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John Scott

June 30, 2008
 Untitled 

Exactly one week before his eighteenth birthday, John Scott was selected by the San Diego Padres with the second pick of the 1970 amateur free agent draft. Only one unsigned player in the world, Chris Chambliss, was deemed more promising at that moment. I wonder what it felt like to be John Scott at seventeen, failure a stranger.

It took him four years to make it to the majors, and then only as a late-season callup who got into just 14 games. In 15 at-bats, he hit .067. The next season he got into more games, 25, but had even fewer at-bats, just 9, all outs. He didn’t make an appearance in the major leagues in 1976, but just after the World Series the Padres, abandoning hope that he’d ever deliver on his prodigious promise, sold him along with Dave Hilton and Dave Roberts to a team that didn’t even quite exist yet. The expansion draft that would stock the roster of that team had yet to occur, and only Phil Roof, who had been acquired the day before, preceded the erstwhile Padres trio as members of the Toronto Blue Jays. In fact, you could make a case that John Scott was the very first Toronto Blue Jay, as he batted lead-off in their first ever regular season game, April 7, 1977, against the Chicago White Sox. This first-ever Toronto Blue Jays at-bat ended in a strikeout. Scott went 1 for 5 in that game, a fairly accurate preview of a season in which he logged 233 at-bats and hit .240 with 2 home runs and a .266 on base percentage. And that was it for John Scott and the majors.

At some point during his lone extended chance to prove that he could cut it as a major leaguer, this photograph was taken of John Scott staring directly at his bat.

Why have you abandoned me? Where have you gone? I’m begging you. I’m ordering you. I’m begging you. I’m ordering you. I’ll turn you into ash. I’ll build you a shrine. I love you. Don’t leave me. I hate you. Don’t leave me.

Failure is never a stranger for long.

***

(Love versus Hate update: John Scott’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

13 comments

  1. 1.  FYI: Anyone who enjoyed the recent Hall of Fame discussion arising out of last week’s Tommy John post should (if they haven’t already) check out Joe Posnanski’s “First Five” post and poll from a couple days ago:

    http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2008/06/28/first-class/


  2. 2.  Another FYI: Check out the recent Jim Mason and Tommy John posts for new comments. The former includes a new question asking if the species of weak-hitting slick-fielding shortstops is extinct, and the latter observes that Tommy John’s game-broadcasting style in the late-’90s was something like if Timmy from South Park had been brough to the booth and given a microphone.


  3. 3.  Finally a player I don’t remember. I wonder why my brain did not cataloge him like it cataloged all the other fly by nights?


  4. 4.  4

    perhaps way too generic a name?

    (didn’t flip a switch for me either)


  5. 5.  When I picked his card put of the ol’ shoebox at randsom his existence surprised me, too. I wonder if he registers with Blue Jays fans, at least, what with him having the first at-bat in team history.


  6. 6.  This may be a good post to share this story, so I will. When I was about 11 years old, a friend and I were spending an afternoon in at the batting cages at The Family Fun Center in Anaheim, CA. It was sometime in the fall and it was cool and overcast. We were taking turns batting when in the parking lot pulls up a beat up, red early 1980’s Chevy Monte Carlo. The guy brought his own bat, no helmet and a few bucks in quarters. He went straight to the 90 mile an hour cage which was next our 50 mile an hour cage. He not only proceeded to hit every single pitch, but with exceptional authority that the two of us pre-teens had never witnessed. I mean he hit the ball hard! We soon stopped our light hitting exhibition to stand by his cage and observe this guys true talent. Every pitch that was offered was launched with lightning quick authority to the “home run” sign at the back of the cage. A beautiful, quick swing that to us was way more deadly than our stupid, loping attempts at batting.
    After a few rounds he stepped out of the cage and looked at us. We told him “damn, that was amazing,” or something like that. He was soft spoken and told us his story of being drafted from high school as a top prospect, mostly played in the minors and played “a little bit in the big leagues.” I have always remembered his explanation of the hardships of pro-ball. There wasn’t much money in it and it was a hard life. He told us that he was the top player in his county, but what he soon realized that in the pros he was facing the top players from everywhere. He was an African-American man, with a slender build and a little moustache. And the look on his face was one of the saddest I have ever seen. He hit one more round, left the cage, waved at us and drove off.
    I always wondered who that guy was and who he played for. Maybe someday his Cardboard God will pop up, that would be cool. The effect that his talk with us had immediately made me realize how damn good even a minor league player was. From that point on I realized just how hard it was to make in the major leagues. Maybe that beat-up old Monte Carlo was what was left of his signing bonus I have often wondered. A guy who never quite made it, who couldn’t pass up the odd batting cage he would occasionally drive by. Just to prove that he could hit the ball much harder and further than 95% of the world.
    Josh, this post really brought back that moment for me. Thanks.


  7. 7.  6 : Great story. Thanks for sharing that. (Thanks also for the recent link to the Steve Yeager article in the comments for the Steve Yeager post. If anyone wants to know what Yeags is up to now, the article is highly recommended.)

    Is it at all possible that the guy you saw at the batting cage was actually John Scott? According to this card his place of residence was Los Angeles, CA. What he told you of his experiences certainly matches Scott’s bio.


  8. 8.  7 I am not sure what the word is, maybe serendipity, but I definitely believe in random chances such as 11 year old me actually meeting Scott at the batting cages at Family Fun Center. The guy on the card seems similar to the guy I remember at the batting cages. In this case, I am going to believe that they are the same guy because I always really appreciated that moment and the hitting exhibition he put on for us. It was an odd moment because it seemed like the guy just pulled up out of nowhere at those near empty batting cages to give us a few hitting tips, put on a show and tell us a good story.

    No problem on the Yeager, I figured that you and the other readers would like the article.


  9. 9.  Ian, that’s a pretty cool story. Guy was traded for the one and only Jim Willoughby! He also played in Japan and Mexico according to the BR Bullpen. Sounds like I missed an eventful week here.


  10. 10.  9 : Hey, Ennui, were you at the SABR conference? If so, any highlights come to mind?


  11. 11.  I was there, Josh. I think that my favorite part was an author’s roundtable at the Cleveland Library (the Spaceman’s old hangout.) It featured Rob Neyer, Charles Alexander, and Tom Swift. There were a few other presentations that I liked, but the best part is probably meeting up with some of my cyberbuddies and shooting the shit. I know that your fellow Toasterer Bob T was there, but I never got a chance to say hi to him. I met a couple of your other devotees like Craig Calcaterra. Craig had some posts about the convention, as did Bob. The Hardball Times has a wrapup. So does aarongleeman.com. I was a good boy. I didn’t drink or play poker. But it was still fun.


  12. 12.  9 Thanks Ennui. So what is the SABR conference? I guess I can just look it up, but I would like to hear what it is from someone who was there.


  13. 13.  Society of American Baseball Research, Ian. A link can probably describe it better than I can.

    http://www.sabr.org



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