George Scott, smashing performer in field and at plate; at 69
With grace that belied his size — a 6-foot-2-inch frame that often carried more pounds than he would have preferred — George Scott scooped up ground balls and snagged throws that often were barely in his neighborhood playing first base at Fenway Park.
The slugger known as Boomer, who died Sunday at 69, spent eight seasons with the Red Sox and part of a ninth. He also played for Milwaukee and Kansas City before ending his career with the New York Yankees, collecting eight Gold Glove awards during 14 Major League seasons.
“I’ve never to this day seen anyone play first base like that,” said former Red Sox second baseman Mike Andrews. “He was just like a big cat over there, and he saved me a lifetime full of errors.”
With Mr. Scott at first, he added, “it was like you had a million-dollar insurance policy that you had taken out, and all you had to do was get the ball started over there somewhere and he could reach it.”
Mr. Scott, who played on Boston’s Impossible Dream team that reached the World Series in 1967, died in Greenville, Miss., his hometown. His death was announced on the Red Sox website and first was reported on the website of the Delta Democrat-Times, a Greenville newspaper.
“For a guy who was pretty big, he was incredibly agile, and we found out later he was an excellent basketball player in high school, and that’s what helped him get to so many ground balls,” said former Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg.
“He probably had the softest hands of any big guy I’ve ever played with, with regards to ground balls,” Lonborg added. “If it hit his hands, he could scoop it up. It was great to look back into the infield and see George Scott there playing behind you.”
Mr. Scott won the first of his Gold Gloves during the Impossible Dream year of 1967, when he batted .303 and drove in 82 runs. Over the course of his career he hit 271 home runs, including 154 with the Red Sox, and drove in 1,051 runs. In 2006, he was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
“In losing George Scott, we have lost one of the most talented, colorful, and popular players in our history,” said Dick Bresciani, vice president emeritus and team historian for the Red Sox. “He had great power and agility, with a large personality and a large physical stature. He could light up a clubhouse with his smile, his laugh, and his humor — and he was the best defensive first baseman I have ever seen. We will miss him, and we send our condolences to his family.”
No details were immediately available about the cause of death or plans for a memorial service. According to material on georgeboomerscott.com, which bills itself as Mr. Scott’s official website, he has three sons, Dion, George III, and Brian, and a grandson, Deion.
Mr. Scott’s Red Sox tenure was divided in two. He started his major league career in Boston in 1966 and tied for third in voting for American League Rookie of the Year. That year marked the first of Mr. Scott’s three All-Star appearances, too.
In 1971, he was part of a 10-player trade that sent him to the Milwaukee Brewers along with Lonborg, Billy Conigliaro, and Ken Brett. Mr. Scott was a Gold Glove winner in each of his five years in Milwaukee. In 1975, he led the American League with 109 RBIs, and tied Reggie Jackson for the most home runs, with 36.
Traded back to Boston after the 1976 season, Mr. Scott spent two seasons here before dividing 1979, his final Major League year, between the Red Sox, Royals, and Yankees.
“Long Taters,” a biography of Mr. Scott by Ron Anderson, was published last year. During his Major League years, Mr. Scott used expressions such as “hitting a tater” for slugging a home run.
“As an African-American child growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1940s and 1950s, it seemed that his destiny, like his peers in the Delta, was to labor in the cotton fields picking cotton under the broiling Southern sun,” baseball historian Bill Jenkinson wrote in a forward to the biography.
“Yet, despite the hardship, those experiences created a powerful inner resolve that inspired George to do better and helped motivate him to strive for athletic excellence. Scott passionately wanted to make it to the Big Leagues . . . and stay there. When he arrived in Boston in 1966, at age 22, George was a 6-foot-2-inch, 217-pound juggernaut who radiated power with every move.”
Mr. Scott picked cotton in his youth in Greenville, Miss., where he was a three-sport standout in high school before signing with the Red Sox in his late teens.
“Nothing can be worse than getting up at 4 in the morning waiting for a truck to pick you up to go pick and chop cotton from 6 or 7 in the morning until 5 or 6 in the afternoon,” he said in an interview for a biographical article on the Society for American Baseball Research website.
In 1965, the year before he made it to the Major Leagues, Mr. Scott won the Triple Crown in the minors playing in the Eastern League and finishing the season with a .319 batting average, 25 homers, and 94 RBIs.
After his playing years, Mr. Scott coached and managed in the Mexican and Independent Leagues, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, filling slots including manager of the Berkshire Black Bears in the Northern League.
The pay for those roles didn’t match his salaries as a player, however, and Mr. Scott experienced financially lean times on occasion. In the mid-1980s, he sold two of the Gold Glove awards he received for being the best-fielding first baseman in the American League.
At the beginning of 1995, the Globe reported that he had filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy in Boston, listing assets of $17,095 and liabilities of $428,852.62, most of which was owed to the Internal Revenue Service.
Mr. Scott listed his address as Randolph at that time, and although Mississippi was his home at the beginning of his life and the end, it was clear Boston always held a place in his heart.
“I loved it when the trade was made,” he told the Globe in 1978, speaking of the deal that brought him back to Fenway Park. “I wanted to end my career here, but it’s not going to be that way.”
He played in 120 games that season, his .233 batting average a significant dip from the .303 he hit in 1967.
“I think Scotty was probably the first guy to the mound when we won the pennant in ’67, to give me a big hug,” Lonborg recalled. “It was great to celebrate that moment with him.”
Said Andrews: “I’m sure ’67 was his favorite year, and it certainly was mine.”
For all his Gold Glove awards and success fielding, Mr. Scott might have been fonder of the long home runs that brought him his nickname.
“You know there is only one Boomer,” he told the Globe during spring training in March 1978. “It’s me. George Scott. You can go anywhere in baseball. Lots of guys like to be called Boomer. But when most people start talking, it’s about me, The Boomer.”