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George Scott, late of the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, and at the end of his career, the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees, died on Sunday at the age of 69.
In an excellent appreciation of Scott for the website Sports On Earth, Leigh Montville calls him "the Red Sox first certified African-American star."
That he was. That the Red Sox didn't have a "certified African-American star" until Scott's rookie season, 1966, 19 years after Jackie Robinson began starring for the Dodgers and 15 years after the Giants had signed Willie Mays, says a good deal about the Red Sox of those days.
So does the fact that when Boston's manager, Dick Williams, referred to Scott as "cement head," everybody within earshot had a hearty laugh.
For most of his 14 years in the big leagues, George Scott played first base about as well as the position could be played. He won eight Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams.
He was less consistent as a hitter. He struck out a lot. He popped up a lot. He hit into a lot of double plays. But when he caught one right, it went about 11 miles. Such occasions were by no means rare. As a member of the Brewers, he tied for the American League lead in home runs with 36 in 1975, and in total he banged 271 of what he called "taters."
Since he died there have been stories about how Scott might have been a more productive player had he worked harder at staying in shape. Several of those stories have featured baked goods. There have been stories about how he mismanaged his money. Some of those stories have mentioned that he sold a couple of those gold gloves. But I prefer to remember George Scott as a fine and entertaining ballplayer whose joy in the game was apparent. His teammates and his fans found it contagious. And regarding what a straightforward fellow he could be when the occasion called for it, I like the story I heard on Tuesday from a long-time Red Sox fan who attended one of the team's fantasy camps some years after she perhaps should have known better. In an email, the fan recounted the tale of her session in the cage with George Scott, batting coach.
"I asked him how I could improve my chances of hitting the ball by working on my timing," this fan told me.
Scott's reply must have come dangerously close to removing the "fantasy" from the fantasy camp.
"Lady," he told the eager camper, "when you ain't never played baseball 'til you're 57 years old, you ain't never gonna get any better."
This program aired on July 30, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
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