NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — Call it the ultimate hometown-boy-makes-good story.
John Schuerholz used to daydream at Baltimore’s City College High School, looking out the window, across the street, and thinking maybe one day he could play baseball at Memorial Stadium.
It didn’t happen. Schuerholz went to Towson University, was a standout baseball and soccer player and became a teacher. But the baseball itch was still there. So, while teaching junior high English and world geography at North Point Junior High in Dundalk, Schuerholz penned a letter to Orioles’ chairman Jerold Hoffberger expressing his interest in working for the Orioles.
Hoffberger forwarded the letter to team president Frank Cashen, and, ultimately, Schuerholz was brought on as the special assistant to Orioles’ player development director Lou Gorman.
Now, roughly 50 years after penning that letter, Schuerholz sat at a dais in the Gaylord National hotel near Washington DC, along with former commissioner Bud Selig, as the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Schuerholz, the longtime top executive with the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves, will be inducted into the Hall in July. And it all started with that shot in the dark with the Orioles.
“I have Oriole blood in me,” Schuerholz said Monday. “I had my first job with the Orioles, so Baltimore Oriole blood runs somewhere in my veins, as does Kansas City Royal and does Atlanta Braves.”
When Schuerholz, now 76, joined the Orioles in 1966, he didn’t realize he was hooking up with a team that would become a juggernaut.
“I learned a lot. I learned the fundamentals from Frank Cashen and Harry Dalton and Lou Gorman, three great baseball executives,” said Schuerholz, who spent two years with the Orioles before leaving with Gorman to build the expansion Royals. “I cut my teeth with those guys running one of the great organizations — probably the best organization in the game at that time — as it relates to scouting and player development. And that’s what Lou Gorman and I then took to Kansas City with us for an expansion franchise out there. Set the foundation in place as a result of many of those good principles that we learned with the Orioles.”
Schuerholz said he wouldn’t be surprised if he hears from some of his former students whom he tutored way back when in Dundalk.
“I think they should be able to write well. I taught composition and grammar and world geography,” he said. “So, they may be stunned, some of them, that I’m now in the Hall of Fame. But I think they enjoyed their days in my classroom.”
He loved his time with the Orioles – especially being a kid who grew up cheering for the orange-and-black.
“What was it like for me? It was a dream. I grew up, I went to high school right across the street (from Memorial Stadium) at Baltimore City College High School and I looked out the window too often, I think,” he said. “And dreaming about someday maybe playing in that stadium. And to have a chance to go to work with your hometown team and to have Frank Cashen, Harry Dalton and Lou Gorman form you as a young executive, you couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
So, would the letter out of nowhere work today for a 20-something hoping to break into the baseball industry?
Maybe, Schuerholz says.
“I wrote about that in my book, which I wrote in 2006 called, “Built to Win.” And I’ve received hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people starting off (their letters) with, ‘Well you did it by writing a letter, so I’m writing you a letter, cold turkey, and hoping that you’ll give me the same opportunity you received,’” Schuerholz said. “Well, it’s a different (world). It’s more technical, it’s more advanced, it’s more strategic. It’s just different and I keep reminding kids, keep getting the most education you can, undergrad, graduate school, get yourself prepared as much as you can intellectually. And then try your way with baseball.”