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Baseball's First True Iron Man

June 10, 1990|KEN MURRAY | BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

BALTIMORE — By now, all that remains of the legacy of Everett (Deacon) Scott are blurred memories, yellowed newspaper articles and a ream of cold, raw statistics.

What we know about baseball's first true iron man is that he played in 1,307 consecutive games from 1916 to 1925, that he started the streak as a member of the Boston Red Sox and ended it as a New York Yankee.

What we know is that he was only a career .249 hitter, but by all accounts a marvelous defensive shortstop, eight times leading the American League in fielding percentage.

What we also know is that his first name was actually Lewis, not Everett, and that he rarely, if ever, talked about his claim to fleeting fame.

For the first time since he died in 1960 at the age of 67, Scott is in the news again. On Sunday at Memorial Stadium against the Yankees, Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken is expected to play in his 1,307th consecutive game. That would tie Scott for second place on baseball's all-time iron man list. On Tuesday at home against Milwaukee, Ripken is expected to pass Scott and move within 822 games of the record of 2,130 held by the Iron Horse himself, Lou Gehrig.

Which brings up Little Known Fact No. 1:

The man who effectively ended Scott's run at 1,307 games was, ironically, the same man who stepped aside when Gehrig embarked on his streak. That man was Paul "Pee Wee" Wanninger, a bit player who spent only two seasons in the major leagues.

As the story goes, Scott had slowed down considerably in the field by 1925. Yankees pitchers supposedly went to manager Miller Huggins to complain about Scott's defense early in the season. On May 6, Huggins put Wanninger's name in the lineup at short and Scott sat on the bench for the first time in 10 years.

Less than a month later, the Yankees still weren't getting much offense at short. So in the eighth inning of a game on June 1, Huggins sent up Gehrig to pinch-hit for Wanninger. Lou made an out, but it was the first game of his incredible iron man streak. It was the next day, according to baseball folklore, that Wally Pipp said he wasn't feeling well and Gehrig started a 15-year run as Yankees first baseman.

Born in 1892 in Bluffton, Ind., Scott's major-league career spanned 13 years and 1,654 games. He broke in with the Red Sox in 1914. Two years later, on June 20, 1916, the consecutive games streak began. In 1922, he was traded to the Yankees. And once his streak and tenure with the Yankees were over in 1925, Scott finished his big-league career with cameo appearances at Washington and Chicago in the American League and Cincinnati in the National League.

Which brings up Little Known Fact No. 2:

Scott played for Baltimore's International League Orioles in 1927 after his major-league career had ended.

Signed by Jack Dunn, Scott hit a resounding .335 with 11 home runs and 69 RBIs in 109 games. But late in the season, with the Orioles struggling, Dunn released him and Scott went on to play for Casey Stengel in Toledo, where he helped win the American Association pennant.

Those were the days when a quarter would put you in the bleachers at Oriole Park. Al Kermisch, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army who lives in Arlington, Va., grew up in Baltimore and remembers watching the likes of Joe Boley, Dick Porter and Scott from a spot in those bleachers.

"Oriole Park was made for hitters," Kermisch said, noting Scott's new-found offensive prowess. "But the Orioles weren't going anywhere when Dunn released him."

Scott would play another 1 1/2 years with the Cubs' International League farm club in Reading, Pa. He signed with the Keystones for a reported bonus of $3,000. Melvin "Doc" Silva, an outfielder in the International League at the time and a retired sports editor with the Reading Times, used to work out with Scott at Lauer Park.

Silva said he made $4,000 as a center fielder for Reading, Rochester and Syracuse. Scott, he said, probably made $6,000. "Today he'd make a million."

"Deacon was a wonder," said Silva, 92. "He was a very good player. And a very good dresser. Other players wore open shirts. He wore neckties. He was a dude. "

Silva said Scott never mentioned his record. "He talked about playing checkers and pool, and he was a helluva poker player. But he never talked about the streak."

The streak nearly ended on several occasions. Scott, who was only 5-feet-8 and played at 140 pounds, suffered from boils and often would play wrapped in bandages. Once, while he was with the Red Sox, he was forced out of the lineup because of a large boil. But that game was rained out and the streak remained intact.

In 1922, while with the Yanks, he was visiting relatives in Indiana on an off day before New York opened a series in Chicago. According to accounts of the time, a train wreck delayed Scott's return to the club, but he got back to play the last few innings.

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