Krause reflects on a life of scouting

(E. Jason Wambsgans/Tribune Photo)

WILMINGTON, Del. — Jerry Krause enters a hotel lobby loaded down by two suitcases, an Arizona Diamondbacks-issued laptop and that look defining any haggard business traveler.

In three hours, he will sit through his second doubleheader in as many nights, the first taking place a plane ride away in Kannapolis, N.C. Dinner will be at a chain restaurant in a strip mall at an hour not conducive to optimal digestion. His upcoming itinerary features the rarely seen Los Angeles-to-Huntsville, Ala., trip — with a connecting flight to boot.

"Who could be luckier than I've been?" Krause says without a hint of sarcasm.

Krause turned 73 in April. Nine years have passed since the general manager for all six Bulls title teams left the franchise under the softening caveat of health reasons. He has scouted for the Yankees, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks since, running his resume total to eight baseball and four basketball teams.

Fifty-one years after leaving Bradley University to take a $65-per-week job as a glorified gofer for the Cubs, Krause's excitement for scouting remains — on most days — as bright as the yellow polo shirt he is wearing atop blue chinos.

"What the hell else would I do?" Krause says. "If I didn't work, I'd probably go goofy."

Krause has kept a low profile since his successful and polarizing Bulls run ended. He has stayed mostly silent as he gets alternately vilified or praised. But he accepted the Tribune's request to revisit his Chicago roots, to be watched plying his trade, to tell his story.

This platform is his. It's a one-subject story.

But Krause, as a special assistant in the Diamondbacks scouting department, has ceded the need to be in charge. He is, almost poetically, one of those behind-the-scenes cogs he tried to compliment as Bulls GM when he offered his theory that organizations win championships, infuriating Michael Jordan.

Never mind that history has backed Krause, who never will win a public relations battle with Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson and any he annoyed during the championship days. Forget, too, that the man who has a banner hanging in the United Center rafters has yet to take his two grandchildren to see it.

On this night, Krause is doing what he believes he was put on this earth to do.

"I don't enjoy the travel anymore; it's hard," he says. "But once I get in my ballpark seat, that's where I belong."

Rooted in hard work

Jerry Krause is, for the first time, talking about his health scare at birth.

A large cystic hygroma, a fluid-filled cyst on the back of his head and neck, affected his breathing and risked infection until doctors removed it. His parents, Paul and Gertrude, weren't as fortunate with their next two attempts at offspring. One boy was stillborn; the other died days after birth.

"My parents never talked about it," Krause says. "They were tough, people of the Depression."

His parents opened and ran a deli on Lawrence Avenue until Krause was in fourth grade. On Sundays, his dad would take him to since-closed Schultz's Tavern, buy him a Coke and together they'd watch Sid Luckman quarterback the Bears.

His parents eventually changed the address to Edison Park and the business to shoe sales, opening Krause's Bootery on Northwest Highway, where it sat for about 30 years.

"They didn't know anything about either business," Krause says. "They said, 'We'll treat people good, and we'll be fine.' I got my work ethic from them."