Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Or was it Rae/Ray Scarborough?

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

 In my December 15 posting I stated that Herb Score may have been the first “Million Dollar” ballplayer.  

I guess I was off by a few years.

In 1950, when the perennially last-place Senators were being besieged with offers for pitcher Ray Scarborough, Washington owner Clark Griffith said he’d let the pitcher go . . . for $1,000,000.          

Scarborough had won 15 games in 1948 while losing eight. It was his first winning season since his rookie year in 1942.

I don't see what stimulated all the demand.  He was 13-11 in 1949 and started the 1950 season with Washington at 3-5 before he was traded to the White Sox on May 31 in a six-player deal and a reported $150,000 cash. He never again showed any million-dollar promise. 

With the White Sox for the remainder of 1951 he was 10-13; after the season he was traded to the Red Sox. He had a 12-9 record with Boston in 1951; it was his last winning season. He was 1-5 for Boston through Aug. 22, 1952, then was sold to the Yankees for the pennant drive.

He performed brilliantly with New York for the final month of the season. He had a 5-1 record and 2.91 ERA. After starting the 1953 season with the Yankees, he was released on Aug. 4, when his record was 2-2. He caught on with the Tigers as a free agent, and was 0-2 the rest of the season; it was his last in pro ball.
On a baseball-card related note, did you ever wonder why Scarborough’s name was spelled “Rae” on his 1949-50 Bowman cards, and “Ray” on his 1951-53 cards?

According to a sidebar in a May 10, 1950, Sporting News feature speculating on Scarborough’s future, it happened like this:

Scarborough Scraps Rae;
Record Proves It's Ray
            For years Ray Scarborough of the Senators signed his first name as Rae, and it so appeared in the Baseball Register until the pitcher changed the spelling to Ray for the 1949 edition.
            Deciding that Rae sounded feminine, Scarborough had sent an inquiry to Mount Gilead, N. C., where the vital statistics revealed he had been christened Ray Wilson Scarborough.

That account is at odds with what I generally consider to be my final authority:, which says Scarborough’s birth name was spelled Rae. However, I’m a firm believer that a person can choose what name he wishes to be known by, so for me, it’s Ray.

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