REMEMBERING "HUTCH"

Hutchinson-C002.jpgIt was on this date 45 years ago that former Reds manager Fred Hutchinson died of cancer at the age of 45 in Bradenton, Florida. 

One of the most respected figures in the game of baseball, “Hutch” was credited with turning the Reds into a perennial contender in the early 1960s.  In 1961, he led the Redlegs to their first pennant in over 20 years.

Hutchinson was an all-star pitcher for the Tigers in the late 40s/early 50s (he lost 4 years of playing time while serving in WWII), including a stint as the Tigers’ player/manager in 1952 and 1953.  He became the answer to a trivia question when in 1946 he gave up the longest home run in Fenway Park history, a 502-foot blast by Ted Williams.  (The seat on which that home run landed was painted red to mark the feat and is still the only red seat in the seating bowl at Fenway)

After his 16-year relationship with the Detroit organization ended, Hutchinson went on to manage the Cardinals from 1956-1958, earning Manager of the Year honors for the ’57 season.  Because Hutch rarely smiled, Cardinals broadcaster Joe Garagiola once joked that Fred was “really happy inside, only his face didn’t know it.” 

In 1959, Hutchinson became skipper of the Reds, leading Cincinnati to a 443-372 (.544) record in 6 seasons.  In 1961, his Reds won the National League pennant for the first time since 1940, but lost to the Yankees in the World Series.  The following season, Fred’s Reds won 98 games, but amazingly it was only good for 3rd place. 

Following the 1963 season, a routine medical exam revealed that Hutchinson had malignant tumors in his lungs, chest and neck.  He remained Reds manager for the 1964 campaign, but his health was greatly deteriorating.  After being hospitalized for some time in July, he returned to the Cincinnati dugout the following month.  The day after his 45th birthday, Hutchinson’s health forced him to turn the club over to his first-base coach Dick Sisler on August 13 for the remainder of the ’64 season.

Hutchinson officially resigned as the Reds manager on October 19, 1964 and died 3 weeks later.  The Reds immediately retired his uniform #1, making Hutch the first person to have his jersey number honored as such by the team.  Because of his strength and courage he showed during that ’64 campaign, SPORT magazine named him “Man of the Year”. 

Hutchinson was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1965, the same year that his brother, Dr. William Hutchinson created the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Fred’s hometown of Seattle.  Today the center is one of the most widely respected facilities of its kind.

After Red Sox pitcher and Washington native Jon Lester was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2006, he received his chemotherapy treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  Following the 2008 season in which he went 16-8, Lester was named the recipient of the Hutch Award, an honor given out annually by Major League Baseball to the player who “best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire to win.” As you might have guessed, the award is named after Fred Hutchinson.

In 1999, during the peak of “GriffeyMania” in Seattle, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer named Fred Hutchinson, not Ken Griffey Jr., as “Seattle’s Athlete of the 20th Century.”  In another lasting tribute to Hutch, a 1-foot tall cast-iron image of him is at the end of every aisle of seats in Seattle’s Safeco Field.

 

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