Book Review: The Game According to Syd Thrift

Syd Thrift


Syd Thrift, the former GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles is considered an “old school” baseball scout and executive. Instead of relying upon various statistical analysis of minor and major league players, Syd instead relies on measurement such as speed, throwing strength, and general athletic ability. The Game According to Syd showcases this and many other theories on how a baseball organization should be run.


Syd Thrift formely played in the New York Yankees minor league system, but he never caught on in any great capacity. He later became a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates and his first major postion of was that of director of the Kansas City Royals baseball academy. This is the first major baseball subject that Syd covers in his book (after a quick bio). The Royals Baseball Academy was created in 1970.



“The short-term goal of the Academy was to increase the supply of talent to the Royals’ organization by finding unsigned athelets – even those who hadn’t played baseball before – and molding them into successful ballplayers through extensive training and instruction.”


To even be considered for the Academy a player would have to run the 60 yard dash in a time of 7.1 seconds or less. The next hundred pages or so discuss what was taught at the Academy and what Syd believes should be taught in every baseball organization. From hitting, to frequent base stealing, to pitching four seam pitches instead of two, etc. Some of the books contents go into the actual movements that a player should make, the placement of his feet etc. This is all fine and good but it can be difficult to pick up on without any pictures.


Thrift moves onto his days as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, discussing his hiring of Jim Leyland, his emphasis upon minor league development and the reasoning behind a number of his major trades. The book takes a quick turn in Chapter Six, entitled “Training the Brain”. Touched upon in this chapter is vision correction, color coordinating clubhouses, uniforms and even the underside of caps (Yep), visualization, hand-eye techniques and video training. The less said about this chapter the better. Moving on Syd looks briefly upon his time with the New York Yankees. Thrift then spends the last few chapters discussing his thoughts on how a General Manager should run his ball club, from hiring front office staff, reporting with minor league managers and taking a hand’s on approach with your team.


Syd is rather arrogant, but he raises some interesting points. I certainly don’t agree with many of his theories on the game and the ridiculous sixth chapter. However the book does give the reader great insight into the mind of an “old school” scout and serves as a great contrast to the moneyball theories of toady. On the whole I would recommend the book, and it can be had for a mere penny plus shipping at Amazon.


Update: A day after successful knee surgery at Milford Memorial Hospital in Milford, Syd Thrift, 77 passed away. The cause of death is currently unknown. The mop up duty team sends out our condolences.



Syd Thrift: The Game According to Syd 


Syd Thrift

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