RIP to Bobby Prescott, a Panamanian power hitter who had a brief stay in the major leagues after years of productivity in the minors. He died on August 2 at the age of 89. Prescott played for the Kansas City Athletics in 1961.
George Bertrand “Bobby” Prescott was born in Colon, Panama on March 27, 1931. Details of his early life are scarce, but he had pretty well established his baseball credentials before he ever came to the United States. His obituary in the Panama Times stated that he won the triple crown in 1950 while with the national team.
Prescott spent 1951 with a Canadian team and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization prior to the 1952 season. He was assigned to the Denver Bears of the Western League, where he was one of two Panamanians on the team, along with Pablo Bernard. They were expected to provide infield depth. After 15 games, Prescott was hitting .231 and was dropped to the Class-C Hutchinson Elks. There, he hit .350 with 25 doubles, 10 triples and 12 home runs. He returned to Denver in 1953 and ’54 and hit over .300 each year, walloping plenty of extra base hits. He hit 38 doubles in 1953 and 23 homers in 1954. His fielding was impressive as well. “Bobby can catch anything he can get to, and he gets to most of them,” said one observer.
After dominating in the low minors, the Pirates moved Prescott to the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League in 1955. The overall numbers took a dip, but 24-year-old Prescott still slashed .276/.360/.417 with 9 homers and 57 RBIs. His arm in the outfield wasn’t the strongest, but it was accurate. His speed wasn’t tremendous, but he could advance from first to third as quickly as anyone. The Pirates, though, left him unprotected in the amateur draft in November 1955 (a forerunner of the Rule V draft), and the New York Giants claimed him.
The Giants didn’t ever figure out what to do with Prescott either, though. He got off to a hot start for the Dallas Eagles in 1956, hitting .414 on April 22 when he broke his ankle and was lost for most of the season. He struggled upon his return, leaving him with a .268 average on the year. In 1957, the Giants started him basically from scratch in the Class-A Eastern League before letting him end the season with the Minneapolis Millers. As he did pretty much everywhere he went, Prescott became a fan favorite among the Millers fans.
Having proved himself at the AAA level to the Giants’ satisfaction, Prescott spent the next three seasons at the highest level of the minors, wherever the Giants’ affiliate was. He played with the Phoenix Giants in 1958 and 1959 and then the Tacoma Giants in 1960. He hit in the low .300s in Phoenix with 20+ home runs. He was in his late 20s, and those Phoenix teams were bursting with younger talent that would soon make the San Francisco Giants a pennant threat. Prescott was supposed to be used as a utility player, but he became too valuable not to play. He played all three outfield spots and adapted to cover most of the infield as well. The Phoenix Giants finished first in the PCL in 1958 with a lineup that included Willie McCovey, Andre Rogers, Tom Haller, Felipe Alou and Leon Wagner. But Prescott may have been the team’s MVP by filling in wherever he was needed.
Prescott was next acquired by AAA Hawaii Islanders for their inaugural 1961 season. By then, he was 30 years old with a solid track record, but he was no longer a prospect. He got off to his best start ever with the Islanders, leading the PCL in batting and home runs by mid-June. Prescott got his first chance at the major leagues when the A’s purchased him on June 14, 1961 for Jay Hankins.
“I don’t know whether they’ll platoon me or not but I’d sure like a shot” to play the outfield, he said when he spoke about the promotion. “It sure feels great. I’ll just try to stay loose up there and keep swinging. But I sure hope I get a chance to hit.”
Prescott made his debut on June 17 against the Los Angeles Angels. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a double play. Primarily, he was used as a pinch-hitter and a pinch-runner. He picked up his one and only hit off the Orioles’ Billy Hoeft on June 27, and he was promptly erased on a double play. Prescott struck out as a pinch-hitter on July 1 against the Twins. That ended up being his last major-league at-bat, as he was returned to the Islanders a few days later.
In 10 games, Prescott went 1-for-12 with 2 walks, for an .083 batting average. He also struck out 5 times. Prescott played two full games in left field, and he didn’t get a single fly ball sent his way. That’s 18 innings with no fielding chances.
Prescott finished his 1961 season in Hawaii with a .300 batting average, 32 home runs and 100 RBIs. He moved on to the Spokane Indians of the PCL and was a little irked about having his best season as a pro “and having to sit on the bench with a 10th-place Kansas City team.” He hit 13 home runs with Spokane but struggled with a .235 batting average.
In 11 seasons in the minors, Prescott hit .297 with 184 home runs and 510 RBIs. That hardly scratches the surface of his total career, because he spent his offseasons playing in the winter league in the Panama-Nicaragua League. He also played in the Mexican League from 1963 through 1970. Add that to his totals in the minors, and he is reported to have hit 398 home runs in his career. He was honored in his native country in 2015 when the 72nd edition of the National Major Baseball Championship was dedicated to him, reported the Times.
For more information: Panama Times