Walter Youse used to say that "publicity is the backbone of amateur baseball," but to many, Walter Youse was the backbone of amateur baseball for more than 60 years in Baltimore.
Youse, longtime baseball scout and amateur coach of the nationally known Leone's, Johnny's and Corrigan's teams that produced scores of major-leaguers, including Hall of Famers Al Kaline and Reggie Jackson, died of congestive heart failure at St. Agnes Hospital early yesterday morning. He was 88.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Youse "was like the Babe Ruth of amateur baseball," said Bobby Ullman, a former Youse assistant coach. George Henderson, the coach at CCBC-Essex who has known Youse for nearly 60 years, called him "a baseball legend and Baltimore icon."
Youse's run of success as coach of 20-and-under summer teams starting with Leone's in 1956 and ending with the Maryland Orioles in 2001 is unmatched. He was the winningest amateur baseball coach in Maryland history.
"Walter was a tough, old geezer on the field, and you had to do it his way," said Jim Foit, who coached and scouted with Youse for more than 20 years with Leone's and Johnny's.
Youse-run teams won 46 consecutive Baltimore City titles, a record 20 All-American Amateur Baseball Association national titles in Johnstown, Pa., and a World Port title in the Netherlands in 1991. Overall, Youse's teams won more than 3,000 games and lost fewer than 500.
"Walter will be remembered as somebody who raised the bar for everybody else and made everybody get better," said Bill "Lefty" Corrigan, who pitched for Youse in 1955 before signing with the Kansas City Athletics and sponsored Youse's team for six years after Johnny Wilbanks' Used Cars dropped its sponsorship in 1990.
"Walter taught those around him to be mentally tough and how to handle adversity on and off the field."
Hundreds of Youse-tutored players from Maryland and outside the state have gone on to college ball, the minors and/or the majors. Jackson, then enrolled at Arizona State, was the first black player to play for Youse, coming down from Philadelphia to live in Baltimore and play for Leone's in 1965.
"Walter was capable of managing in the majors, but he was dedicated to the amateur players and helping them to play in college or professionally," said Norm Gilden, who spent more than 20 years as a Youse assistant, including on the 1991 team that won overseas against several Olympic squads.
Bernie Walter, the winningest coach in Maryland public high school history, played shortstop for Leone's in the 1960s and at the University of Maryland.
"Walter was the guru of amateur baseball in Baltimore, without a doubt," Walter said. "While he was a fierce competitor, Walter was always fun to play for and coach with. It's a devastating loss. He was truly a friend of his players."
In poor health the past few years, Youse was suffering from kidney failure and was on dialysis at St. Agnes. He was confined to a wheelchair in recent years but was able to drive himself around.
Youse still coached his summer team, and he continued last year after the death of his wife, Dorothy, in May 2000.
"Walter was out there nearly every day last summer and just a couple days ago was telling me how sorry he was that he might only be able to get out to the ballpark two days a week this summer," said Baltimore Orioles scout Dean Albany. "It really bothered him that he couldn't get out to watch high school and college games this spring."
Youse coached his first amateur team, Bloomingdale, in 1941 after playing at City College and with several sandlot clubs, including B&O; Railroad American Legion. He then spent time in the Navy during World War II.
After being discharged in 1946, Youse managed minor-league teams at Seaford, Del., and Welch of the Appalachian League in the Philadelphia Athletics system. He also managed an Orioles affiliate in Bluefield, W.Va., before briefly leaving pro baseball.
Working in the restaurant business for nearly five years, Youse also coached Westport American Legion Post 23 and Wildwood, and took over at Calvert Hall in 1953, winning three Maryland Scholastic Association titles before resigning in 1959 to become a full-time scout with the Orioles.
Youse became an Orioles scouting supervisor in the East and Mid-Atlantic area, and he later held the same position with the California Angels and Milwaukee Brewers.
Youse is survived by his daughter, Darlene Paul.
Visitation at Witzke Funeral Home on Edmondson Avenue in Catonsville will be held tomorrow and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Loudon Park Cemetery.