Former Daisies star to throw first pitch



Summary:

WALTON - Sunlight filters into a window in Pat Scott's back room, casting shadows on framed photos, wooden bats and a brown- and gold-skirted uniform.

"This," Scott says, motioning with an outstretched arm, "is my own sports hall of fame."

Scott, 76, has been inducted into three halls of fame, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. She even has a ball field named after her in Walton City Park.

More than memorabilia troves or heaping accolades, the former pitcher carries the best history within herself.

Every time she throws out a ceremonial first pitch - as she will at tonight's 7:05 p.m. Florence Freedom game against the Washington Wild Things - kids mob her afterward, wanting to know what it was like playing for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1951-53.

Some have seen the 1992 movie "A League of Their Own," but Scott says most just wonder what it was like for a woman to play pro baseball.

"It was a dream," Scott said on a Wednesday afternoon. "A dream I was able to fulfill."


DESTINY CALLS

Sandlot ball with boys. Church leagues. Family pitch-and-catch.

If there was ever baseball to be played, Scott wanted a part of it. Her best education came when her father, Wilfred, plowed into his tobacco crop to build a baseball field. Ten-year-old Pat absorbed everything she could - including a knack for overhand pitching - when semi-pro teams competed on the family farm.

Her father saw talent and potential, perfect matches for an Enquirer ad seeking female baseball players in 1948.

"Hey Patty," she remembers him calling. "Do you want to play baseball?"

"Dad, you're pulling my leg," she said. "They don't let girls play baseball."

The girls' league had existed since 1943 as an alternative to disbanding men's teams through World War II. The league lasted until 1954, when it succumbed to revenue slides and organizational mishaps.

At 17, the St. Henry graduate tried out for the league in Chicago's Comiskey Park. She was one of 100 women. The league officials kept about 30.

She made the Springfield Sallies traveling team but returned home when her mother, Irene, became ill. Scott said she forgot about playing baseball during the two years she was by her mother's side.

Hall of Famer Max Carey, the league's president and a manager, didn't forget about Scott. He remembered her from the tryout and asked her to play for the Fort Wayne Daisies.

"I went. It was a second chance," she said, "something a lot of people don't get."


A DAY IN THE LIFE

Control - now that's where Scott thrived. Her change-up was "good," her curve "wasn't worth a dime" but her execution, she said, was her best asset.

In 1952 she lasted 11 innings in a 3-0 win over Battle Creek, Mich. Later that season she pitched the pennant-winning game, a 5-1victory over the Rockford (Ill.) Peaches.

She compiled a 46-26 record in three seasons and posted an ERA of 2.46. She struck out 187 batters.

Baseball itself was only one part of the experience. Players didn't go out to bars - as portrayed in the movie - because teams played night games and women were likely to go home after and sleep until noon, Scott said.

During her career she toured the country, played a game she loved, and even acquired a heckler.

"Oh, he'd give me the berries," she said. "You could see he didn't really mean it, that he was just trying to get me riled up. He'd say things like 'You know you can't get this one over the plate!' " Scott said.

She and the heckler met after one game - and actually became friendly with one another.

She made $55 a week the first year during a time secretaries made $98 a month. Players also received a $2.50-a-day meal allowance, which wasn't a bad fare when an entire meal was 79 cents, Scott said.

Under manager Jimmy Foxx, a Hall-of-Famer after whom Tom Hanks' character was modeled in the movie, the Daisies excelled in Scott's final year.

But opportunity knocked again, this time with an exchange student opportunity in Austria.

Scott took the internship, attended the University of Kentucky a year later and graduated in 1959 with a zoology degree. She spent the next 32½ years as a medical technologist.


LOOKING BACK

Scott never regretted giving up the game because it was "time to move on," but she had hoped the league would expand. Lack of a farm system hurt the league, she said, and the return of soldiers from war brought the men's game back to prominence.

"Back then, you never heard of a professional woman athlete," Scott said. "We thought this was going to lead to bigger things."

Others would wager it has.

Florence Freedom owner Clint Brown said the women's league left an indelible mark on the game, in part showing that there's an audience for the sport as long as it's entertaining.

Scott still attends league reunions. Still adores the game. Still plays when she can, or at least teaches others.

"It was an experience," she said, "you never forget."

E-mail srussell@nky.com

Comment:

Fact or fiction?

The 1992 movie "A League of their Own" depicted the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League - for the most part - former Fort Wayne Daisies pitcher Pat Scott said. The Walton resident, who gave the movie a high rating, shared her own version of events.

Tom Hanks' portrayal of Jimmy Dugan, a spinoff of Scott's real-life manager Jimmy Foxx, was accurate.

Fiction: While men managed the women's team, alcohol would never have been allowed, Scott said.

Players dressed formally when not on the field.

Fact. "We were expected to look like ladies at all times. Even if we got off the bus at 3 a.m. to use the restroom at a gas station, we had to put our skirt or dress on," Scott said.

Women brought their children, like lovable pest Stillwell Angel, on the road with them.

Fiction. Some women were married, but "no one with a kid traveled like that," Scott said.

Players went to etiquette school.

Fact. Most players were taught beauty routines.



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