I have never seen a better-fielding first baseman.
George Scott played first like Ozzie Smith played shortstop and like Brooks Robinson played third base.
I remember as a kid being furious when the Red Sox moved him to third base for parts of 1969 and 1970 even though he had come up as a shortstop/third baseman. Scott was born to play first, the way he scooped throws, fielded grounders with the glove he called “Black Beauty.”
“He was amazing to watch with the glove,” recalled baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who as Brewers owner acquired Scott from the Red Sox after the 1971 season. Scott had his best season in 1975 with Milwaukee, leading the league in home runs (36, tied with Reggie Jackson) and RBIs (109). “He could really play. No question that [glove] stood out, but he was very productive for us as a player.”
He had quick, soft hands and amazing footwork for such a large man.
Scott also possessed instincts with the glove, the trait of the greatest fielders.
It was no surprise that Scott, who died in Greenville, Miss., Sunday at age 69, won eight Gold Gloves. He played for the Red Sox twice — from 1966-1971, then was traded back to Boston, where he played from 1977-79.
He also played for the Royals and the Yankees, and he was one of the more colorful characters in Red Sox history.
Selig, in a day-long meeting regarding the Biogenesis drama, offered this little-known fact: “He was my first $100,000 player.”
Scott, who picked cotton in the fields as a kid, coined the term “taters’’ to describe his home runs. His gold-tooth smile and his happy-go-lucky nature were both his friend and his enemy in a career that, offensively, was great and disappointing.
When he was signed by Ed Scott — the man who signed Hank Aaron — in 1962, the scout thought he was a better hitter than Aaron. That never materialized, but Scott still hit 271 taters.
In 1967, he won his first Gold Glove and was a huge part of the Impossible Dream team. If you were a kid then, that was the team that hooked you on baseball — Yaz, Boomer, Tony C, Rico Petrocelli, Mike Andrews, Jim Lonborg, Jerry Adair, and Joe Foy, who was given the third base job, which allowed Scott to move to first base.
You could see what Ed Scott saw in George Scott.
Boomer won the Triple Crown in the Eastern League. He broke in with the Red Sox in 1966 and started the All-Star Game, one of his three All-Star appearances.
He tied Jackson for that American League homer title in ’75 and led the league with those 109 RBIs. But his offense was helter-skelter. He hit .171 in 1968 with three homers.
When he made contact, nobody hit the ball harder; when he didn’t, nobody looked worse.
Even after his career, Boomer often spoke about the homer he hit off Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium as a rookie in 1966. It was April 26.
I remember being at Mickey Mantle’s restaurant in New York City in the mid-’80s and Mantle talking about how Scott was one of the best first basemen he ever saw. And Mantle remembered the home run Scott hit off Ford and estimated it was at least 500 feet, maybe 550 feet.
I remember being disappointed the day the big deal with the Brewers was announced on Oct. 10, 1971. The Sox sent Scott and Jim Lonborg, Joe Lahoud, Billy Conigliaro, Ken Brett, and Don Pavletich to the Brewers for Tommy Harper, Marty Pattin, Lew Krausse and a minor leaguer. It was good for Scott’s career, as Milwaukee seemed to get him going again.
Although the Red Sox were having a great 1975 campaign, Scott was having his best season, adding 86 runs, nine game-winning hits, 318 total bases, and a .515 slugging percentage.
He returned to Boston on Dec. 6, 1976 along with Bernie Carbo in the Cecil Cooper deal. Scott had mixed results, including an injury-filled 1978. He was traded to the Royals during the 1979 season and his career pretty much languished after that.
Scott stayed in the Boston area for much of his adult life. He tried his hand managing in independent ball, showed up at Fenway here and there. He was never able to get his finances straight and declared bankruptcy. He was never able to get his weight under control and manage his diabetes.
But he holds a warm place in our hearts. He was a big man with a gentle, happy-go-lucky way.
And he often reminded us that he was the Boomer and he hit taters.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.