Scott's colorful contributions worth remembering
To fully appreciate the legacy of George Scott, who died on Sunday in his native Greenville, Miss., consider this: Despite 14 Major League seasons as a prolific first baseman with a glove and bat, he isn't in the Hall of Fame. Not only that, Ryan Howard, Mark Teixeira and Prince Fielder are future George Scotts. In other words, they are among the slew of active players who won't reach Cooperstown, either.
This isn't to downgrade Scott or the others, but this is to illustrate a theme throughout Major League history about players of their kind. Just because you lack a bronzed plaque associated with the undisputed icons of the game, it doesn't mean you didn't spend long stretches of your career scaring the stirrups off opponents.
Ted Kluszewski was one of those guys. Others in this rather large fraternity include Dick Allen, Dale Murphy, George Foster and Steve Garvey. Simply put, these are players whose greatness came in chunks over years instead of decades.
Which brings us back to Scott, known as "Boomer" because he caused more than a few pitchers to suffer from insomnia courtesy of the booming sound of balls off his bat. I mean, who could sleep knowing this massive player of 6-foot-11 and 297 pounds (OK, he really was 6-2 and 210 pounds, but he seemed bigger) with a bat the size of your average oak tree (it actually was normal size) was approaching within days on the schedule?
Scott wasn't just large, he was charismatic, too. I watched him up close and personal during his five years with the Brewers, through 1976, when my family lived in Milwaukee. That stretch was part of his "chunk" of greatness. As a result, he was as popular back then among Cheeseheads as anything involving the Packers and the stuff of the local breweries. Before and after Scott's time in Wisconsin, he starred in spurts for the Red Sox, but he eventually retired after spending the end of the 1979 season with the Royals and the Yankees.
Now Scott is gone at 69, and his final years in baseball were an afterthought since he hadn't played in a Major League game in 34 years. He also lacked the credentials of serving as an executive, a manager, a coach or a broadcaster. So you can imagine many among the present generation of baseball fans squinting after hearing about the passing of this former player not named, say, Willie Stargell and proclaiming, "George Scott, who?"
George Scott. George Scott. Isn't he actor who played General Patton in that movie?
No, this is the George Scott who hit and fielded much better than the other one -- and who likely was more colorful. I'm guessing the actor never wore a necklace that he claimed was made from the teeth of second basemen. This George Scott also donned clothes during the 1970s that were even louder than what that decade typically mandated. Plus, while his teammates in the infield wore caps on defense, Scott preferred a batting helmet, partly because a fan once, during a road game, threw something in his direction, but mostly because it was as different as the man himself.
If that wasn't enough, this George Scott had names for most of his baseball stuff. For instance, he called his glove "Black Beauty." He used that glove to help him ignore his considerable weight and collect eight Gold Glove awards. Then there was Scott's power hitting. Only the likes of Reggie Jackson and Tony Perez rivaled Scott in the clutch during his "chunk" with the Red Sox and the Brewers. He called his more prestigious blasts "taters."
Plus, there was nothing like a Scott television interview. You never knew what he would say, but you knew it would be different -- always wrapped around his thick and distinctive drawl, always straight to the point and always leaving you with a smile or a "Huh?"
Once, after slamming a game-winning homer for the Brewers, a Milwaukee TV reporter asked Scott about his moment, and he replied, "Only thing I care about is God and me. Thank you."
End of interview.
He didn't mean any harm.
That was just George Scott. And for the longest time, he was all the Brewers had. Literally. Well, that, along with the Beer Barrel Polka, brats with that "secret" sauce and Bob Uecker.
In 1975, for instance, the Brewers lost 94 games, but Uecker was hilarious, and Scott tied Jackson for the American League lead in homers with 36. He finished atop of the league in RBIs with 109. He also spent that summer giving me one of my biggest thrills. I had finished my freshman year at Miami (Ohio) University, and I was playing for a summer-league baseball team around Milwaukee after not making the Miami team as a walk-on. So there I was, practicing at a local batting cage by hitting shots here and there, and then I heard this deep voice of praise behind me.
I was appreciative, but I didn't look around. Had to concentrate on the steady stream of balls coming from the pitching machine.
"Oooh, weeee. Nice shot."
"Hit it to left."
"Now pull it down the line."
When my several tokens worth of pitches were finished, I finally looked around, and it was Boomer.
"What team do you play for?" Scott said, with wide eyes.
After I told him I didn't make the Miami squad -- which featured future Major League pitcher Charlie Leibrandt and All-Star second baseman Bill Doran -- Scott shook his head. Then he said, "Listen. Give me the address, and I'll write that man a letter. You want me to go down there and tell him you should be on the team?"
Just like that, George Scott was in my Hall of Fame.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.