Classic Yankees: Waite Hoyt

His nickname was “Schoolboy.” He came up to the majors at the age of 18 with the New York Giants, and in 1921, at the age of 21, he helped the Yankees to their first pennant. Two years later, he helped them to their first World Series Championship and in 1927, while in his prime at the age of 27, he was the ace of the 1927 Yankees, one of the greatest teams in baseball history.

Later in life Waite Hoyt was the broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds. He often entertained his listeners with Babe Ruth stories during rain delays. In 1969, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Hoyt was just 18 when he pitched one inning for the 1918 NY Giants. He was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, for whom he was 4-6, 3.25 (ERA+ 94) in 1919. In 1920, Hoyt was 6-6, 4.38, ERA+ 83. In December 1920, Hoyt was dealt to the Yankees. Hoyt had played with Ruth in 1919 for Boston. Now they were reunited, and as with the Ruth deal, the Hoyt deal would haunt Boston for years.

From 1921 to 1930, Hoyt pitched for the Yankees, winning 157 games. In 1921, at 21, he blossomed, going 19-13, 3.09, ERA+ 136. The Yankees won their first pennant, and in the World Series, Hoyt was 2-1. But the thing is this about his WS performance that year—in 27 IP, he gave up NO earned runs. None.

In 1922, Hoyt led the Yanks to another pennant, once again winning 19 games, and going 19-12, 3.43. ERA+ 115. He pitched in two WS games, starting one, and went 0-1 despite giving up just one earned run in 8 IP.

The following year, 1923, saw a new Stadium and the Yankees’ first World Championship. Hoyt won 17 games, lost nine, and had an ERA of 3.02, ERA+ 132. At just 23, he already had led the Yanks to three pennants and a WS title. This “schoolboy” was earning all A’s. He did have a bad 1923 WS, giving up 4 runs in 2 1/3 and getting a ND. But the ace of the staff was proving he had graduated “school.”

In 1924, he was 18-13, 3.79, ERA+ 111. In 1925, he was one of many Yankees who had a bad year in that awful 7th place finish for the Yanks. He was 11-14, 4.00, ERA+ 107. He then rebounded back to ace form. In 1926, Hoyt went 16-12, 3.85, ERA+ 100. He was 1-1, 1.20 in the WS.

The ace of the 1927 staff went 22-7, 2.63. He led the AL in wins, and the majors in winning percentage. ERA+ 148. 1-0, 4.91 in the World Series. 1928 saw Hoyt win over 20 again. 23-7, 3.36. ERA+ 113. He led the majors with 8 shutouts and finished 10th in MVP voting. 2-0, 1.50 in the World Series.

Hoyt was never the same after 1928. Although just 29 years old in 1929 (born September 1899), Hoyt’s best days were behind him. His best years were from 1921 to 1928.

In 1929, Hoyt slumped to 10-9, 4.24, ERA+  92. In the middle of the 1930 season, Hoyt was dealt to the Tigers after starting out 1930 2-2, 4.53 for the Yanks. He was 9-8, 4.78 for Detroit, and a combined 11-10, 4.71 (ERA+ 100) for the season.

Hoyt wasn’t in Detroit long. After starting 1931 3-8, 5.87 for the Tigers, he was purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics. He rebounded to go 10-5, 4.22 for the A’s, 13-13, 4.97 overall (ERA+ 92). He started one game in that WS for the A’s, going 6, giving up 3 R and taking the loss.

Hoyt’s World Series record was 6-4, 1.83. He pitched in 7 World Series, and his teams won 3 of them.

The A’s released him and he signed with the Dodgers for 1932. He was 1-3, 7.76 before being released. He signed with the Giants (Giants II) and was 5-7, 3.42 for them. His overall 1932 record was 6-10, 4.35, ERA+ 86. The Giants then released him.

In 1933, Hoyt found himself in Pittsburgh. He was 5-7, 2.92. ERA+ 113. He found old glory in 1934, going 15-6 for the Buccos, with an ERA of 2.93, ERA+ 142 and 22nd in MVP voting.

Hoyt was with the Pirates that day in Forbes Field, May 25, 1935, when Ruth belted his last three home runs, all in the same game, as a member of the Boston Braves against Hoyt’s Pirate team. Hoyt was 7-11, 3.40 for the 1935 Pirates, ERA+ 121. He was 7-5, 2.70 for the 1936 Pirates, ERA+ 151.

Hoyt started with the Pirates in 1937, going 1-2, 4.50 before being purchased by the Dodgers (Brooklyn II). He went 7-7, 3.23. Overall, 8-9, 3.42, ERA+ 119.

Hoyt finished his career up in 1938 for Brooklyn (Ruth was a coach for the Dodgers that year) and went 0-3, 4.96. ERA+ 81.

He was 237-182 in his career with an ERA of 3.59, ERA+ 112. 145 of his 237 wins came from 1921 to 1928 with the Yankees.

His 162 g. average was 15-11, 3.59. As a hitter he hit .198, no homers.

From Wikipedia: Hoyt’s 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!”

Also from Wikipedia: 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.”

In fact, upon Ruth’s passing in 1948, one Reds’ player was caught by broadcaster Hoyt saying “The big fellow’s dead? I guess we’ll have to chip in for flowers.” Hoyt, one of Ruth’s pallbearers, ripped into the youngster, reminding him of how he earned his paycheck, and reminding him that had not Ruth saved baseball, that he’d be in another line of work. Hoyt said that each and every day that the youngster should be thanking God that there was a Babe Ruth.

During Ruth’s funeral on a hot day in August 1948, Jumpin’ Joe Dugan (the 3B of that 1927 team who was a pallbearer along with Hoyt), muttered “What I’d give for a cold beer right about now,” to which Hoyt replied, “So would the Babe.”

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.

After retirement, Hoyt became the “voice” of the Cincinnati Reds for 24 years (1942-1965), during which time the Reds won just one pennant (1961). He is honored, along with Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman, for their work in broadcasting Reds games.

In 1969 the Veterans Committee elected Hoyt to the Hall of Fame. He died in 1984 of heart failure, two weeks before his 85th birthday.

The Yankees didn’t have any numbers during most of Hoyt’s heyday with the team. He wore #12 in 1929, the first year the Yanks had numbers, and #11 during his brief time with the Bombers in 1930.

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