Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Your favorite player...

                                      Who was your favorite player growing up?  It's kind of a strange question, because first of all, we need to define what exactly the "growing up" years are.  So to make it easier, let's just say from the ages of 6 to 12.  You may have liked baseball before 6, but you probably didn't understand it enough to make an informed decision. And after the age of 12, you're a teenager and therefore subject to being kind of a cynical douchebag from time to time (although I know a lot of pre and post -teen douchebags as well, but I digress...).  Also, you may remember your favorite player from those days as being someone who actually wasn't your favorite at the time, but you tell everyone that they were just to be cool.  For example, when Dan Epstein, author of the amazing book "Big hair and plastic grass" autographed his book for me a few months ago, he asked me that very question, and I said "Bill Lee".  Now he's my favorite player from the late 70's Red Sox teams, but he wasn't when I was actually watching them then.  He was a pitcher, and I liked hitting...especially guys who hit "taters".  Therefore my fave was first baseman George "the boomer" Scott.

                    Scott started his career actually a few years before I was born, debuting in 1966 and was a part of the 1967 "impossible dream" team that saw them get to within one game of winning it all (Damn you Bob Gibson!).  After 2 solid years with the bat, he had an atrocious year hitting in 1968.  He bounced back slightly in the next few years only to be traded to the Brewers in 1972, where he ( of course) had his best offensive seasons, leading the league in homers and RBI's in 1975.  One thing he never slumped at, though, was his fielding. For a big man, he was quite agile, winning 8 gold gloves in his career.  He returned to the Sox in 1977 and his 33 homers , or "taters", as he liked to call them, were part of the teams 213 that year.  At the time, getting the boomer back to Beantown seemed like a good move.After all, they only had to trade under performing Cecil Cooper to get him.  Needless to say, Cooper went on to a borderline Hall of fame career...oh well. 

               I think the thing I dug about the Boomer the most was his wild batting swing;  He would take a ferocious cut every time, pulling his right hand off the bat after he swung.  I emulated that style in little league, and first time up, I hit a home run ( I'm sorry, a tater)...the last one I ever hit in little league.  He also wore a batting helmet at first base and regularly sported a necklace that he claimed was made of "second baseman's teeth".  Growing up dirt poor in Mississippi with only a third grade education, George was as unpretentious as they come. Before a spring training game against the Orioles in the early '70s, the boomer was taking batting practice.  Around the cage watching him were Frank Robinson, Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair who were discussing the current events of the day, specifically, the plight of Biafra.  When one of them asked, "hey George, what do you think of Biafra"? he replied, "I never faced the muddafucka, but third time up, I'll hit a tater off him".  The fact that he just assumed Biafra was a pitcher is hilarious, and pretty awesome.  The man breathed, ate and slept baseball..Unfortunately, he also ate a lot of other things.

                 Weight was always a problem for him, even at a young age.  Dick Williams, manager from the '67 season always got on his case for it, and he would try all sorts of crash diets.  By the time he returned in 1977, he was pretty heavy, but because he had an All Star season that year, nobody griped.  In 1978, however, he was noticeably out of shape.  He later lamented about not switching to a lighter bat like  Sox manager Don Zimmer told him to.  Alas, the boomer was traded to the Kansas city Royals midway through the 1979 season for something called a "Tom Poquette".  He played for them for only a month or so and  then was  picked up by the Yankees to finish off his final season in baseball.  That topps 1980 card with the boomer wearing a Yankees cap is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen.  Imagine Donnie baseball wearing a Sox cap, Yankees fans...yes, that bad.  In later years, he managed  Boston's A ball team, the Lowell Spinners for a bit, and his grandson plays for the Pacific coast league, so he's still involved in the game in one way or another...anyway, that's was my favorite player "growing up"...who was yours...?

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