When spring arrives and baseball begins, it's a time of hope and optimism for many fans. But for Bill Littlefield, it's also a time to look back on players who have come and gone, including former big league slugger George Scott.
Timing is everything, at least with a lot of things, and one of those things is hitting a baseball, which, for a time, George Scott did as well as anybody, or better.
George Scott was born in Mississippi. He played his minor league ball long enough ago so that according to one story, some of his white teammates thought it was funny to break into his bedroom late one night dressed in sheets.
In 1975 he hit a league-leading 36 homers, which he called “taters.” He was with the Brewers then. Before and after that he played for the Red Sox, where one of his managers is said to have called him “cementhead.”
Timing is everything, at least with a lot of things, and one of those things is hitting a baseball, which, for a time, George Scott did as well as anybody, or better.Bill Littlefield
In his final year in the majors, three teams took turns discovering he had nothing left, and then he was out of baseball. I once read that George Scott’s ambition was to earn $100,000 a season, and he certainly did that, so perhaps he was happy on the day he signed that contract.
By the time I met him, I suppose the money was gone. He was fronting a couple of weeks of baseball camp at a college near Boston, but somebody had neglected to check when school got out, and during the first week there were no campers. We had lunch in the cafeteria. He said the ice cream sandwiches were good.
For lack of campers to involve, I asked Scott if he’d give me some batting tips. He shrugged. I picked up a bat and swung it a couple of times on the lawn outside the cafeteria.
He said something like, “Some people you can’t teach it to.” He was smiling when he said it.
This might have been more disappointing if I hadn’t wanted a story more than I wanted batting tips. Still it would have been fun to have a former major leaguer admire my swing.
I don’t think the George Scott Baseball Camp ever got traction. Scott did manage in Mexico and in the low minors for a while. An ESPN story written after he died in the middle of the summer of 2013 had it that he was suffering from diabetes and weighed 400 pounds, and that he was bitter that he’d never been offered a coaching or managing job with any of the teams for which he’d played.
The beginning of the baseball season always calls to mind other baseball seasons, and sometimes I think about the bag of wooden bats in my basement, and what fun hitting was. Why that should have led to memories of George Scott’s amusement at my swing I don’t know, except that he’d said hitting was fun for him, too.