Baseball Biography Examines George "Boomer" Scott's Life
By: Chris Kazarian, March 19, 2013
Growing up in Greenville, Mississippi, George “Boomer” Scott Jr. lost his father in 1945, when he was a little over a year old. The 46-year-old George Scott Sr. died of heatstroke, and much of what his three children would eventually learn about him came from stories shared by family members and friends.
The same cannot be said for his youngest child, the former Boston Red Sox first baseman, whose life was the subject of a recent book, “Long Taters: A Baseball Biography of George ‘Boomer’ Scott.” Penned by Ron Anderson, it details Scott’s humble beginnings in Mississippi to his 14-year career in Major League Baseball— for a period of which he lived in Falmouth—followed by his unsuccessful attempts to transition from a player to a manager.
“When you have kids and you have grandkids, one of the things you want more than anything else in the world is for them to know who you are,” Mr. Scott said, explaining why he wanted the book written.
So at the age of 69, Scott has given his three children something he and his two siblings never had: a narrative of who their father is, what he endured and what he accomplished.
The book highlights the racism Scott faced as a child living in the deep South. And it also touches upon the poverty that surrounded him in his earliest days; he picked cotton in the fields as a youth and his first baseball glove was a paper sack.
From his home in Greenville, Scott acknowledged the difficulties he faced as an African-American in Mississippi.
And it is why he has so much admiration for Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. “He went to UCLA, got a good education and he was faced with a lot of things, but he did not fight against it. I don’t know how he didn’t fight against it,” Scott said. “I think he was better for that situation than anyone else could have been.”
Sports as a Salvation
Also impacting Scott was the fact that he grew up fatherless. As a result he took to sports —he was a three-sport athlete at Coleman High School, playing football, basketball and baseball — to fill that void. “Sports meant everything to me because that is all we did,” he said. “You see we was good, and we was good because that is all kids did. We didn’t have Nintendo games or play no cards. All we did was play ball. And when we got through playing ball we came home and played more ball in the front yard.”
While he was obviously gifted as a baseball player, Scott said he thought basketball was his best game. “But if you talk to some people they said I was a better baseball player,” he said. “Some said I was a better football player.”
In his senior year, he quarterbacked his high school football team to a 10-1 record, losing its last game to Rowan High, which featured future Dallas Cowboys tackle Willie Townes, in the Negro Big Eight State Championship. Scott followed his heroics on the football field by scoring 33 points a game on the basketball court, where he was able to lead his school to the state championship.
Despite his success in those sports, he would ultimately choose baseball after the Boston Red Sox offered him a contract once he graduated from high school in 1962. As to why, he said, “because I had an opportunity to help my mom... She raised three kids all by herself. My mom is the greatest human being that I know and is the greatest human being I will ever know because she was truly a self-made black woman.”
His mother, Magnolia Scott, dropped out of school in the 4th grade. But before she died, Scott said, “she could read and write just as good as you could. She was a woman who worked hard at improving herself. That is why I’ve grown up understanding what improvement is all about. You improve by working hard.”
And he said she taught him the importance of accepting others, noting that she refused to let her children talk bad about anyone regardless of race or ethnicity. “It took me a long time to figure out why Momma was like that, but then I found out that the money she was making came from white folk,” he said. “If she didn’t have a job working for them she wouldn’t have been able to take care of us. So she would say, ‘Why you gonna take bread out of your mouth because you don’t like a man because of the color of his skin. No, no, no, no, no.’ So I never had that in my family and I’m not going to have it today.”
Works Way Up Red Sox Farm System
He took those lessons with him as he worked himself up the Red Sox minor league system, eventually earning a call up to the parent club following his 1965 season with the Pittsfield AA-affiliate, in which he won the Eastern League triple crown, leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
The next year he made his first start at Fenway Park, and would remain in the big leagues until 1979, which roughly coincided with the same time frame he was married to Malvina “Lucky” Pena, a Falmouth native Scott met at a mutual friend’s birthday party. The two struck up a relationship and eventually wed in January 1968. The pair had one child together, George Scott III, who now lives in New Bedford.
During Scott’s career, which included stints with the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees, the pair returned here often and even lived here, purchasing a home on Kettle Hole Road.
Today, Scott said he has fond memories of the Cape. “It is great country down there,” he said. “I’ll tell you, if I had an off-day I went to Falmouth.”
He enjoyed the solitude and privacy he was afforded here, telling then-Cape Cod Times assistant sports editor Bill Higgins in a 1978 piece that “In Falmouth I can walk down the street and people will say, ‘Hi, Mr. Scott,’ and go along their way. Up here [Boston] every time I go out someone’s sticking a piece of paper in my face.”
On the field, Scott was regarded as one of the best fielding first basemen of the time, notching eight Gold Gloves, three with the Red Sox and five with the Brewers. He is third on the all-time list for those at the position, trailing only Keith Hernandez with 11 and Don Mattingly with nine.
He also was a monster at the plate, earning the nickname “Boomer” for his ability to hit the long ball off opposing pitchers. In six of his 14 seasons, he hit over 20 home runs, highlighted by his 1975 campaign when he tied Reggie Jackson for the American League title with 36 homers while playing for the Brewers. That same season he knocked in 109 RBIs to lead the American League in that category.
He played in three All-Star games and one World Series, as part of the 1967 Red Sox team that won the American League pennant one year after finishing in ninth place. During that season, often referred to as the Impossible Dream, Scott batted .303, hit 19 home runs and had 82 RBIs.
For all he accomplished, Scott said he does not have any favorite memory. “I don’t remember my first game and I don’t remember my last one and I don’t remember too many in between,” he said. “I played the game because I could play well and I enjoyed playing and I wanted to have my ball club win ball games. That is what I remember.”
While there are times he exudes confidence—“I didn’t play with [Carl] Yastrzemski. He played with me,” he said when asked to describe what it was like playing with the great left fielder—there is a tinge of regret and what might have been in his voice. He argues that he should have doubled the 271 home runs he hit in his career. “If I look at my record I didn’t have the numbers I should have,” he said, before tempering that by adding that “I’m happy with the numbers I ended up with.”
Reflecting on his Baseball Career
“I didn’t have a great career. I had a fair career,” he continued. “I was shortchanged myself. I won’t go into why I was shortchanged because I never want to look like I’m crying, but I was a much better player than what my numbers say.”
Although there is the suggestion that others were to blame, he places it squarely on himself.
Following his playing career, Scott attempted to make the leap to coaching, jumping around from Mexico to New York to a number of independent leagues. He stepped away about a decade ago, he said, because “I wasn’t accomplishing anything. Really, my goal was to help some of these kids who were trying to make it... That is why you do it. You do it because you think you can help somebody.”
Since then, he said, “I have been doing nothing, but sitting home.” He lives in Greenville with his youngest son, Brian, and has a third child, Dion, who lives in Atlanta.
He said he has no ambition to return to baseball, admitting that “the game has passed me by.”
Health-wise he now has to rely on a walker to get around. “My legs ain’t working the way they should be,” he said.
He is one of the few former Red Sox players who did not make the trip back to Boston last April during the team’s emotional ceremony celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. He did not say why, only that he did watch it on television and wished he had been there.
Although there is a sadness to his story, Scott refuses to dwell on the negatives. He expressed excitement about the book and has hopes of making a trip to New England to promote it later this year. “Listen my man, let me tell you something. God has been good,” he said. “A lot of my friends I grew up with they’ve been gone and been gone for a long time, and I tell you God has been pretty damn good. He’s been pretty damn good.”
To learn more about George "Boomer" Scott or to purchase his book "Long Taters" visit his website.