Buena Vista born Josh Gibson is the most famous of the native Georgians who played in baseball’s Negro Leagues, but he never got a chance to play in the majors.
Gibson, who hit 962 home runs during his career, died at age 35 in 1946 after suffering a stroke, a year before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Macon’s contribution to the Negro Leagues was pitcher Robert Scott, who was inducted into the Macon Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday. He played in the Negro Leagues for five seasons with the New York Black Yankees and the Memphis Red Sox.
Scott, who as a youngster starred for the sandlot Macon Braves and Macon Cardinals, signed with the Black Yankees at age 16 after he earned an invitation following a tryout arranged by his cousin for the New York team at Luther Williams Field. The Black Yankees and Homestead Grays were playing an exhibition game in Macon following spring training in Florida en route back to their home cities. Scott, who dropped out of Hudson High School to follow his baseball dreams, had to get permission from his mother before he could sign. His beginning salary was $175 per month, and he was able to live with an Aunt in Brooklyn. His highest salary was $375 per month.
Scott was used as a pitcher and first baseman and also played some left field during his career. He said he could “throw harder than a Georgia mule could kick.” As a pitcher, he faced the best batters in the Negro Leagues, including James “Cool Papa” Bell, Buck Leonard and Buck O’Neil, among others. Scott joked that he threw a fastball to Leonard in a game in North Carolina, and Leonard hit it and that the ball is still going. The Black Yankees, co-owned by tap dancer and actor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, played at Yankee Stadium when the New York Yankees were on the road and regularly drew, 50 to 60 thousand fans per game, which was more than the Joe DiMaggio-led Yankees.
One of the biggest highlights of Scott’s career came in 1950 when he played on the Jackie Robinson All-Stars barnstorming teams with the likes of Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Ernie Banks and Larry Doby. Campanella, Banks and Doby are all in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but Newcombe is not, and that is one I don’t understand. The Robinson All-Stars played games throughout the United States.
Following the 1950 season, Scott played for numerous teams, including the Miami Red Caps and the Milledgeville Cubans. In 1953, he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates but did not report, opting instead to get married. In 1955, Scott signed with the Sandersville Giants, the New York Giants’ farm team in the Georgia State League. His roommate was future Hall of Famer Willie “Stretch” McCovey.
After his playing days were over, Scott remained in the Northeast, living in New Jersey, where he was a union bricklayer for 35 years. Scott moved back to Macon two years ago.
In 2008, each of the 30 major league teams drafted a player for the Negro Leagues, and Scott was selected by the New York Mets. Every team in Major League Baseball selected a player whose career encompassed the Negro Leagues. The idea of the draft came from San Diego vice president and Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield as a bridge between baseball’s past and present.
Boston, the last big league team to have a black player on its roster, selected pitcher Jim Colzie, who was born in Montezuma. He pitched for both the Indianapolis Clowns and the Atlanta Black Crackers. As a side note, Pumpsie Green was Boston’s first black player, coming 12 years after Robinson’s historic debut.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org