ‘Kingsbury Cup’ that was presented to him on the last day of the season. His biggest thrill of the season came on May 18, 1939 while playing in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, England’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended the Glovers game against the Ottawa Senators that day.
They were conducting a Royal Tour of Canada by train, marking the first time a reigning Monarch had stepped foot in Canada. They also spent four days in the United States, where they met with President Theodore Roosevelt. There were 10,000 attendees in the stands and another 5,000 standing throughout the park that day. Players from both teams stood on the field as the Royal Couple rode around waving to the fans.
After a successful 1939 campaign, Enos was offered a contract to return to Gloversville for the 1940 season. However, it was for the same salary and Enos felt he deserved a raise. He initially held out by not sending the contract back to the team. Without a raise, he arrived in Gloversville and made the 1940 team. However, he never played and was released by the organization in May. He then played a few games for the local semi-professional team that played at the Riceville Diamond called the Mayfield Dutchmen.
In early June, Enos and Gloversville residents Charles Camara, Roy Hallenbeck and Al Filmer left the Dutchmen to join the Cornwall Kilties (Cornwall, Ontario, Canada) of the semi-professional Northern League. The team experienced financial troubles and folded a few weeks later. Enos then joined the Watertown Collegians, another Upstate New York semi-professional team, to take over for their injured first baseman. They often played Negro League teams, including the Mohawk Giants and the Baltimore Elites, who touted future Hall of Famer Roy Campanella as their catcher.
In January 1941, Enos received a telegram from Ray Doan inviting him to serve as an instructor at his baseball school, which had then moved to Palatka Florida. Knowing this would once again put him in front of many scouts from big league organizations’, he accepted the offer and joined his childhood idol Babe Ruth on the staff. This was such a thrill for the entire Enos family that his father came to Florida for the duration of the school so he could meet Ruth.
As Enos worked alongside of all the aspiring players, Babe Ruth took notice of his skills and was extremely impressed. In an interview with Bob Considine in the March 11, 1941 edition of the Daily Mirror, Ruth beamed when talking about Enos and stated “he handles himself like Camilli (Dolph Camilli-Brooklyn Dodgers MVP first baseman) and he will someday be up there (in the Major Leagues).”
While there as an instructor, he was also competing and made the schools all-star team again. This led to him signing a contract with the St. Louis Browns. He then spent the 1941 season with the Lafayette White Sox (Lafayette, LA) of the Class D Evangeline League and the Federalsburg A’s (Federalsburg, MD) of the Class D Eastern Shore League.
In 1942, Enos enlisted in the United States Navy. From 1942 through 1946 he was a Specialist, serving as a physical education instructor and executed boxer Gene Tunney’s physical fitness program for the naval infantry. He was initially stationed at the Newport Naval Training Base where he was a bunk mate of Artie Shaw. Shaw was a famous American clarinetist, composer, band leader and author. Enos also served as the player/manager on the Navy All-Star Baseball team.
In 1945 he was re-stationed to Tinian Island in the Northern Marianas in the Pacific Ocean. There he continued to be a physical education instructor and traveled with the Navy All-Star team to play on several Japanese islands to entertain the United States military troops.
Enos received an honorable discharge at the end of the war and returned to the United States in early 1946. He continued to play in St. Louis Browns organization from 1946 through 1949, in their Class C, B and A leagues. Around this time, he expressed an interest of one day being a manager. The Browns gave him his first chance at managing in 1949 when he split time as player/manager for the Mayfield Clothiers (Mayfield, KY) of the Class D Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League. He continued as a player/manager for the next three seasons for St. Louis Browns affiliates in the Class D Georgia State League, Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League and the Sooner State League.
Beginning in 1951, in addition to both playing and managing for the Pittsburg Browns (Pittsburg, Kansas) of the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League, Enos also began working out of the Browns front office, inadvertently setting up the next phase of his career after his playing days were over. His new role involved looking over top prospects and assisting with running the organizations minor league spring training camp.
After the 1952 season as a player/manager for the Ada Herefords (Ada, Oklahoma) of the Class D Sooner State League, Enos became a professional scout with the Browns organization working out of their St. Louis, Missouri office. Entering the 1953 season, Enos served as their minor league training camp director of baseball and as a “scouting cross checker.”
In 1954, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore, becoming the Baltimore Orioles and Enos was promoted to National Scout and director of baseball, minor league training camp.
At this time, he was 33, and known as the organization’s troubleshooter. Although his primary job was to scout, he was also often called upon to fill in as manager, equipment manager and groundskeeper. He was also tasked with setting up the organizations 1954 minor league camp which ran from March to April in Thomasville, Georgia. This saw him responsible for the organizations 350 prospects that needed to be housed, fed, clothed, entertained and trained.
After running the players through drills each day, Enos and the coaching staff then analyzed each prospects performance during the evenings. This ultimately led to the players being placed at the proper minor league levels for the upcoming season. Once the season started, Enos traveled around to the Orioles minor league teams to analyze the development of their prospects.
During a visit to view the Orioles Class B Piedmont League York White Roses (York, Pennsylvania), Enos took notice of an 18 year old rookie named Brooks Robinson. At the time, Robinson was playing second base, and at the urging of Enos and his coaching staff, Robinson was moved to third base. Robinson would get a call up to the Major Leagues that fall, sparking off a Hall of Fame career that included 16 consecutive Gold Gloves at third base from 1960 through 1975. In addition, Enos also scouted high school and college prospects throughout the spring and summer to make suggestions to the organization on potential new signings.
That off season, he married Grace H. Jones, a nurse from North Weymouth Massachusetts. They enjoyed 47 years of marriage that produced two daughters, Anne and Karyl.
After two seasons with the Orioles organization, he joined the Kansas City Athletics in 1956 where he would spend the next 10 years as a scout and their director of baseball, minor league training camp. He oversaw four full-time scouts and 70 part-time commissioned scouts throughout New England, New York and Eastern Canada. He then moved on to be the New England scout for the Oakland Athletics (1968), Seattle Pilots (1969-1970) and Milwaukee Brewers (1971-1973).
In 1974, Enos joined his beloved hometown Boston Red Sox as their New England scout. He was recruited by Haywood Sullivan, whom he had worked with in the Kansas City organization and was in charge of the Red Sox Amateur scouting.
As a scout, Enos logged tens of thousands of miles each year across New England and Eastern Canada attending high school and college games to analyze players. With thousands of high schools and hundreds of colleges in his territory, his car was always stocked with hundreds of game schedules.
One of his tricks to learn about players was to visit the local barber shop in the town where he was scouting a prospect. While there, the conversation often turned to baseball and he used those conversations to learn about the player’s post high school intentions (did he have college scholarship offers), what sort of a person he was and about his family. The year started in the fall with scouting college programs and then both college and high school games in the spring. Before each game he was about to watch, he walked the infield and charted how accurate the dimensions were, so he could properly gauge how a play or throw on that field would compare to one at Fenway Park. He kept elaborate rating information on each player he scouted and based all of his assessments on a players potential, and what he thought he had the capability of doing in the coming years. He kept two sets of rating cards. One set broke-down “present skills”, and the other projected “future skills.” Each player would end up with a score of 1-5, with 5 marking a potential Major Leaguer.
Spring was the busiest time for Enos as he had to compile final reports on players eligible for the June Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. When the high school and college tournaments started, he would sometimes see five games in three different states in the same day. After the draft concluded, and his signees were off to hone their skills in the minor leagues, Enos would be back out scouting high school summer league games and the Cape Cod League, which showcased college players.
Throughout the years, Enos signed dozens of players to minor league contracts. Seventeen of those players made it to the major leagues, combining for over 100 seasons of playing service. This included future All-Stars, and World Series Champion John Tudor, who was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. With the advent of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau in the 1970’s, organizations now subscribe to a service that provides the same homogenized reports on all players eligible for the amateur draft each June. Because of this, a scout’s true talent can be measured by his free agent signings of players who slipped through the cracks of the Major League Draft.
Enos was noted for finding such unsigned and undrafted talent who had been overlooked. The most notable overlooked player that Enos found and convinced the Red Sox to sign was Rich Gedman. As a pitcher and first baseman in high school, Gedman was overlooked in the June 1977 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
According to Gedman, “I was undrafted out of high school and was playing American Legion ball that summer. There was scuttlebutt that there were scouts from the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox at the games watching me, but they could not legally talk to me until the season was over. The morning after the season ended, Bill Enos was at my parent’s home at 8 a.m. and did not leave until after it was dark. I was a pitcher and first baseman in high school and Bill wanted to see me catch. He looked at my body shape and saw something that no one else saw. He explained the catching position and the attributes I had that gave me the most potential. He recommended that I try catching as my fastest way to the big leagues. Nobody else was going to draft me, as 660 others got picked ahead of me in the draft.”
Gedman concurred with the concept and the Red Sox signed him to a minor league contract as a free agent. He was then sent to their instructional league to learn the catching position. Just two seasons later, he made it to the big leagues as the Red Sox catcher, a position he would hold for the next 11 seasons. Career highlights included leading the Red Sox to the World Series as their everyday catcher in 1986 and being the battery mate of Roger Clemons when he struck out a Major League single game record 20 batters in a nine-inning game. Gedman recorded 20 putouts during the game, setting the American League record for putouts by a catcher. He also recorded 16 more put outs the following game, establishing a new two-day record of 36 by a catcher.
Gedman fondly recalls the role of Enos on his career by stating “Bill Enos gave me an opportunity. If it were not for his eye, I would not have had the chance. He could see something that nobody else could. He saw something in me that I did not even see in myself. Nothing I say will do the man justice. I will always be appreciative of him for giving me a chance.”
Gedman enjoyed a 13-year career with the Red Sox, Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. He was chosen to the American League All-Star team in 1985 and 1986, and has been nominated for induction into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, set for 2021.
In 1982, Enos was named as the very first Major League Baseball liaison to the Cape Code League. It was a paid position, and he was responsible for helping improve the league. He wrote up reports on each organization and facility, and ensured everything that the scouts needed to effectively analyze prospects was furnished. Over 10 summers, he helped turn the league into the premier prospect showcase program for players to get drafted. When the summer season ended, he would then turn back to following fall college programs.
Winters saw him making appearances on the banquet circuit. This included speaking engagements at Little League, American Legion and semi-professional events. Not only did this allow him to receive extra compensation, it also helped him become known to future-prospects who he may one day need an edge with in order to sign. Upon joining the Red Sox organization in 1974, he also spent spring training in Arizona each year scouting Major League players of opposing teams in the Cactus League, to provide input on players for potential trades.
Enos retired as a full time scout in 1992. To honor him for his service, the Red Sox presented him the keys to a brand new Mercury Grand Marquis before a regular season game at Fenway Park. He stayed on with the team as a consultant, officially retiring from baseball in 2001 after 28 seasons with his favorite team since childhood.
Enos was recognized by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America when they presented him with the “Good Scout Award” in 1977. The group honored him again in 2001 when they presented him with the “Distinguished Service Award.” In 2001 he was inducted into the Inaugural Class of the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame. Having played just a few weeks in the prestigious league in 1937, he was inducted in honor of his role as the Major League Baseball liaison to the league and having helped turn it into the top amateur league in the country. Also inducted with Enos were former Cape Cod League players and Major League legends Thurman Munson, Frank Thomas, Maurice “Mo” Vaughn, Jeff Reardon and Mike Flanagan.
According to Dan Duquette, Boston Red Sox General Manager from 1994 to 2002, “Bill Enos was one of the great guys in baseball. When I started in professional baseball, I would read the scouting reports that he did on the New England guys and file them. I tracked the names I knew, and Enos was always right on about the players. From this, I learned how to scout. When I joined the Boston Red Sox in 1994, I had two objectives. The first was to sign Nomar Garciaparra and the second was to draft New England players to better appeal to our fan base. And because of his in-depth love and knowledge of the New England territory and its amateur talent pool, Enos was our secret weapon! During his induction into the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame, I got to tell the story about how I met him. I was at a Cape Cod League game and inadvertently sat in front of Enos and blocked his view. When I asked him if I should move, he replied ‘no need to move, I will just go by the sound of the ball on the bat and buy a paper in the morning…I’ve been scouting this game for a long time.’ It was like the scene from the Clint Eastwood movie ‘Trouble with the Curve’ in which a long-time scout (played by Eastwood) determined that a highly regarded prospect had a flaw in his swing based on the sound of the ball off the bat.”
Duquette goes on to give Enos credit for having a part in helping set up the Red Sox 2004 World Series Championship. He states, “in 1994, Enos was the high scout who most accurately accessed the talent of Red Sox draft pick Carl Pavano. Pavano was traded to the Montreal Expos in 1997 in exchange for pitcher Pedro Martinez. Martinez would prove to be a key factor in the Red Sox winning the World Championship in 2004. Bill was a terrific ambassador for baseball. He had the game in his blood and made a living doing what he loved.”
In retirement, Enos lived in his childhood home in Cohasset Massachusetts with his wife Grace, and he watched every single Red Sox game on television. In 2000, he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona to be near his daughters.
The Boston Red Sox honored him once again when they brought him back to Boston as their guest for Games 1 and 2 at both the 2004 and 2007 World Series.
According to his daughter Anne, “my Dad was thrilled to be invited back for the World Series games. I got to go as his guest and for the 2007 series we sat in General Manager Theo Epstein’s box with him. Seated in the box next to us was Commissioner Bud Selig, and it was fun to watch all of the notable celebrities that were in and out of both boxes during the game.”
Enos passed away in 2014 at the age of 94. Since the time he was a young boy, he always dreamed of one day playing professional baseball. Not only did he reach that goal, but he would live that dream for 78 years as a player, manager, scout and consultant. He was able to make a living doing what he loved, while also helping fulfill that same dream of playing professionally for dozens of other young men.
In honor of his 1939 season as a Gloversville Glover and his prestigious career in professional baseball, Enos has been nominated for induction into the Fulton County Baseball and Sports Hall of Fame. The date and location of the ceremony will be announced.
A special ‘thank you’ to Anne Enos, Rich Gedman and Dan Duquette for their research assistance and input in writing this story.
Mike Hauser is the founder of the Fulton County Baseball & Sports Hall of Fame in Gloversville. If you have story ideas, old articles/photos or would like to nominate someone for the HOF, he can be reached through the organizations website at www.fchof.com, email; firstname.lastname@example.org or call (518) 725-5565. If you enjoyed this story and want to learn more about other sports history topics, look for Hauser’s “Hometown Sports Heroes” series on www.amazon.com and search; ‘Mike Hauser Hometown Sports Heroes.’