No. 17: George Scales

As promised, for the next couple months, I’ll be writing up the Baseball Hall of Fame from top to bottom—every candidate, every argument, lots of fun. We continue this week with the veterans committee candidates — the players in the Early Baseball Era Committee and candidates from the Golden Days Era Committee.

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George Scales (Early Baseball Era Ballot)

Solid defensive infielder who played in the Negro leagues for an incredible 26 seasons, from 1921 to 1946. … Lifetime .319 hitter with power … Famed in his day for his ability to hit the curveball … Starred in Puerto Rico and Cuba in addition to the Negro leagues. … Was rated the fourth-best second baseman in Negro leagues history in the famous Pittsburgh Courier poll of experts in 1952.

Key numbers: Hit .324/.419/.506 in elite Negro leagues play … One of only 13 players to have recorded 2,000 plate appearances and record a .500 slugging percentage in elite Negro leagues play.

Hall of Fame history: Scales was one of 39 players selected to the 2006 final ballot by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues. He was not one of the 17 people elected.

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They called him Tubby — Tubby Scales — which pretty much tells you that it was George Scales’ lot in life to be underrated and underappreciated. In leagues of bigger-than-life nicknames (Cool Papa Bell, Home Run Johnson, Mule Suttles, Bullet Rogan, the Devil Willie Wells — Tubby Scales leaves a, well, less majestic impression.

But Tubby Scales could really hit. Buck Leonard said he was the best curveball hitter he ever saw, high praise from a player many considered the best fastball hitter in the Negro leagues.

Scales’ stocky body — he was probably 5-foot-10, 200 or so pounds — obscured elite athleticism. He played every defensive position except catcher (his teams would sometimes use him as a pitcher) and he was considered an outstanding third baseman earlier in his career and second baseman later.

Pop Lloyd would say he had “the most wonderful throwing arm in baseball.”

Roy Campanella would marvel at his gracefulness.

By the best numbers available, he hit .324 over a long career, and he hit with line-drive power.

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