Scott and Moret
It was the American League’s Great Race. Four teams – the Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins – fought desperately through the summer and fall of 1967 for the pennant, and it was not until the last day of the season that the Red Sox – a 100-1 shot back in the spring – emerged victorious. In the public mind, two new stars were born. Carl Yastrzemski led the league with a .326 average, 44 home runs and 121 RBIs. Jim Lonborg compiled a 22-9 pitching record with a good 3.16 ERA.
But over in Detroit, Earl Wilson, the new Tiger ace, matched Lonborg nearly pitch for pitch with at 22-11 record and a 3.27 ERA as Detroit finished one scant game behind Boston. The thought occurs that had Wilson still been with Boston, the Great Race might well have been a runaway. With Wilson’s departure, though, two new black stars emerged form the Sox farm system: George Scott, a powerful first basemen out of Mississippi who batted .303, hit 19 homers and drove in 82 runs, and Reggie Smith, a switch-hitting centerfielder who batted .246 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs. Both would eventually follow in Wilson’s footsteps in one important respect: both would be traded away.
Scott went to Milwaukee after the 1971 season and soon established himself as one of the premier first basemen in the game. Today, Scott believes there were no evil motives behind the trade (“They told me they needed pitchers”) and he vividly recalls Tom Yawkey calling on him once in the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway and talking with him for about 40 minutes (“He may or may not have been blowing the air, but I gotta respect him for it.”)
Others, though, recall the Scott trade from a different perspective. “Scott had a marital problem and did a couple of things they frowned on,” said one player then with the team. “So they trade him. Later on they kicked themselves, but it was their fault for looking at things other than performance.”
Smith, who openly called both the organization and the city racist on an umber of occasions, departed for St. Louis in a blockbuster trade at the end of the 1973 season. Contacted recently in Houston, Smith refused to discuss his Boston days. “That’s something I left behind,” he said. “I’d simply rather not talk about it.” Perhaps that is for the better: Smith’s performance on the field through the years has been so uneven, and his detractors so numerous, that his testimony is suspect in many observers’ eyes.
An outstanding example of the Red Sox organization’s difficulty in dealing with a minority player, in this case a Spanish-speaking player, is that of Rogelio Moret, a young left-handed pitcher traded last winter to Atlanta for Tom House. In his five-year Boston career, Moret won 41 games and lost only 18. Last year he had the best winning percentage (14-3) on the Red Sox staff. Particularly after the injury to lefty Bill Lee this spring, Moret’s left arm might have come in handy this year for Boston; his replacement, reliever House, has certainly been no boon to the team so far, with a 1-4 record and an ERA of 4.66.