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George Scott

September 28, 2007
  

George Scott’s name has come up a lot this year in Boston during celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Red Sox, but for me he will always be the free-swinging, tater-blasting centerpiece of a team that fell just short of the pennant ten years after the “Impossible Dream.” Today on Cardboard Gods, guest writer Jon Daly celebrates that incomparably entertaining 1977 Red Sox team. Daly, known here and on The Baseball Think Factory as Ennui Willie Keeler, has published biographies at the Society for American Baseball Research’s Baseball Biography Project on Tacks Latimer and Jim Willoughby.

Seventy Times Seven

By Jon Daly

1977 was a watershed year of baseball for me. It was the first time I played in an organized league. I was on the Vikings in the Farm League in Ellington, Connecticut. Farm League was for nine year olds and ten to twelve year olds who weren’t playing in Little League. We went 10-0, no thanks to me. I got two hits all year both in the first game. One was a well-stroked liner that I pulled to right field. I rounded first and took second. The throw was way offline, so I was able to wind up on third. Later that night, I hit a popup that died in no man’s land somewhere in short center. The rest of the year, like a lot of kids. I was the master of two true outcomes. I either walked or struck out. I played leftfield mainly, but hitting was more fun for me, even with my limited success.

Like the Minnesota Vikings, we had parties, but they didn’t involve pillaging on a boat (a rather apropos celebration for a band of vikings, no?). We’d go to Moser’s Dairy farm for ice cream or some pizza joint across the street from there. I remember one teammate playing KC and the Sunshine band on the jukebox and another playing Ricki Lee Jones’s “Chuck E.’s In Love.” It was a good time with a good set of fathers coaching us. They were better than my next coach on the Cardinals, a chain-smoking Walter Matthau wannabe who taught me more four-letter words than I would’ve learned on a tour of duty with the Seventh Fleet.

But I’m not here to talk about the Ellington Farm League. I’m here to talk about one of the more underrated pennant races in my living memory. The 1977 AL race that year may have been just as good as the one in ’78, if not better. Now, I could crunch some numbers, but that really isn’t my forte. I’d probably come across as a third-rate Bill James in a bus station. As it is, this may be weak Simmonsesque drivel, but it’s a lot easier to write. Japanese baseball guru Jim Albright came up with a formula to rate baseball pennant races. It takes into consideration the records of the contenders and how far apart they are at the end of the season. The AL East that year had three contenders that finished over .600. And the race lasted until the last Saturday as the Red Sox and Orioles finished each other off and the Yankees won the crown.

It was the first real year of the Free Agent Era. The Yankees signed Reggie Jackson and Don Gullet in the offseason. The Red Sox countered by signing reliever Bill “Soup” Campbell, a Vietnam vet that the Minnesota Twins found a few years back in some factory league. As a kid, this blew my mind. I was still under the impression that the world was pretty much a steady-state world. North central Connecticut is pretty much equidistant between New York and Boston, so we got to hear a lot about the Red Sox and Yankees, and read about them in the Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer. There was a smattering of news about the Mets, but their Big Story that year was off the field when they traded Tom Seaver to the Reds. They were barely on my radar screen (and wouldn’t be until a few years later when I started hanging out with The Wig and Admiral Will). I grew up in a Red Sox family in a Yankees neighborhood. It was like Alsace-Lorraine in a sense.

Reggie. I was sick of the other kids in the neighborhood like Skeeter talking about him all the time. I dunno, maybe my perceptions were colored by the media, but he was probably the first or second player that I didn’t like. The other one who vied for that honor was Graig Nettles, thanks to a fight against the Red Sox in ’76. The one where Bill Lee separated his shoulder. I didn’t care for the rest of the Yankees (except Lou Piniella for some reason) but I really didn’t like Jackson or Nettles.

That Red Sox team was sometimes called the Crunch Bunch. They hit a ton of home runs for a team from the 1970s. Now this has nothing to do with nothing, but that ’77 O’s team was the one that Eddie Murray and Brooks Robinson played together on. That’s 42 years of baseball history right there. The teams were ably skippered by their three managers. Don Zimmer was having a good year, and I think he’s underrated. One of these days I’ll get into more detail about this (he had Mario Mendoza as his starting shortstop one year and the Rangers still had a winning record!). Billy Martin managed to stay gainfully employed the whole year. Son of Sam didn’t get to him. Neither did the looters during the great blackout that year. And Earl Weaver, well, he may be the best manger I remember (although La Russa and Howser may have overtaken him by now. But neither of them had a perm like Earl’s).

What is Daly doddering about? I’m doddering about this game. It was the last Saturday of the season and the Orioles (eliminated by the Red Sox the day before) paid the Red Sox back and eliminated them. I still remember that ninth inning. I was in my grandparents’ living room watching it. The Sox were down three and Bernie Carbo hit a clutch two run homer, plating Fred Lynn. I think that there was a Marlboro billboard in Fenway near where the ball went. There was still hope for a few minutes, until the game ended on a Jim Rice fly ball to center. I cried. I really expected the Red Sox to come back and win the game and make the playoffs somehow that year. But it wasn’t meant to be. I’m pretty sure that was the last time that I cried tears of sorrow over a sporting event. After that, 1978 wasn’t as disappointing. I was numb by 1986. They were supposed to finish the season on Sunday, but it rained. It was just as well.

16 comments

  1. 1.  I was an 8-year old Yankee fan in Windsor, Connecticut in 1977 reading the Courant every morning. I really didn’t like any Red Sox player except George Scott. For some reason I remember Ken Harrelson talking about George Scott eating salads on channel 38. I was reminded of George Scott all the time when David Ortiz first started playing for the Red Sox, thinking “Man, the Red Sox always have big giant first baseman” — my data points being two memorable players more than 20 years apart. I had forgotten George Scott finished his career with the Yankees but looking back at his Baseball-Reference page I remember being excited to have George Scott on the Yankees.

    Q: Did George Scott wear a baseball helmet in the field like John Olerud or am I imagining things?


  2. 2.  Great stuff, Jon. For whatever reason, probably that very baseball card above, I had a thing for George Scott too, and very much hated the 77 Yankees.


  3. 3.  0 : “Don Zimmer was having a good year, and I think he’s underrated.”

    These opinions are the view of the author and do not (at least in this case) represent the views of the Cardboard Gods weblog, the foundation of which is based, at least in part, on the unshakable hatred of Don Zimmer.

    1 : “Q: Did George Scott wear a baseball helmet in the field like John Olerud or am I imagining things?”

    I think he did, at least in latter years. Maybe he wore the one that Bob Montgomery wasn’t using. (Note: As I understand it, Monty was the Craig MacTavish of baseball, i.e., the last grandfathered-in player not required to wear the helmet up to bat.)

    2 : That George Scott card is from 1979, and he seems to be staring into the end-of-career void. There’s an excellent earlier card of him on the Brewers wearing what looks to be a sharkstooth necklace or something (Bruce Markusen diplayed the card in his profile of the Boomer here: http://tinyurl.com/2bxd34)


  4. 4.  Thanks, guys. This piece is basically an exercise that I did a couple of years ago. I read some Lester Bangs and wanted to capture that stream-of-consciousness vibe.

    Years beforehand, I had read parts of Fever Pitch (I’m never good at finishing books) and thought of doing something similar about the Red Sox. While I was procrastinating, they went out and finally won another World Series, that stupid movie came out (I never saw it, but I’m going by its reputation), and everybody and their brother has written a Red Sox book. But this little piece is what a chapter or a subchapter of that book would’ve been like. I was pleased with it, showed it to a couple of websites, but nothing came of it.

    Then I started reading CG and sensed that this would be a good home for it. I emailed Josh, he was game, and there you are.

    As an aside, I saw another member of the ’77 Sox last nite. Bill Lee was at the Enfield Public Library in Enfield, CT. He was supposed to talk about baseball eccentrics, but he basically did an 80 minute Q&A;about baseball and stuff. He wore an orange t-shirt with the Monopoly Community Club Card “Go Directly To Jail” with OJ’s face on it. Said his wife bought it for him because he and the Juice were classmates. Also said that he thought the whole thing in Vegas is some sort of elaborate publicity stunt. I can’t tell if he was serious about that.

    I reccomend seeing the Spaceman speak if you ever get a chance.


  5. 5.  Sadly they don’t make em like the spaceman anymore. One of my all time favorites.


  6. 6.  joejoejoe can add Mo Vaughn to the list of giant Red Sox first basemen.


  7. 7.  4 : I’m reading Bill Lee’s “Baseball Eccentrics” book right now. I wish I was there to see him ramble.

    6 : …and personal favorite Carlos Quintana. Plus Sam Horn.


  8. 8.  “I read some Lester Bangs and wanted to capture that stream-of-consciousness vibe.”

    I can’t stand that type of quick-take mind drizzling writing…:)

    LET IT BLURT!


  9. 9.  6 Aha! Now I don’t feel so crazy for thinking the Red Sox always have giant first basemen. I predict Prince Fielder will be in Boston before the end of his career.


  10. 10.  For the record, George Scott may have been similar in size to Mo Vaughn and David Ortiz but unlike those two Scott was a GREAT fielder. From a Boston.com bio, where Scott was voted the most beloved Red Sox 1B:

    “A three time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner, and fan favorite of the ’67 team, Boomer was a big presence in Boston both on and off the field. Scott was sent to the Brewers in a nine-player deal in ’71, but returned to the team for a second stint in ’77, hitting 33 homers and driving in 95 for Boston. He hit .268 and belted 271 homers and had 1,051 RBIs over his 14-year career.”

    http://tinyurl.com/2gzga3


  11. 11.  George Scott also gave a tremendous performance as “Patton”.

    Seriously, I met George “Boomer” Scott 3 years ago at Atlanta baseball card show and he weighed close to 500 pounds. He told some great stories about the game though I can’t remember any. Nice fella


  12. 12.  3 Yup, Scott did wear his helmet in the field, at least during his second stint with the Sox. You’re right about Monty, too, except that he did have some sort of plastic insert that he wore inside his cap, sort of the equivalent to a cup for his head. Not much, but a little bit more than just the cap.


  13. 13.  It’s funny. I was reading “It’s What you Learn After you know It All That Counts” by Earl Weaver today. It rained on Sunday, October 2nd in ’77, but they didn’t call the game too early because they let the fans into Fenway and the teams did some pregame warming up. According to Weaver, Rick Dempsey did his famous Babe Ruth imitation to the delight of the Boston crowd.


  14. 14.  Mr. Daly, My Friend-

    It was great to be remembered in your article. If I may be so bold as to speak for the Wig, he feels the same way. 1977 was a baseball watershed-year for me as well. Until that time I liked baseball, however, that summer included my first trip to the hallowed Fenway Park…I was hooked!
    I still have the souvenir autographed baseball purchased for me by my late father. It did and still does mean the world to me. Thanks for the article, Jon, as usual you hit the nail on the head.

    Coffee Truck!,

    Admiral Will


  15. 15.  “It rained on Sunday, October 2nd in ’77, but they didn’t call the game too early because they let the fans into Fenway and the teams did some pregame warming up. According to Weaver, Rick Dempsey did his famous Babe Ruth imitation to the delight of the Boston crowd.”

    Yup; that performance was part of the highlight reel that Channel 38 used to show during rain delays in the 80s, along with the time that George Scott chased Tippy Martinez all the way into the outfield, and the time Butch Hobson went diving head-first into the visitor’s dugout in successul pursuit of a foul ball.

    Looking at the boxscore for the elimination game, it’s interesting to note that Dave Skaggs hit his first (of three) career home run in the same inning that Lee May hit his 300th.


  16. George Scott made it onto my original ‘waiting list’ for my all-time great strat-o-matic league. He has never made it into the league however, despite many updates and 1st base actually getting to be weak position for awhile (no longer). Though I remember him as a big slugger, I always thought of him more as an able fielder than hitter. Not a good enough fielder to get in, either, though. Still, I have had to give him serious consideration with each update.



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