Pat Scott Scores Big

In the Summer 2011 Issue of Woodcarving Illustrated, Hall-of-Fame baseball player Pat Scott shares her story and carvings.

What do baseball and woodcarving have in common? The determination and tenacity of one gifted individual: Pat Scott of Walton, Ky.

A powerful right-handed pitcher in the historic All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, Pat was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. There’s even a ball field named after her in her hometown of Walton.

Today, Pat uses that powerful right hand to score big points as a woodcarver, creating a variety of items, including a carousel horse head, busts, ornaments, and various decorative items.

“I’ve had a wonderful life, full of excitement, and I’ve always stayed busy. I think it’s important to stay busy and active,” said Pat. “For me, carving is very challenging and therapeutic. I play some nice music while I carve, and it brings such a feeling of tranquility. I get lost in my own little world.”

In 1940, Pat’s parents bought a farm in Burlington, Ky., that included a baseball field, just like in the movie Field of Dreams. “The only difference was that instead of corn, we grew tobacco around it,” Pat said.

The farming community put together a fast-pitch softball league when Pat was about eight years old. The first time she put on a glove, the youngster knew softball was a perfect fit for her. “It just felt so natural,” she said. From that point on, when she wasn’t doing farm chores, Pat was practicing ball.

To Pat’s delight, a minor-league baseball team came to practice on their ball field. “I was about ten at the time, so they let me practice with them, and they taught me everything I know about baseball,” she recalled.

In 1948, when Pat was nineteen years old, her father read an ad in the local newspaper offering girls an opportunity to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. “So we went to Chicago. Amazingly, I made the cut and signed a contract with the Springfield Sallies. I was so thrilled because my dream to play baseball was actually coming true!”

Unfortunately, Pat’s mother became seriously ill shortly after she signed on with the team. Knowing her family needed her, Pat packed up her dreams and headed back to the farm.

But baseball wasn’t through with Pat Scott. Three years later, when the owner of the Fort Wayne Daisies was putting his team together, he remembered Pat’s impressive pitching and tracked her down. Pat returned to baseball in 1951 as a standout right-handed pitcher for the Daisies. In fact, she pitched the team to their first pennant win in 1952 against the powerful Rockford Peaches. Pat played professional baseball for nearly three years before accepting another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, traveling to Europe as an exchange student. The league was disbanded shortly thereafter.

Endowed with boundless energy, Pat later played basketball for the University of Kentucky while earning a degree in zoology. After earning another degree in medicine, she worked as a medical technologist for thirty-two years. Following that, she trained horses for thirteen years and was a dog trainer for three years. Along the way, Pat also became a formidable golfer, an award-winning artist, and a film consultant of sorts.

In 1992, the movie A League of Their Own, about the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, was released, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. While the movie was being filmed, producers invited the original team members to sit in on the filming to assure authenticity. “It was kind of neat to watch it all, and it brought back lots of memories,” said Pat. “Tom Hanks was so friendly. He would smile and wave to all of us every time he walked by. And one time, when we took a break for lunch, Rosie O’Donnell just walked right up to me and asked if I wanted to have lunch with her. We had a blast! She was just so much fun!”

Pat attended her first woodcarving show in 1994, out of sheer curiosity. “I saw some beautiful things there, and it got me thinking that I could probably do something like that,” she said. She found an old piece of wood in the barn—a very hard piece of oak, as it turned out—and started carving it with a pocketknife and an old file borrowed from a blacksmith. “I quickly learned that carving is a lot different from painting because wood isn’t as forgiving as paint. It took me six months to carve out a simple figure!”

When Pat heard about the River Valley Wood Carver’s Association, she jumped at the chance to join. Then, she signed up for practically every class and seminar they offered. “It’s wonderful to be a part of group like this. I was a little intimidated because they’re all such excellent carvers. But they were terrific and helped me out so much. I can’t thank them enough.”

Pat has come a long way since those early carving days, but she still likes to keep things simple. “I guess you could say I’m sort of a purist when it comes to carving, because until recently I only used knives and gouges. Then I discovered this neat little power tool called a Wecheer, and I’m learning how to use it now. It’s like a Dremel, only about the size of a pen. It helps me smooth out the little wrinkles here and there.”

What’s up next for this athlete turned carver? “From the time I was a little kid, I’ve always had this fascination with birds. So I’ve started carving them. Right now I’m carving a little house wren. It’s quite small, only 3″ by 1½”. But I’ve discovered that I really like doing miniatures.”

Pat’s advice to new carvers is simple: “Once you start, don’t quit! The more you carve, the better you’re going to get.”

Although she has long since retired from a string of successful careers, the indomitable Pat Scott has no intention of retiring from woodcarving. It seems that with carving, as with baseball, the sky really is the limit.

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