In 1960, after a malfunction with the experimental microphone he was wielding for NBC at the NFL championship game, George Scott got to relax in Franklin Field’s press box and watch the Eagles win a title.
On Saturday, 58 years later, he’ll be back at Franklin Field for another major sporting event, the 124th Penn Relays. But this time his job won’t be nearly so easy. This time Scott, who turns 98 in October, will be running.
The oldest competitor at these Relays, Scott is one of 18 entrants who will compete en masse in the Masters’ Mixed (men and women) 80-and-over 100 Meters. He’s hoping again to be the fastest in his age group (95-100 this year), which would give him that distinction for a fourth consecutive year. He was timed in a shade over 29 seconds in 2017, five seconds slower than in 2015. Bobby Whilden, 81, was fastest last year in 14.65 seconds.
“I’d love to win another medal,” Scott said.
He already has quite a collection of them in the bedroom of his unit at the Ann’s Choice retirement community in Warminster.
In 2009, the then-89-year-old, twice-widowed, retired radio engineer won 15 gold and two silver medals in his age group at the combined Keystone Games and Senior Olympics. Among the events he captured there were several sprints, the long jump, broad jump, shot put, hammer-throw, and a couple of basketball-shooting competitions.
More recently, representing the Philadelphia Masters Track & Field Association at last month’s National Masters Indoor Championships in Landover, Md., Scott took gold in the 60- and 200-meter races, the long and triple jumps, the hammer throw, discus, and shot put.
To be fair, as his son, Jeff, noted, “there isn’t a whole lot of competition in the 95-100 age group.” But that shouldn’t diminish what this Philadelphia native has accomplished in the last decade.
“He’s always been active, dancing and playing basketball,” said Jeff Scott, a retired senior writer for MLB Productions. “But track was something new.”
The elder Scott was playing basketball at the Doylestown YMCA in 2009 when a fellow player suggested he try a different sport.
“He said, `Scotty, at your age and the shape you’re in, you have to do track and field,’ ” Scott recalled. “I told him I hadn’t done anything like that since 10th grade, but he showed me a few things and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Scott’s first love was basketball. He learned the game growing up near Marvine and Johnson Streets in South Philadelphia, where, following the 1923 death of his father, he lived with his maternal grandmother. The Sphas, a pioneering pro team sponsored by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, used to practice occasionally on a nearby playground and the youngster picked up some of their tricks.
“I played with them all the time and they taught me a lot of things, especially about passing the ball,” he said. “I turned into a really good passer. Basketball became my game. Since I was young, I’ve always had a hoop outside my houses.”
One of the last practicing two-hand set-shooters, Scott continues to play the sport. He also plays the organ and does ballroom and jitterbug dancing — activities he picked up half a century ago. He and his girlfriend teach dancing at the retirement center and operate a monthly sock-hop there.
Scott, whose first wife died in 1971 and second in 2007, was drafted six months after his initial marriage, in 1941. The Air Force taught him about radio and radar, and after World War II he took a job as a radio-transmitting engineer with a groundbreaking Philadelphia television station, WPTZ-Channel 3.
“That’s what I was doing in 1960 when the Eagles played in the NFL championship,” Scott said. “It was an NBC game and when they came down to Philadelphia for an event, they used Philadelphia personnel. They had me setting up cables and things like that, then they handed me this parabolic microphone, which was brand new. They told me to set up next to the announcer and follow the quarterback.”
When the device flopped, the producer told Scott to relax and watch the game, which he did without relinquishing his seat alongside announcer Lindsey Nelson. And unlike a lot of Philadelphians who were at Franklin Field for Philadelphia’s victory over Green Bay that day, Scott lived long enough to see another Eagles championship.
“Not bad,” he said. “Not bad at all.”