Pat Scott: Act like a lady, throw like a man

 

Teenager Pat Scott puttered around the kitchen as her father read the morning paper and finished his breakfast. Gulping down the last sip of coffee, he put the paper down and said:

“Hey Patty – do you want to play baseball?”

“Dad, you’re pulling my leg – they don’t let girls play baseball.”

If it was any other period in history, Pat Scott would have been right – historically, they didn’t let girls play baseball. But in 1948, things were different.

World War II was in full swing in 1943, when it looked like not enough able-bodied men would keep professional baseball functioning. In 1941, there had been over 40 minor leagues operating throughout the country; just two years later there were 9. Though baseball was “just a game,” the leaders of the country, including President Roosevelt, believed that it was vital to the nation’s morale. However, being given the “green light” to continue playing pro ball was one thing – keeping it going was another. As the draft siphoned off all the pre-war stars as well as up and coming talent, one man looked to the one source of talent that had always remained untapped: women.

Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley and his marketing team came up with the idea to establish a professional girls’ softball league that would play in the unused minor league ballparks. In the spring of 1943, the “All American Girls Softball League” was formed. Unlike professional baseball, where each team is independently owned, the new softball league, soon renamed the “All-American Girls Baseball League,” was created as a non-profit organization with the teams run by a board of trustees. Tryouts were held at Wrigley Field, and the best players were divided up between four teams.

Much of this has been covered in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own, but reality was quite different than Hollywood. Unlike the movie, in the first season a 12” softball was used in conjunction with underhand-only pitching and the shorter softball field dimensions. Because it wasn’t really baseball, the league’s name was again changed to the oddly worded, “All American Girls Professional Ball League.”

The initial season was a success, and the league soon expanded to eight teams by 1946. The rules of the game had changed, too, edging closer and closer to what the men were playing. The ball decreased almost every season, and the pitching was modified to side arm and finally overhand. The dimensions of the playing field also moved closer to what professional men’s leagues used, and the name changed back to the “All-American Girls Baseball League.”

In 1948, the league expanded again to include ten teams. The need for more talented women increased, and ads were run in major newspapers nationwide. That’s when Pat Scott’s father stumbled upon one in his morning paper.

That his daughter would jump at the chance to play baseball was no surprise. Pat’s interest in the game began when she was 8, just after the Scott family moved to a farm a few miles south of Cincinnati in Burlington, Kentucky. Pat was the oldest of the four Scott kids, all girls. When she wasn’t doing chores around the farm, Pat could be found throwing a ball at the side of her family’s barn. When she was ten, her father plowed under part of his tobacco crop to build a baseball field and bleachers. This proto-Field of Dreams was used by local men’s semi-pro teams and visiting barnstorming clubs. The players took to the young farm girl and taught her how to pitch overhand. Her mother Irene donned her own set of catcher’s equipment and helped her daughter hone the pin-point accuracy that she would eventually be known for. By the time she was in high school, Pat Scott knew how to play baseball inside and out. But in 1940s Kentucky there were no baseball teams that would allow a teenage girl to play, so she pursued the only option open to her: fast pitch softball.

Pat Scott was a senior in high school the day her father asked her if she’d like to play baseball. Scott later told an interviewer, “When he told me I could go for a tryout – whew, you talk about a happy girl.” Father and daughter travelled to Wrigley Field in Chicago, where a hundred young hopefuls vied for a spot on one of the new league teams. Hall of Famers such as Jimmie Foxx and Max Carey were among the former big leaguers on the field evaluating the talent. In a 2006 Cincinnati Enquirer story, Scott related that, “I was intimidated. But then I thought, ‘Pat, most of these girls are softball players. You played hardball.’” She was right. The scouts took notice of her over-hand throwing and blazing fastball. Though still a teen, Pat was 5’-7” and 155 pounds of farm girl muscle. Her precise control sealed the deal, and she was put in with the pitchers. By the end of the tryout only 30 girls remained, and Pat Scott was one of them.

There was one rub: Pat still had a month left of high school before graduation. She and her father went to see the principal and they worked out an arrangement that Pat would bring her books with her to spring training and return to take her final exams. The rookie pitcher went to spring training, studied between workouts, and returned to Kentucky to graduate with the Class of 1948.

The league allocated Pat Scott to the Springfield Sallies, one of the new franchises. Managed by former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Carson Bigbee, the Sallies boasted a few veterans, but for the most part the team was stocked with rookies. Scott was touted as both a starter and reliever as well as part-time outfielder. As the season began, Bigbee tried a rotating cast of players to try to find the optimal lineup. Although Scott was advertised as a starter in a few games, Bigbee, for whatever reason, held the teenager back for a future Sallies start. It would never come.

Nineteen games into the season, Pat Scott left the Sallies. Her beloved mother and catcher, Irene, had become seriously ill, and Pat had to return home to care for her sisters. Irene Scott eventually recovered, but by then it was too late to rejoin the Sallies. In retrospect, they could have used her arm, for the Sallies finished dead last in the league with a 41-81 record, 35 ½ games out of first. After the season, the AAGPBL retracted to eight teams and relegated the Springfield Sallies and Chicago Colleens to non-league touring clubs that developed younger players.

Meanwhile, Pat Scott forgot her baseball dreams and worked as a secretary in the field office of the Home Economics and Agriculture Department of the University of Kentucky. Then, out of the blue, baseball called again.

In the Fall of 1950, a reporter for the local newspaper called the Scott farm. Pat’s father took the call and learned that Max Carey, president of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, was trying to find his daughter. Pat Scott called the number the reporter provided and was soon talking directly to Max Carey. He told Scott that was stepping down as AAGPBL president and would be managing the Fort Wayne Daisies for 1951. He remembered her from the 1948 Wrigley Field tryout, and he wanted her to pitch for him. In an interview with Jim Sargent in his book, We Were the All-American Girls: Interviews with Players of the AAGPBL, 1943-1954, Pat remembered, “I called him and he said ‘Pat, you should come back and play for me.’ I said, ‘I haven’t touched a ball since two years ago in Chicago.’ He said, ‘It doesn’t make a difference, because I know you can play.’” And with that, Pat Scott had a second chance to become a professional ballplayer.

The Daisies were one of the better teams in the leagues. The club had made the playoffs every season since 1947 and boasted a core of veterans like pitcher Maxine Kline and sluggers Dottie Schroeder and Wilma Briggs. Among the newcomers were two sisters, Betty and Joanne Foss, the latter playing under her married name of Weaver. The two siblings would lead the league in almost all offensive categories from 1952 to 1954.

Pat quickly muscled her way into the starting rotation and subbed in the outfield in between starts. Scott’s hallmark was her overhand fastball, delivered with laser accuracy. She paired her heater with a good changeup but, as she told Jim Sargent in his book, We Were the All-American Girls: Interviews with Players of the AAGPBL, 1943-1954, “My curve wasn’t worth a nickel!” But, as the rest of the league soon learned, with her speed, she didn’t need the crooked pitch.

That first season, Scott won 15 games against 7 losses with a nice 2.13 ERA. She also was the best fielding pitcher on the team, a distinction she was particularly proud of and maintained throughout her career. Scott’s 15 wins combined with Kline’s 18 as the Daisies cruised to a first-place finish, the first pennant in the club’s history. In the best of three series for the AAGPBL Championship, Fort Wayne lost game one to South Bend, but Scott held the Blue Sox to one run in Game 2 to even the series. Game 3 was an even bigger nail biter as Scott faced Jean Faut, generally considered the greatest overhand pitcher the AAGPBL produced. The two dueled through 11 innings tied at 1-1 before South Bend managed to score the winning run for the game and Championship.

Off the field, the rookie star kept mainly to herself, classifying herself as an “introvert.” She did, however, fondly remember her one-time roommate and catcher Lois Youngen. The two were roomies until Youngen was traded halfway through the ’51 season. Lois Youngen is unique in that she was encouraged to pursue baseball by the great Alta Weiss, the turn of the century “Girl Wonder” who toured the country with her own baseball team. As a teen, Lois lived in the same neighborhood in Ohio as Alta Weiss.

There wasn’t much spare time during the season, and as Scott told Jim Sargent, “I was happy playing ball and going home.” It’s also important to remember that had Pat wanted to cut loose after games, it would not have been easy. Each AAGPBL team had a “chaperone” who traveled with the club and enforced strict rules for off-field behavior. Besides the team chaperone, the league held mandatory charm school lessons for the players from its founding through the 1947 season. Though this was gone by the time Scott joined the league, the players were still held to conservative fashion guidelines such as wearing their hair shoulder length or longer and a non-pants policy.

Nineteen fifty-two was Pat Scott’s finest season. Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx replaced Max Carey as the Daisies skipper. Foxx was the inspiration behind the Jimmy Dugan character in A League of Their Own, but despite both being former big league stars, the similarities stopped there Though Foxx did have a problem with alcohol, Scott always denied her manager let it show on the field. And drinking in the dugout or clubhouse, as Hank’s character did in the movie, would never have been allowed.

The team Foxx inherited from Carey continued to dominate the league. With the addition of pitcher Jaynne Bittner, Fort Wayne again finished in first, with Pat Scott winning 17 games and pitching the pennant clinching game. But again, despite a first place finish, the Daisies fell short in the playoff series. In the off season, Pat Scott garnered a mention in the East Coast papers when Jimmie Foxx and his wife hosted his star pitcher at an upscale Philadelphia steakhouse.

The Daisies had another change in managers for 1953, this time it was Bill Allington, a career minor leaguer, who took the reins. With two full years of pro ball under her belt, this should have been Pat Scott’s best season, but through no fault of her own, it wasn’t. Scott’s former managers Max Carey and Jimmie Foxx had been hands-off when it came to giving her pitching advice or noodling with her mechanics. Allington was the complete opposite. Although Scott was pitching great ball and on the way to what looked like her first 20-win season, Allington decided he needed to make some changes. As Scott told Jim Sargent in an interview, “I can’t remember the town where we were playing, but Allington came out of the dugout to see me, and he said, ‘You’re pitching too fast, you’re pitching too fast. We’re going to slow you down.’” Scott could not believe her own manager was ordering her to take something off her speedball, her best pitch. “In other words, you want them to hit the ball out of the park?” The two exchanged words but Scott did as she was told. She lost the next four games.

Finally, the team president, Harold Van Orman, got involved, trying to find out the reason his team ace was tanking. When Scott explained Allington’s orders, Van Orman countermanded his manager’s directive and told her to pitch how she wanted. Throwing her usual speedballs, Scott went on a winning tear. Allington never said a word, likely the results of he and his owner having a serious talk.

Pat Scott regained her form and began winning again. On July 14, she pitched four scoreless innings against the great Jean Faut and the AAGPBL All-Star Team. The game went 11-innings before Fort Wayne plated a run to win by a score of 4-3. With Scott pitching like the veteran ace she was, the Daisies won their third consecutive pennant. But again, the team failed to win the playoff series. Pat Scott looked to be on the cusp of a wildly successful All American Girls Professional Baseball League career when she decided to retire.

The reason for Scott’s premature exit from pro ball was the opportunity to go to Europe as an exchange student. Even though Scott had not attended a single day of college, a professor she had known while working at the University of Kentucky field office invited her to apply for the exchange program. Though she was competing against all first-year college applicants, the professor believed Scott’s travel experience with the AAGPBL had prepared her for the challenges of the overseas exchange program. After a heart to heart with her parents, Pat decided to fill out the application. In the book We Were the All-American Girls: Interviews with Players of the AAGPBL, 1943-1954, Scott recalled telling her parents, “You know, I reached my dream. I’ve played professional baseball, and I loved every minute of it. I still love it, and I always will.” After a rigorous selection process, Scott was one of six who made the cut. She later learned that it was her experience traveling and mingling with many different types of people as a baseball player that put her above the other applicants.

After her year abroad, Pat Scott entered the University of Kentucky where she played on the women’s basketball team while earning her degree in zoology. She later went back for another degree, this time in medicine. Scott spent the next three decades as a medical technologist before retiring. She also trained Appaloosa show horses, became a respectable golfer, played the Appalachian dulcimer in a senior’s group, practiced archery and shooting, and took up oil painting.

If that wasn’t enough, Pat Scott became renowned for an altogether different vocation, woodcarving. After randomly attending a woodcarving show, Scott decided to explore the challenging hobby. Eventually, she became a well-respected member of the woodcarving community, winning many awards and having her work prominently featured in hobby magazines. She eventually reached the pinnacle of the discipline when her work won two ribbons at the International Woodcarvers Conference.

Later in life, Scott was also remembered for her days on the mound. She, along with many of her former teammates and opponents, were consultants for the movie A League of Their Own, spending days on the set with the actors. The movie introduced the story of the AAGPBL to millions of new fans, and Pat Scott became a popular spokesperson and interview subject. A Kentucky girl through and through, Pat Scott always remained close to the area she grew up, eventually settling in Walton. In 2006, the city of Walton built a new ballpark which was named, “Pat Scott Field.” On a national level, Pat Scott is immortalized as part of the permanent “Women in Baseball” exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

When I first started working on a book about the history of baseball in Kentucky, I wanted to include as many different aspects of the game as possible. Besides major leaguers who came from the Bluegrass State, I also wanted to include pioneering Black ballplayers, minor leaguers and, of course, women. After a bit of research, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that just a few miles from my studio lived one of the AAGPBL legends, Pat Scott. I contacted her a few times about doing an interview, but we could never settle on a good date. I was surprised and saddened when I read of her passing in 2016. Although I would never have the chance to meet her, Pat left behind a bevy of interviews from which I could work from. Still, I would have really liked to see her paintings and woodcarvings in person, and to be able to say that I met a woman who boldly succeeded in everything she set out to do.

This story was assembled by using contemporary newspapers as well as several lengthy interviews Pat Scott gave throughout the years for such varied publications as the Cincinnati Enquirer and Woodcarving Illustrated. Jim Sargent’s book, We Were the All-American Girls: Interviews with Players of the AAGPBL, 1943-1954, has a wonderful interview with Pat, as well as many other AAGPBL players. His collection really brings to life this unique chapter in the history of Our National Pastime, and I highly recommend it. The league’s very well done official website, aagpbl.org, was indispensable when checking rosters and stats and the small details that make Pat’s story come to life such as the colors of the Daisies uniform were provided by the generous community of experts and fans at the AAGPBL Facebook page.

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This week’s story is Number 37 in a series of collectible booklets.

Each of the hand-numbered and signed 4 ¼” x 5 1/2″ booklets feature an 8 to 24 page story along with a colored art card attached to the inside back cover. These mini-books can be bought individually, thematically or collected as a never-ending set. In addition to the individual booklets, I envision there being themed sets, such as the series I did on Minor League Home Run Champions. You can order a Subscription to Season 3 as well. A year subscription includes a guaranteed regular 12 issues at a discounted price, plus at least one extra Subscriber Special Issue. Each subscription will begin with Booklet Number 030 and will be active through December of 2021. Booklets 1-29 can be purchased as a group, too.

2 thoughts on “Pat Scott: Act like a lady, throw like a man

  1. Gary,

    Thanks for the wonderful article. Pat Scott was my Aunt, my mother Mary’s oldest sister. I have so many wonderful memories with Aunt Patty helping me with my catching her pitching to me at 46 and still bringing the heat making my hand sting. Whatever she set out to do , she was going to do it to perfection. Again Thanks for the great article.

  2. Your wonderful bios are a never-ending surprise, Gary – I didn’t know about Pat Scott, but I DO know Dr. Lois Youngens, and the thought of the timeline extending back into history as well as forward into the future from the nexus of Pat Scott is positively spine-tingling! You never got the chance to meet her, but through your tales of outsider baseball characters, you give all of US a chance to. Thank you for that.

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