With sadness I learned last evening of the death of George Scott, who had a fine career primarily with the Red Sox and Brewers. I have a particularly clear memory of seeing Scott play third base for the Red Sox at old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.
My dad played third base as a kid and as a teenager. I usually played shortstop with occasional stints at third. So whenever we’d go to see the Indians, Dad usually got us seats along the third base line so I could soak up pointers by watching Larry Brown and Max Alvis and whoever the visiting infielders were.
On this particular night, we had pretty good seats only a few rows back from the field and on a direct line to third, where Scott was stationed for Boston. I don’t recall the year, but I suspect it was 1966 or ’67 when Scott was in his first two years in the league.
As the game wore on, while I was content watching and keeping score, my dad grew increasingly agitated. Finally, in one of the later innings, he got me up and said we were moving to different seats. That puzzled me a bit, because occasionally in late innings we’d move up to better seats in the sparsely populated stadium; here, we had been right where we wanted to be.
When we found new seats a section or two away, Dad told me why he had moved us. I had been oblivious, but a couple of fans nearby were hurling racial slurs at Scott. They were laughing and calling him a baboon, among other insults, all game long.
Scott, my father said, didn’t show any sign the taunting was getting to him. But I’m sure he heard it. In my head, I always figured that it was guys like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays continued Jackie Robinson’s legacy and helped drive racial hatred out of the ballparks after the 1950s. But this game was in the late 1960s, so there’s no disputing the hateful taunts continued well into my lifetime. As I think back on it, there were plenty of racist remarks at the stadium in the 70s and almost certainly beyond.
That’s a lamentable legacy for the game and our society, and I’m glad my father taught me to recognize the issue — and to feel a bit of shame for not picking up on what was happening.
May George Scott rest in peace, hearing only cheers.