By Marty Appel, October 20, 2016
You would have liked Frank Scott.
On the list of things we love about baseball, player agents don’t rank very high.
But if you had known Frank Scott, it would have been different. He could charm anyone, except for the old Yankees General Manager George Weiss.
But eventually, even Weiss came around.
Frank was the first significant player agent of “modern times,” that being post-World War II. Christy Walsh, best known as Babe Ruth’s agent, sort of invented the profession in the ’20s, and then C. C. “Cash and Carry” Pyle carried on as football hero Red Grange’s agent. Maybe there were a few others along the way, but not significant ones.
And then there was almost nothing until Frank Scott came along.
Frank was not an agent as we think of them today, negotiating player contracts, frantically calling teams when his player gets released. That was unthinkable at the time when the clubs owned all the negotiating leverage. No, Frank handled endorsements and appearances and raised it all to a much more respectable level than he had found things. So while Christy Walsh handled Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Frank came in for Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. His timing was good and his skills were right for the times.
When he found out players were making appearances and receiving cheap wristwatches as payment, he single-handedly put a stop to that and demanded responsible fees.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
What drew my attention to him early on was his time with the Yankees.
I knew Frank well (he died in 1998), and in his later years, he turned over his notes and outline of his life to me in the hopes of having them crafted into a book. Regrettably, we could not find any publisher who took sufficient interest (translation: enough money), but to me, his adventures would have made for a fun read.
He was born in Pittsburgh in 1917 and went to the University of Pittsburgh, where he served as student manager for the Rose Bowl–winning 1937 football team.
The Pitt football coach Jock Sutherland went on to the head coaching job of the Brooklyn Dodgers football team of the National Football League, a team that was owned by future Yankees co-owner Dan Topping. (The Dodgers were in the NFL from 1930 to 1943.)
At Sutherland’s urging, Topping hired Scott to be the team’s traveling secretary, a position he held from 1940 to 1942 before he joined the navy. The NFL teams played four road games a season in those days, which makes it surprising that they even needed full-time traveling secretaries.
But Scott handled it well, and when he came out of the service, Topping had bought the Yankees from the Jacob Ruppert estate with Larry MacPhail and Del Webb. He asked Frank to be traveling secretary in 1947, in what turned out to be a world championship season under Manager Bucky Harris. (Red Patterson had doubled as traveling secretary/publicity director in 1946.)
Scott, with his outgoing personality, quickly befriended everyone he worked with, except Weiss, his boss. Weiss thought the position should include reporting to him on the players and the manager, with an emphasis on bad behavior. Weiss was already tired of Harris, who wouldn’t give him his home number, and who, he felt, wasn’t spending enough time in the office.
Bucky was fired after finishing third in 1948, but according to Scott, Weiss never forgave what he considered Frank’s betrayal, and he fired him right after the 1950 World Series, despite appeals from the New York press corps, Casey Stengel (the manager), and Del Webb (his partner). (Scott in fact, often roomed with Stengel in the manager’s suite on road trips.)
This cartoon by Amadee Wohlschlaeger shows that it was widely known that George Weiss was not a fan of Frank Scott and thought he should not be the team’s secretary.
Another Weiss criticism was that Scott was “too close to the players.” Well, he and his future wife eloped in Joe DiMaggio’s car in 1948. Yes, he was close to the players.
So Frank, unemployed, decided to set up a representation business. Not only did he have the field to himself, but being in New York he had access to and friendship with some of the most in-demand athletes in America—Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Tommy Henrich, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Sal Maglie, and Eddie Stanky among them. He signed up all the stars on the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants.
The impetus for his business, he often related, was Yogi Berra showing him several dozen watches he had received in lieu of cash for many appearances and endorsements. “You want one?” he asked Frank. And Frank saw a business opportunity.
When producers of the popular Milton Berle Show asked for Berra and Rizzuto to appear on the show, Frank took over and demanded cash. No athlete had ever before been paid for such an appearance. Frank took a commission, and his business was running.
He pretty much owned the field, even fending off an attempt by a young lawyer named Howard Cosell to compete.
In 1951, Yankee coach Bill Dickey called Scott and suggested he sign a highly touted rookie named Mickey Mantle before hustlers hoodwinked the 19-year-old. Too late. A hustler named Alan Savitt signed rookie Mickey Mantle to a “million dollar contract,” under which Savitt would receive $500,000.
Word about this contract reached Weiss. He was never happy to involve himself in players’ off-field businesses, but this was outrageous, and probably illegal. The Yankees were going to have to step in and get Mantle out of the deal.
“Who you gonna call?”
It couldn’t have been easy for Weiss to take the next step.
Frank Scott. The very same Frank Scott he had fired the year before.
Weiss swallowed his pride and called Scott, using his assistance to get Mantle out of the Savitt deal, and under the management of Scott. Peace between Weiss and Scott was at hand, and Frank was again a welcome presence in the Yankee clubhouse.
And Scott did very well by Mantle, getting him fair, market-rate fees for all endorsements, and helping him jump on opportunities. When Mantle was seen blowing bubbles in center field, Frank got him a bubble gum endorsement. When Mantle was said to have a “clean and wholesome image,” Frank got him a contract with Lifebuoy soap.
Meanwhile, his business grew. When he represented Don Larsen after Larsen’s perfect World Series game, Frank made a lot of money for Don in that off-season. He developed a business plan for “instant World Series heroes” that lasted for years. Now he was taking on football and basketball players such as Frank Gifford, Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Oscar Robertson, and Bob Cousy. He organized a baseball tour of Japan in 1953 with lots of All-Star players and, for 20 years, the American Airlines Golf Tournament that featured star athletes from all sports. He organized a sports committee for the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy.
Frank Scott gained the admiration of black players—the emerging stars of the game—when he turned down a lucrative potato chip endorsement from a company that wanted 18 white players and no blacks. He was the first agent to represent black athletes. He was there for the Mantle/Maris home run bonanza in 1961, which led to his establishing Mantle-Maris Enterprises, Inc. After the season, he arranged for Roger Maris to visit JFK in the White House.
Without giving up his lucrative agency business, Frank was asked to become director of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association when its leader Judge Robert Cannon didn’t want to move to New York. The union was pretty much powerless in those days, and Scott ran it until the 1965 election of Marvin Miller, who was determined to take it in a different direction. But Scott will always be the trivia answer to “who ran the union before Miller.”
Frank hustled hard on behalf of his clients, and, even as he grew older, he never missed an opportunity. He represented many of the 1969 and 1986 Mets, quarterback Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl champions, and a highly touted NBA rookie in Chicago—Michael Jordan.
Frank was still active, still coming up with ideas and signing clients in his 70s, but he suffered a stroke in 1997 and died at age 80 the following year. By then, agents who represented athletes primarily for their contract negotiations with teams had overtaken him and were earning a lot more than he did. But in his day, he was the man to see if you had commercial potential.
Frank Scott (right) is shown here with Joe DiMaggio and a wax figure of Babe Ruth at the home of collector Barry Halper. Scott and his fiancé eloped in DiMaggio’s car in 1948.
Source: Marty Appel