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The Star Who Lost To Gary Cooper: WAITE HOYT  

         

    If Hollywood producer Sam Goldwyn hadn't changed his mind, Waite Hoyt might have wound up in the movies instead of behind a microphone as an announcer for the Cincinnati Reds.

 

When a movie was first planned on the life of Lou Gehrig, the great New York Yankee first baseman, Hoyt was one of the early choices to play the part of Gehrig. Hoyt and Gehrig had played together.

 

But when the script was written, the movie was considered better than "B" caliber. Goldwyn began assembling a cast with one of Hollywood's premier actors in the lead role. Waite Hoyt lost out to Gary Cooper, who helped make "The Pride Of The Yankees" one of the most outstanding sports movies ever filmed.

 

Hoyt turned to broadcasting and became one of the big names in the baseball play-by-play field. Starting in 1942, Hoyt was a household name in the Midwest, broadcasting Cincinnati Reds games over the "Burger Beer Baseball Network." The network was one of the biggest of its day and Hoyt was highly respected.

 

 

    H. G. Salsinger, the noted Detroit sports columnist, was impressed with Hoyt's delivery over the air. Salsinger wrote:

"Hoyt differs from the majority of baseball broadcasters. In the first place, he speaks good English which few of the others do. In the second place, he knows baseball which, again, few of the others do. In the third place, he is interesting, which most of the others are not. In the fourth place, he has a trained voice, which probably none of the others has."

During Hoyt's heyday, baseball fans would often look forward to rain days. He would dazzle his listeners with stories from the days when he played alongside Babe Ruth and Gehrig. He made a record, "Waite Hoyt in the Rain," which became a big seller in the 1950s.

 

Hoyt came from a stage background and was as much at home talking to people on stage as he was pitching to batters in a baseball game. Hoyt's father had been a singer and monologist in New York.

During his playing career with the New York Yankees, Hoyt went into vaudeville and once played the famous Palace Theatre in New York. He worked on the same bill as an up-and-coming young comedian, Jimmy Durante. Hoyt had ambitions at one time to become a concert singer and he took vocal lessons for several years.
 

 

Hoyt was considered a boy wonder when he began his baseball career right from a Brooklyn high school at the age of 15. John McGraw, the feisty manager of the New York Giants, first noticed Hoyt pitch in a sandlot game.

 

"The great McGraw must have been impressed," wrote Damon Runyon, the New York sportswriter who later became famous as a playwright, "because although Waite was only IS years old, he was signed to a big-league contract, the youngest player ever to be signed."

 

Hoyt didn't get along with McGraw and he didn't pitch for the Giants in a major league game until he was 18. After that year, he was sent to the Boston Red Sox where he was befriended by Ruth in 1919. That led to a long friendship with baseball's top celebrity. When Ruth went to the Yankees, Hoyt tried to go along.

    "The surest way to become a winning pitcher," Hoyt theorized, "is to be on the same team with the Babe. Once he left the Red Sox, I went around insulting Boston officials so that they would trade me, preferably to the Yankees. Then the rest of those dumb guys could have the pleasure of pitching against the Babe."

         
       

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