Syd Thrift passed away Monday night, hours after completing knee replacement surgery. The exact cause of death is unknown, pending an autopsy.
Syd Thrift is best known in Baltimore as the General Manager of the hapless Orioles squads from December, 1999 until the end of the 2002 season. Before rising to the highest rung, Thrift had served as the Director of Player Development since 1995. Though he may always be associated with an unsuccessful period in Orioles history, Thrift has had a long and accomplished career in Major League Baseball.
Thrift began his nearly fifty year career with the Yankees organization in 1949. He continued working as a part-time scout, while also working as a school teacher, until 1956. The following year, Thrift was hired as the Director of Scouting for the Pirates organization and he held that position through the next decade. By 1967, Thrift moved on to the Kansas City Royals, where he served as their Scouting Director and, later, as the Director of the Royals Baseball Academy. The Academy has proven to be among Thift's most lasting contributions; having graduated 14 major league players. In 1976, he was hired as the Director of Minor League Operations by the Oakland Athletics.
After a nine year hiatus working in real estate, Thrift returned to baseball as the General Manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986-1988; where he traded for Bobby Bonilla, among others. After spending 1992 through 1994 as an Assistant General Manager for the Chicago Cubs, Thrift finally made his way to Charm City.
Syd Thrift may be best known in these parts as being partly responsible for the current nine year drought in winning seasons, but he was able to bring back some talent in trades as well. Take, for instance, the trade of Mike Bordick to the Mets for Melvin Mora. At the time, Mora was seen as nothing more than a utility player. The Orioles were even able to re-sign Bordick the following season. And let us not forget the lopsided deal that brought B.J. Ryan to Baltimore for Juan Guzman, who would throw less than 80 more innings in the major leagues.
Thrift was replaced as General Manager after the 2002 season by the team of Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie. He served as a consultant for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays until 2004 and then retired to his home in Kilmarnock, Virginia. He was most recently hosting a syndicated weekly radio show in the area.
Syd Thrift is survived by his wife, two sons, and five grandchildren. He was 77 years old.