By Trey Williams
Jonesborough fit like a glove for Dale Scott.
He enjoys a slow pace and storytelling – and with the TSSAA state baseball tournament being played this week and the Junior College World Series beginning Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., it’s the ideal week of the definitive year for Scott to reminisce.
He was a pitcher-center fielder on David Crockett’s state runner-up team in 1978 and an all-district outfielder on Cleveland State’s JUCO World Series runner-up in Grand Junction in 1980. The latter distinction helped land him in the Cleveland State Hall of Fame in February.
Scott didn’t anticipate the cherished recognition. When the letter arrived he assumed it was about a 35-year reunion for the World Series team.
“I was shocked half to death when I opened it up – that they were gonna do this for me,” Scott said. “I’m still shocked over it.”
Scott, who went to Tennessee Wesleyan after JUCO, hit .330 as a freshman and .380 as a sophomore in college. He led Cleveland State in steals his sophomore season, when he was an all-district selection.
Among those attending Scott’s induction ceremony was his high school coach, Sonny Miller.
“That was very, very special for me,” Miller said. “As far as I know, that’s the only player from Crockett that’s ever had that kind of honor – anything close to that kind of honor. My wife (Patricia) and I both went to see the induction ceremonies and we thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Scott was pleased to have Miller in attendance.
“He was the one that got me there,” Scott said. “Well, him and my family. Without my parents and the discipline it wouldn’t have happened. School work came first, and then chores.”
Scott’s family is surely the most prolific in Crockett athletics history. His older brother Henry (class of ’77) and youngest brother Johnny were multi-sport standouts, and younger brother Tary is one of the most storied sluggers in Northeast Tennessee history. Sisters Gail and Sandy were good athletes, too.
The Scotts grew up on Fairview Avenue in Johnson City. Their father, Henry, was in the Air Force, and they lived in Tokyo, Japan when Dale was 9 and 10 (1969-70). When they returned, Dale finished at North Side elementary school before they bought a house in Jonesborough, where he attended middle school.
“That was probably the best move that I ever saw come into Crockett,” Miller said with a chuckle. “Every one of them was a tremendous athlete. They came in year after year – tremendous athletes and a great family.”
Tary hit 49 home runs in 1,261 at-bats while playing his way to Double-A in the Boston Red Sox organization (1984-88). He too played in a JUCO World Series, and he made the All-World Series team for Walters State in 1984.
He coaches high school baseball in Wolcott, Conn., and won his 300th game May 4. It came in his 429th game.
Tary’s Walters State is returning to the World Series this week thanks, in part, to Science Hill alums such as Kyle Wilson, Matt Pope and Reed Hayes (2014 Science Hill graduate Kyle Ouellette is red-shirting). Tary’s tape-measure home run still gets mentioned in Grand Junction, where the town’s embraced the event for decades.
“They treated us like kings down there,” said Dale, whose Cleveland State team finished runner-up to Middle Georgia when it had future big-leaguer Ernest Riles.
Tary was also known for hitting a house beyond the left field fence in a high school game at Crockett – a clout that appears it would’ve measured at least 450 feet.
“There’s not a year goes by that I don’t hear somebody talk about that home run,” said David Crockett principal Andy Hare, who treasures the Scotts’ legacy. “It’s a special family, and they’re always giving back to us and the Crockett community. And it can be a variety of forms – just a simple smile and saying ‘hello,’ or something as big as when they were competing there. They take so much pride in that school and that community, and it shows. That’s why we’re on a high note right now, because of people like that.”
Crockett athletics experienced a surge in the Scotts’ era.
“Me and ole Henry, we used to compete all the time and we would argue all the time,” Dale said. “But it made us better. We would always try to better our game that way. Henry was a heck of a center fielder for Crockett.
“Johnny went to Walters State. He could jump out of the gym. … And Tary played (in the minors) for Boston. I saw him hit one in Asheville to dead-center that hit the top of the fence. He crushed it. We thought it was gone, but it bounced back in.”
Tary tripled off the center field fence at another minor-league facility, Cardinal Park, and scored the winning run when a Crockett upset ended a talented Science Hill’s season in ‘82.
“It was a 400-foot triple and we beat them, 1-0,” Miller said. “They were loaded.”
But Tary never experienced a postseason run like Dale did.
“Everybody down here’s immediately compared to that ‘78 squad,” Hare said.
Crockett won the Inter-Mountain Conference regular-season title in ‘78, when Scott’s fellow seniors included Mike Martin, Bobby Oliver, Jeff Vest, Tony Chandler, Jimmy Wagner and Ronny Hamilton. The Nos. 2 and 3 pitchers were Jeff Harold and Gary Green.
Scott struck out 12 and pitched a four-hitter against Jefferson County to advance Crockett to the district final. And in the state semifinals against Oakland, he struck out 11 and walked none while pitching a four-hitter in a 5-1 victory.
The semifinal was played in Tullahoma three days before the state championship series began in Nashville. Crockett had an estimated 600 fans, which were more than Oakland drew.
“That was unreal,” Scott said. “I don’t know how many pep buses they took down there that day. Our fans’ side was packed. It was really loud.”
But Scott’s favorite victory came against Science Hill in the regional semifinals in Morristown. He struck out six while allowing six hits and no walks in a 2-1 Pioneers win that ended another quality Science Hill team’s season.
The Hilltoppers were led by shortstop-pitcher Gary Carter and pitcher Gary McConnell, who had a 7-0 record before suffering a season-ending loss to Scott and the Pioneers. Carter drove in Science Hill’s lone run in the sixth inning after a Tony Bible triple to get Science Hill within 2-1.
“Gary Carter was tough,” Scott said. “Godamighty, he was a hitting machine. … We all thought they’s gonna pitch Gary Carter. We thought it was gonna be me and him facing off that night. But I guess … they figured they’s gonna pitch Gary McConnell and probably beat us and, you know, save Gary Carter.
“And believe me, Gary Carter was a little hot. He was hot as a firecracker after the game.”
Scott also ended the junior basketball season of Carter, who went on to score 1,199 points for Don DeVoe at Tennessee. Scott hit the game-winning jumper against the Hilltoppers with about four seconds left in the regional semifinals at Dobyns-Bennett.
“The biggest thrill I ever got,” Scott said. “I think they were ranked third in the state. Biggest upset ever. They were loaded: Gary Carter, Walter Bradley. We shocked the Hilltoppers.”
Scott averaged 20-plus points per game as a senior for Dave Britton and was named team MVP. But Jamie Dickson was the scoring leader Scott’s junior year and drew most of the attention on the inbounds play that led to Scott’s game-winner.
“There was about four or five seconds when I shot it,” Scott said. “Science Hill called timeout with about four seconds. They threw it to half-court and called a timeout. I think there was about two seconds to go and they set a screen for Gary and Gary went to the corner and they threw it to him in the corner and that sucker just about went in.”
These days Scott finds himself admiring a distant cousin of Carter’s, rising senior David Crockett point guard Patrick Good. Crockett won the district tournament with a junior-laden team last season, and Scott is among the Pioneers faithful eager to see what lies ahead next season.
“Patrick can handle the rock,” said Scott, who knows anything less than a state tournament berth will be somewhat disappointing for the 2015-16 basketball team.
Scott can speak to the shelf life of state-tournament memories. He recalls near misses with Montgomery Bell Academy in the championship series. Crockett was well on its way to winning the opener in the best-of-three series in Greer Stadium, the brand-new home of the Double-A Nashville Sounds. Scott’s RBI single scored Jimmy Adams to give the Pioneers a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth.
But MBA finally got to curveball pitcher Jeff Harold and escaped with a 4-2 victory. It was the only loss of the season for Harold (9-1). He was bested by Barry Ralston, a power pitcher that was once left in a Vanderbilt game long enough to walk nine Florida Gators.
“Good gosh, he was throwing in the 90s,” Scott said of Ralston.
Scott pitched game two, which was the last game of the season for Crockett. The score was tied at 3 at the end of regulation. A tiring Scott stayed in to pitch the eighth inning – MBA was on its third pitcher by then – and he yielded five runs.
“I was wore out,” Scott said.
Crockett wasn’t a home run-hitting team that season, but Scott and Miller each noted the big new ballpark being costly in both games. Several Pioneers flew out on or near the warning track, including Mike Martin, who sent the left-fielder to the fence to make a catch with two on in the top of the seventh in the 4-2 loss.
“We played the first game ever played in the Sounds’ park,” Miller said. “It wasn’t finished. At probably 3 o’clock the afternoon of the first game, they were still working on the infield. After the first year they moved the fences in a little, because it was a Double-A park and they weren’t hitting many home runs at that level. We hit three or four balls that would’ve had a chance of being out anywhere else. In fact, I thought we’d won the one game in the last at-bat on the one (by Martin) that was hit to the fence.”
Scott finished his senior season 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA and a team-high .422 average. The seniors took a trip to Cincinnati to see the Reds host the Pittsburgh Pirates. Scott noted watching Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, Pete Rose (he got his 3,000th hit that year), Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey and the Pirates’ Dave Parker and Willie Stargell.
The “C” on Crockett’s caps was a replica of Cincinnati’s. Miller even gave a Reds scout one of the brown Crockett caps.
“Everywhere we’d go scouts were following Dale,” Miller said. “He was just a tremendous athlete. He never threw an inning in college, but he was such a competitor that he’d go out there and find out ways to win. I thought he would sign pro out of high school, but he wanted to go to college instead, which now I think was a good move for him.”
Scott initially signed with East Tennessee State, as did Martin. Charley Lodes had immediately taken ETSU to new heights with the likes of left-hander Atlee Hammaker. But Scott went with catcher Bobby Oliver on his visit to Cleveland State and was instantly smitten.
“I just rode down there with him,” Scott said. “And that’s when I met coach Steve Longley. … He said, ‘Dale Scott?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You know how long I’ve been trying to get ahold of you? I was gonna sign you to come down here.’”
Dale called home and his parents said he’d have to decide if he wanted to switch from ETSU.
“So I just changed my mind,” Scott said. “I said, ‘I would rather go to school down here with my best friend, Bobby Oliver.’ And they said, ‘Well, okay.’
“Cleveland State was a small school. At the time, I felt like I probably could’ve started up there at State, but I went down there and I just loved the place. It was a nice school and small campus and small town.”
Scott’s switch gave Miller pause because he saw that Lodes and ETSU assistant coach John Whited were starting something special.
“I knew Coach Lodes and Coach Whited both,” Miller said. “They had a great program at that time. … Michael (Martin) played for him and Scotty Fox played for him maybe the first year or two he was there. They both liked him. Lodes was just a tremendous baseball man. …
“I just let Dale make his own mind up; of course, he was going to anyway. … A small school, I think, was probably a good move for Dale.”
So was Jonesborough. Scott said he could’ve attended Science Hill. His grandmother was still in Johnson City. But Crockett was home, and still is.
Scott has worked security at Crockett since 2008. He might be as popular as Good. A Facebook post the night his Hall of Fame election was announced generated a Daniel Norris-like response.
“I went to high school with some of them and I’ve been a security officer down here,” Dale said while laughing off his popularity. “These people in this community show me respect and I give them respect. I don’t care if you like me or not, I’m gonna talk to you. I mean that’s just the way I was brought up.”
Hare learned the extent of Miller’s respect for the Scotts prior to Dale’s return in ‘08.
“I remember very well him talking about those guys and how special they were,” Hare said. “Dale’s a good soul and he’s just a divinely happy person. I mean you cannot be mad around him. When I’m having a tough day he can sense it, and he’ll turn that bad day into a positive day instantly. And he does that for everybody.”
Miller and assistant baseball coach/basketball coach Dave Britton were tough-loving extended family for Scott.
“Believe me, what Sonny Miller said we’d have done it – no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Scott said. “With him it was my way or the highway. We were fundamentally sound. … We were dead tired whenever we walked off the practice field.
“But I just had a good feeling. Him and Dave Britton – I think they knew they had something special in ‘78. And we had a good run.”