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Waite Hoyt

Waite Hoyt

Position(s):
P
Nicknames:
Schoolboy
Born:
September 9, 1899
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
7-24-1918 with NY1
Hall of Fame:
1969

Waite Hoyt

One of the dominant pitchers of the 1920s, and the winningest pitcher for the New York Yankees during that decade. The righthander pitched for the Yankees from 1921 to early 1930 and had a record of 157-98 in pinstripes. He was 23-7 in 1928 and also led the AL with eight saves. In 1927 he was 22-7, and he won 19 in 1921 and '22. In 1927 he led the AL in wins (22), ERA (2.63), and winning percentage (.759). Hoyt appeared in seven WS (1921-23, '26-28 with the Yankees and 1931 with the A's). He was 2-0 in 1928, and 2-1 in 1921, tying Christy Mathewson's record with a 0.00 ERA in three games started. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

Early life

Hoyt was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended Erasmus Hall High School. Despite being a Dodgers fan he was signed to a professional contract by New York Giants manager John McGraw when he was but 15. Because of his extreme youth, he was immediately nicknamed "The Schoolboy Wonder." But Hoyt would not achieve his greatest success as a Giant.

After a brief stint with the Giants, McGraw sent the young pitcher to the minors for seasoning. It wasn't long before he reappeared in the majors, this time with the Boston Red Sox. His performance there attracted the attention of the Yankees, who acquired him in 1920. In his first season as a Yankee, 1921, he rose to instant stardom, winning 19 games and pitching three complete games in the World Series without allowing an earned run — over his career, he would win six American League pennants with the Yankees and one with the Philadelphia Athletics. In his finest years with the Yankees, 1927 and 1928, Hoyt would post records of 22 wins and 7 losses with a 2.64 ERA and 23 wins and 7 losses with a 3.36 ERA. During his 21-year career, he won 10 or more games 12 times, 11 of them consecutively. Hoyt pitched for eight years after leaving the Yankees in 1930, but did not consistently display similar levels of pitching dominance.

Hoyt finished his career with a win-loss record of 237–182 and an ERA of 3.59. By the time he retired in 1938, he was the winningest pitcher in World Series history (his World Series record with the Yankees and A's is 6-4).

His Brooklyn origins along with his unique surname led to the probably-apocryphal story that he was injured on one occasion, and a fellow Brooklynite remarked, "Hurt's hoyt!"

In addition to the "Schoolboy" moniker appearing on his Hall of Fame plaque, Hoyt was also known as "The Merry Mortician." For when he wasn't playing baseball he spent days working as a funeral director and nights appearing on vaudeville. As a vaudevillian, he appeared with many of the most well-known performers of the day, including Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante, George Burns, and others. He kept in good shape during the off-season by playing semi-pro basketball.

He added to his repertoire by becoming an accomplished painter and writer. He was well-known as the pre-eminent authority on Babe Ruth, who was his teammate for almost 10 years. Robert Creamer, author of the definitive Ruth biography Babe, indicated in that book's introduction that the novella-length memoir written by Hoyt shortly after Ruth's death was "by far the most revealing and rewarding work on Ruth."

A longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous, during the 1978 Old-Timers' Day, Hoyt said wistfully that he'd have won 300 games if he had stopped drinking during his playing days. After joining A.A., he remained sober for more than 40 years.

As a broadcaster

After retiring as a player, Hoyt went into broadcasting. During a stint as the host of "Grandstand and Bandstand" on WMCA, he tried to audition for the Yankees, but sponsor Wheaties vetoed him out of hand. The common view at the time was that former players didn't have enough of a vocabulary to be successful broadcasters. However, Hoyt was well known for telling umpire George Moriarty that he was "out of his element" and was better suited to being a policeman so he could "insult people with impunity."

Dodgers' voice Red Barber, however, thought more of Hoyt's abilities and hired him as color commentator and host of the pre- and post-game shows in 1940. After two years, he became the play-by-play voice of the Cincinnati Reds, a post he held for 24 years. He became as much a celebrity with the Reds as he was while a player. He was well known for calling games exclusively in past tense, which was and still is unusual for sportscasting. Where most baseball announcers would say, "Here's the pitch!" Hoyt would say, "There was the pitch!" He told author Curt Smith that he felt using past tense was more accurate because "as I speak to you, what happened a moment ago is gone." He often referred to himself as "a bad-news broadcaster," since the Reds were only a serious contender for the pennant nine times in his tenure. On August 16, 1948, Hoyt paid tribute to Babe Ruth, speaking on the air without notes for two hours upon learning of his death after a game. He called the 1961 World Series for NBC, during a time when it was common for the network to use the home team's primary broadcasters for the Fall Classic.

He retired from full-time broadcasting work in 1965, though he would later make appearances on both radio and television including doing the color commentary for the Reds telecasts in 1972. Hoyt was known for entertaining radio audiences with anecdotes during rain delays. A selection of these stories is collected on two record albums "The Best of Waite Hoyt in the Rain" and "The Best of Waite Hoyt in the Rain, Volume 2." Whether one considers it a blessing or a curse on the subsequent evolution of sports broadcasting, Hoyt was one of the first professional athletes to develop a successful career in broadcasting and his name frequently appears on "all-time best" broadcaster lists.

On June 10, 2007, the Cincinnati Reds honored Hoyt, Marty Brennaman, and Joe Nuxhall with replica microphones that will hang on the wall near the radio booth.

Later life

An eternal optimist, Hoyt married his third wife, Betty Dearie in 1982. Dearie, a longtime fan, was an associate of Warren Giles, first President of the Reds and subsequently of the National League. Betty still lives in Cincinnati. Betty is interviewed extensively in the video biography "Waite's World". The bio was released on VHS in 1997 and includes interviews with his son Chris, the late hall of fame broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, reporter and television personality Nick Clooney, former Red Jim O'Toole and many more.

The aging Hoyt died of heart failure while preparing for what he realized would be his final visit to the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York.

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Tagged:
1921 World Series, 1922 World Series, 1923 World Series, 1926 World Series, 1927 World Series, 1928 World Series, 1931 World Series, 1969 Hall of Fame, Baseball History, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Athletics, Waite Hoyt, broadcaster

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