RIP to Bob Scott, a Negro Leagues pitcher/first baseman and an invaluable resource for Negro Leagues history. He died on October 11 in Macon, Ga. He was 90 years old — though there is some inconsistency with his birth date. Scott played for the New York Black Yankees (1946-50).
James Robert Scott was born on June 22, 1930 in Macon, as one of five children. I have seen his birth year listed as 1931, but the 1930 date is the most commonly used, so that’s what I’m going with. According to the Baseball in Living Color website, Scott attended Hudson High School in Macon. His father Howard was a ballplayer for the Macon Braves when he wasn’t working for a railroad express company, and by the time Scott was 11 years old, he was playing on the team as well. He later played for the Macon Cardinals, another Negro Leagues team. When he was a little older, he started thinking of turning pro.
“My uncle was telling me that I was good enough to play in the Negro League. That was the only league we had back then, which was a good league,” Scott told WMAZ News this past July in what was likely one of his last interviews.
(Note: Normally when I write about a ballplayer, there are plenty of sources that give a relatively thorough look at a ballplayer’s career — even ones who played a single game in the majors. You can’t do that for the Negro Leagues, outside of one or two larger-than-life figures. The Baseball Reference and Seamheads databases for the Negro Leagues are incomplete, and neither mention Scott, even though he obviously played. There’s nothing nefarious about that omission; it just shows that “official” statistics and rosters don’t tell the full story of the Negro Leagues because those teams and those players were largely overlooked by mainstream (white) media. Thankfully, Scott lived long enough to have his story told in print and on video. But for every Negro Leagues player you know, there are dozens who lived, played and died in obscurity.)
When he was just 16, Scott signed with the New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League. Bobby Pope of the Macon Telegraph wrote that Scott’s cousin arranged for a tryout when the Black Yankees played the Homestead Grays in a game at Macon’s Luther Williams Field. Scott said that he could throw “harder than a Georgia mule could kick.” He joined the team in 1946 and stayed with them until 1950, playing both as a pitcher and a first baseman. Scott’s baseball card (more on that later) says that he had a 35-25 record as a pitcher and batted .278. In 1950, he barnstormed America as part of the Jackie Robinson All-Stars — something he called one of his proudest career highlights.
Another one of his fondest memories was pitching against his hero, first baseman Buck Leonard. Leonard homered off of Scott, but it was a moment the pitcher didn’t forget.
After Major League Baseball became integrated, Scott signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1953 by George Sisler. However, he decided to get married to his wife, Mae, and focus on life outside of baseball. In 1955, he did play one season for the Sandersville Giants of the Georgia State League, which was a Class-D farm team for the New York Giants in the Georgia State League. His played 27 games and hit .186 with 1 home run, according to Baseball Reference (where he is listed as James R. Scott). Scott’s roommate on the team was Willie McCovey, who was 17 years old and playing in his first season of professional baseball. After his playing days were over, Scott worked as a union bricklayer in New Jersey for 35 years until his retirement in 1996. He and his wife moved back to Macon a few years ago.
Fortunately, Scott lived long enough to be properly appreciated for his play. He was inducted into the Macon Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2017. He was “drafted” by the New York Mets as part of a special draft of living Negro Leaguers held by Major League Baseball in 2008. He was also honored by the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees. More recently, he was interviewed as part of the “Other Boys of Summer” documentary, along with the also recently deceased Jim Robinson. You can see the trailer for that below.
A few years ago, my wife happened to be in Macon visiting a friend in a hospital when she saw a man walk past wearing a New York Black Yankees jacked. She complimented him on the jacket. It turned out to be Bob Scott’s son, who congratulated her on identifying the team correctly and gave her one his father’s baseball cards. He said his father was well and still attended baseball games at Mercer University in Macon on a regular basis. To thank you to Bob’s son for the card, and we offer our condolences to the family.
For more information: LastingMemories.com