- Scott "Smokey" Herpst
Scott was born on May 23, 1818 in the fledging border area of what is now known as Bonner Springs, Kansas, just a stone’s throw away from the Missouri state line. Bonner Springs had been settled for all of just six years once he was born and the town itself wasn’t platted until 1855, some 20 years after he had left the area.
His family owned and operated what was at the time the largest and most profitable grist mill in the Sunflower State. The youngest of 16 children, he was working the cornfields by the time he was four, helping to harvest the all-important, life-giving Midwest crop. Four years later, despite his young age, his father made him supervisor over the rest of family’s children, who were all gainfully employed – salary-free, of course – at the mill. He helped run the day-to-day operations until he turned 17 when he decided he’d had enough of the corny line of work and headed south to seek his destiny.
Scott initially moved to Jefferson City, Missouri and helped worked on construction of the city’s first capitol building, which was destroyed by a raging fire on Nov. 15, 1837. Scott, who was present inside the structure on that fateful afternoon to do some minor repairs on a sitting bench, barely escaped the inferno with his life, earning a pair of temporarily singed eyebrows and a few weeks’ worth of a hacking cough for his troubles. He left the town shortly thereafter, but the moniker “Smokey”, given to him the day of the blaze by members of the local fire brigade, had stuck.
After two more stops, one in the thriving metropolis of Bardstown, Kentucky and one brief six-month sojourn in Loudon, Tennessee, he made his way to Chattanooga in 1842, found gainful and satisfying employment as a newspaper writer, took a fine wife and decided to make the shimmering banks of the Tennessee River his permanent home. He learned about the gentlemanly sport of base ball in 1862 from a fellow scribe and took up the sport himself soon after, saying he “enjoys the camaraderie, as well as the exercise and health benefits the fine game offers.”
An original member of the Lightfoot Club of Chattanooga, Scott’s versatility allows him to perform gracefully as the second sacker, to tend the garden (in right field) and to show off his still-youthful reflexes behind the dish, despite his chronological age.