June 7, 2024

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

Former Montreal Expos outfielder Tony Scott passed away on May 28 at the age of 72 in his hometown of Cincinnati.

Montreal Expos book author and Canadian Baseball Network writer Danny Gallagher was the first to report Scott’s death.

No cause of death has been given.

A 71st round pick of the Expos in 1969, Scott overcame long odds to scratch out an 11-season big league career.

He played his first major league game with the Expos on September 1, 1973, and then after successful tenures with the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros, returned to the Expos for his final 45 big league contests in 1984.

Raised in Cincinnati

Born in Cincinnati on September 18, 1951, Scott was the second youngest child in a family of nine kids. His father died when he was 12 and his mother, Theola, worked multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Scott’s older brother Billie, who would take over as a father figure in his life, was killed while serving in Vietnam.

An excellent all-around athlete at Cincinnati’s Withrow High School, Scott was 6-feet tall but weighed less than 140 pounds. But the Expos – thanks to a strong recommendation from scout Terry Boyle – took a flier on the scrawny outfielder and selected him in the 71st round in 1969.

A shy, 17-year-old Scott signed with the Expos and reported to their Rookie-Ball club.

“He weighed 140 at most and it was more a case of the bat swinging him,” Danny Menendez, the Expos assistant general manager, told the Montreal Gazette about his first impression of Scott.

Despite his slight physique, Scott was fast, showcased great range in the outfield and possessed one of the strongest arms in the organization. It was his bat that required work.

After hitting just .179 in 38 games in Rookie Ball, the right-handed hitting Scott would hit a combined .253 with 13 stolen bases in 66 games between Low-A Watertown and Class-A West Palm Peach in 1970. But when he found himself struggling at the plate again with Low-A Jamestown and Class-A West Palm Beach in 1971, he decided to become a switch-hitter.

Promoted to Quebec City

He was promoted to the double-A Quebec City Carnavals in 1972. He hit just .214 in 135 games in his first full season as a switch-hitter but he managed to steal 37 bases, which was good for second in the Eastern League.

He returned to Quebec the following year and his average improved to .256 and he earned his first big league call-up that September. He had just one at bat and was used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner in 11 games with the Expos.

Scott was back in Quebec in 1974 and at age 22, he started to put it all together. He hit .284, while finishing second in the Eastern League with 43 stolen bases, while also topping the circuit’s outfielders with a .980 fielding percentage. He was rewarded with another September call-up by the Expos, where he went 2-for-7 in 19 games.

Breakout spring in 1975

The then 23-year-old Scott arrived at Expos camp in 1975 out of minor league options and determined to crack the big-league roster. His determination and hard work paid off. He batted .362 and dazzled in the field, leading manager Gene Mauch to call him the team’s most pleasant surprise of the spring.

“Here was a journeyman minor league player who gave no indication he’d be ready. All of a sudden, against major league opposition, he shows that he belongs,” Mauch told the Montreal Gazette for their March 27, 1975 edition. “Tony Scott is the surprise of the camp to me — a pleasant surprise.”

Jim Fanning, the Expos GM, said Scott’s performance left them no choice but to bring him north with the club to start the season.

“We can’t deny Scott after the spring he’s had,” Fanning told the Montreal Gazette. “This just might be the beginning of a ballplayer.”

Expos leadoff hitter

Starting in left field, Scott was the Expos’ leadoff hitter on Opening Day against Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals. Scott would be credited with the game-winning RBI thanks to his two-run double off Gibson in the top of the eighth inning.

“I wasn’t as awed as I would have been watching him from the stands,” Scott told the Montreal Gazette of facing Gibson. “He once was one of my idols. But no more. Now we’re playing the same game and I have only one thing on my mind – and that’s trying to beat him.”

Unfortunately, that Opening Day performance was one of the few highlights for Scott with the Expos that season. He finished with a .182 batting average in 92 games and had just nine at bats after July 12.

Back to minors

In 1976, he found himself back in the minors with the triple-A Denver Bears.

“I’ll work hard in the minors and be back in the majors with somebody,” Scott told the Montreal Gazette after being assigned to triple-A at the end of spring training.

That Bears team featured young outfielders Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie, but Scott still managed to bat .311 with eight home runs, nine triples and 18 stolen bases in 106 games. Under manager Vern Rapp, the Bears finished 86-50 and won the American Association championship.

Traded to Cardinals

After that season, Rapp was hired to manage the St. Louis Cardinals and not coincidentally, the Cards swung a deal for Scott on November 6.

Scott was the starting centre fielder for the Cardinals in 1977 and posted a career-best .291 batting average and stole 13 bases in 95 games.

His batting average dropped to .228 the next year, but Scott rebounded in 1979 to set career-highs in hits (152), stolen bases (37), triples (10) and RBIs (68) in 153 games in 1979.

He followed that up by hitting .251 in 143 games for the Cardinals in 1980 prior to being dealt to the Astros on June 7, 1981.

Off to Houston

He looked rejuvenated after the mid-season deal to the Astros, taking over as the club’s everyday centre fielder and batting .293 in 55 regular season contests before starting all five National League Division Series games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But Scott’s batting average and playing time would tail off over his next three seasons with the Astros and they released him on June 22, 1984. Seven days later, the Expos signed him.

Back to Montreal

Scott made a triumphant return to the Expos’ lineup on June 29. Starting in left field in his hometown of Cincinnati, he had two doubles and drove in a run.

In all, he batted .254 in 45 games in his second tenure with the Expos, which would prove to be his final taste of big league action.

Coaching with Phillies

After he hung up his playing spikes, Scott coached at various levels in the Phillies’ organization from 1989 to 2000, before joining the big-league staff in 2001.

He also coached at the grassroots level in the off-season.

“During the off-season, Tony and Leon Durham created and supported two Little League teams called the TS Bulls where Tony coached, along with his brothers and a few close friends,” reads his official obituary. “Their goal was to keep baseball opportunities alive in the African American community. He even coached his son, Lil Tony. Many young men who came up through the program went on to college to play baseball.”

Scott is survived by his wife Connie, his son, Anthony Tony Blackmon, eight stepchildren and three grandchildren.

A funeral will take place Saturday morning at St. Mark AME Zion Church in Cincinnati.

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