Tubby feasted on Negro League pitching

Tubby feasted on Negro League pitching

George "Tubby" Scales was a rarity in the Negro Leagues. Second basemen during that era were generally known more for their gloves than their bats, but Scales broke the mold.

Playing mainly at second base in the 1920s and 1930s, Scales had a lifetime average of .311 and topped the .300 mark in 13 seasons. This was no slick-fielding but light-hitting second baseman.

"Scales was really an outstanding hitter for that position," Negro Leagues historian James Riley said. "He played a little at third base, a little at shortstop and some at first base. But he was predominantly a second baseman with a great knack for hitting the curveball."

According to BaseballLibrary.com, Hall of Famer Buck Leonard said Scales was the best curveball hitter he had ever seen.

"He was a good fielder, too," Riley said. "But not as good as a few other second baseman of that era. What set Scales apart was his hitting ability."

Scales made his mark with the Lincoln Giants, New York Black Yankees, Homestead Grays, Baltimore Elite Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Newark Stars and St. Louis Stars.

"In the '20s and '30s, Scales played mainly in the East while [second baseman] Newt Allen was the best in the West," Riley said. "As far as hitting goes, I'd probably give Scales the edge over Allen. But he wasn't as good a fielder as Newt."

Scales batted fifth for the acclaimed 1931 Homestead Grays, who breezed through the season with a 136-17 record. That club's talent included Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Ted Page and Vic Harris.

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Scales was considered a smart hitter who has been credited with teaching Dodger second baseman Junior Gilliam how to switch-hit during their years with the Baltimore Elite Giants.

With his knowledge of the fundamentals, Scales was able to transition to a successful managing career. He played and managed in the Negro Leagues until age 48 and managed a dozen seasons in Puerto Rico, winning six pennants and a Caribbean World Series in 1951.

"In my opinion, Scales is another guy who's right on the cusp of Hall of Fame credentials," Riley said. "I'd rank him maybe fourth best among second basemen in the Negro Leagues."

Scales died at 76 in 1976. He continues to be discussed with the premier second basemen of the Negro Leagues.

"In the early years -- the deadball era -- Bingo DeMoss was the best second baseman," Riley said. "Then Allen came along in the '20s and '30s and was the best around. Sammy Hughes arrived in the late '30s and '40s as the top guy at that position."

Scales was never far from the top during a playing career which spanned 1921 through 1948.

It's tough to find a lot of good-hitting second basemen these days. In the Negro Leagues, it was even tougher. Scales was always a hitting luxury who made his managers smile when they filled out the lineup card.

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.