My favorite ballplayer from my childhood died yesterday. There wasn't a lot of fanfare, at least here in New York, anyway. I'm sure the Boston papers, T.V. and whatnot gave a decent amount of coverage to his passing, but ESPN and MLB network didn't even mention it (To be fair, I only watched a few hours of each, and I'm sure Boston native Peter Gammons may have brought it up at some point...ESPN seemed to be focused on College football, which I could give 3 shits about, but anyway...). George Scott, nicknamed "The Boomer", played first base for the Red Sox from 1966-71 and again from '77 to mid '79. His best year offensively was for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1975, when he tied for the Home Run lead with Reggie Jackson with 36 and led the AL with 109 RBI's.
My dad and brothers used to tell me how great a fielder he was back in the early days of his career. He won eight Gold Gloves for his play at first base and, according to former teammate Bill Lee, "May have been an even better third baseman." He came up to the big leagues in 1966 and was a big part of of the '67 "Impossible dream season", where the Sox almost won it all after years of futility. Other than his fielding, he loved to hit homers, which he called "taters"; taking wild, violent swings, in which his right hand would come off the bat by the end of the swing.
It was that swing that made me like him. Of course, I didn't see the Boomer in his prime, only for a couple of years at the end of his career, when the Sox traded away Cecil Cooper to the Brewers for Scott. He had an All Star season his first year back, hitting 33 taters and driving in 95 in '77. That was the year the entire team was swinging for the fences, hitting 213 total that year. I only saw him in person play once, at a game against the Royals in 1978. Not sure if George went deep, but I think KC's Frank White went deep...twice. I swear, every time I saw the Sox play the Royals at Fenway, it was always White, not George Brett that killed us...Brett always saved his clutch moments for the Yankees (which is why he's one of my all time faves.
Boston traded the Boomer in 1979 for something called Tom Poqeutte (which I think is French for "Stan Papi" ), then ended that season- and his career- with the Yankees. Seeing that 1980 Topps trading card with the Boomer wearing a Yankees cap was almost too much to take. At the end, he basically ate his way out of baseball, not unlike another beloved Boston First baseman, Mo Vaughn a decade and a half later. And while Vaughn may have been a better hitter, he was nowhere near the fielder Scott was.
I am always bitching about how there aren't enough characters in the game today...too many players have that "aw shucks" attitude, or, even worse, the "I'd like to thank God for..."thing, which always irritates me...not for people's beliefs, but really, If God helped you hit a home run last night, where was he the night before when you struck out four times. The Lord has bigger things to worry about, Mr. Hamilton. George was one of those characters you loved. Born in Greenville Mississippi, without much education, the Boomer was as unpretentious as they came. He was once quoted as saying, " If it weren't for that Muddafucka Luis Aparicio, I would have had 3,00 hits." Which means Aparicio robbed him of 1,008 hits.
But my favorite story involving the Boomer was in 1970, where the Red Sox and Orioles were playing in Spring training. Scott was taking batting practice while Frank Robinson, Elrod Hendricks and another Oriole player (I think it was Paul Blair) were talking about the plight of Biafra. One of the players asked Boomer, "Hey George, what do you think of Biafra?", and he replied, "I never faced the muddafucka, but third time up, I'll hit a tater off him!"...you will be missed Boomer, rest in peace...