“I don’t know for sure how old I am,” says Shine, “but I remember when I was a boy I followed the Union Army during the Civil War. The Confederates didn’t have much food and the Federals did. And I always did like to eat.”

                                                      Shine Scott, the Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1933

 

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Nobody ever knew his real name, though one can surmise that the infectious warmth he possessed made him shine in the eyes of those around him; thus the name was born.

Shine Scott was abandoned as a baby during the Civil War and adopted by a family with the name of Garrison. He lived with them until he was sixteen before he hit the road working odd jobs and doing anything to make a buck. Soon after he set out on his own, he found a job as a piano player and did some occasional bouncing in a brothel where he could use his baritone voice to its fullest.

By the turn of the century Shine had made his home in Vernon, California where he bought a horse and wagon and made his living as a junkman. In 1909 Vernon became the home to the Tigers of the Pacific Coast League. On his way home each day, Shine made a habit out of pulling up behind the outfield fence where he’d stand on his wagon and talk to players. They loved him from the start – his heavyweight laugh and outlook on life was contagious. It didn’t take long before Shine was invited into the clubhouse where he’d charm the players by telling tales about his travels. The club couldn’t resist Shine’s presence, and Tigers manager, Hap Hogan found room on the payroll and appointed Shine as the team trainer.

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In 1925, the Vernon Tigers were sold and moved to San Francisco where they became the Mission Reds, and Shine immediately became part of the new franchise. Shine was just the kind of guy to take the edge off a young rookie who was entering a professional clubhouse for the first time. My grandfather, Babe Dahlgren, was one of those rookies in 1932 when he joined the Mission Reds.

Shine referred to all the youngsters on the club as his lambs. Whenever he sensed a lamb was down, he’d walk over to their locker and sit beside them asking what the problem was while gazing at them with his watery bloodshot eyes. Sometimes during games he would walk out and stand in the grandstands and watch, but most of the time, if he didn’t have a candidate for the rub table, he’d doze off under the heater in the clubhouse to avoid the crisp Bay air.

When giving a player a massage, Shine would often put on a show by winking to the surrounding teammates and dousing the player on the rub table with whatever was close at hand like soda or just plain water instead of the usual rubbing liniment. This of course kept everybody loose. If a game was rained out when the club was on the road, the payers would take off their uniforms and sit in front of their lockers waiting for Shine to tell stories – it was Showtime! He also liked to argue, and once he got started, he would chase his opponent across the clubhouse until a wall demanded an about-face. Then Shine would stuff large wads of cotton in both ears and walk away unable to hear his agitator which caused the players to roar with laughter.

Shine had a hard time sleeping due to asthma. When the club traveled north to play Portland and Seattle, he’d consistently complain about the high altitudes. “Lamby, I’m afraid this is old Shine’s last trip up these mountains.” But the players all knew Shine wasn’t going anywhere – he was just looking for a little sympathy and the players were happy to give it to him.

One day in 1932, club President, Joe Bearwald, walked into the clubhouse unshaven. The club had been struggling and it was apparent he wasn’t going to shave until the club broke out of its losing streak. In an attempt to relax the club, Bearwald held a team meeting giving the floor to anybody who wanted to offer words of encouragement. That’s when Shine stood up in the back of the clubhouse. “Mr. Bearwald, I know what’s wrong with this club and why we aren’t winning.”

“Why isn’t the club winning Shine?” Bearwald asked.

“Mr. Bearwald, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit!” Shine explained.

The club broke out in laughter, as did Bearwald, who shaved the next day.

At the end of each season Shine would collect all his belongings while looking over his thin glasses that rested on the edge of his nose. When he gathered his Gillette razors, he’d become sentimental. “Well this is my last year. I won’t be shaving anybody’s legs anymore before I tape ‘em up. So I’m going to give you something to remember old Shine by.” He’d start to give away one of his razors but pull it back claiming that it was bad luck to give anything away that cuts. “Tell you what, just to chase the demons away, how ‘bout giving me a dime?” The players would smile knowing that was all he paid for the razor when it was brand new.

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Shine Scott died on October 7, 1940, of a heart attack. The Pacific Coast League was his home for more than thirty years. Though no one knew for certain, it was believed he was over eighty years old.

 

*Matt Dahlgren is the author of Rumor In Town and the novel, The Flannel Past. He can be followed on Twitter: @mattdahlgren12 or at mattdahlgren.com 

 

 

 

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