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The Man Who Managed To The End: FRED HUTCHINSON


    The good die young. That cliche is probably as overworked a group of words as exists in the English language. Unfortunately, all too often it is the absolute truth.


A case in point: Fred Hutchinson. Former manager of the Reds. Dead at the age of 45. Cancer.


"How could a bug, no matter how vicious, destroy the living tissue of a body and mind as strong as Fred Hutchinson's when he should have been in the prime of his life?" Si Burick, sports editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News asked in his column the day, November 12, 1964, Hutch died in Bradenton, Florida.


Everyone, foe and friend alike, asked that question. You see, Fred Hutchinson was a ballplayer's ballplayer, a manager's manager.


Hutchinson, one of the few former pitchers who went on to become a big league manager, was immensely popular in Cincinnati after he succeeded Mayo Smith in July 1959. Two years later, 1961, he guided the Reds to the National League pennant, surprising all the experts. During the next three years the Reds were contenders, losing once by three games and In 1964 by one game on the final day of the season.


Hutchinson managed the 1964 season knowing full well that cancer had a firm grip on his body and that he was dying. But he never gave in and seldom said anything about the terrible pain that consumed his body.


Twice he left the team for checkups and finally turned the club over to Dick Sisler the final two and one-half months, although Hutch would be in uniform at the park on his "good days."


Hutchinson had a famous temper, and even as he was dying, he spared nothing on an umpire if he thought the play was called wrong.

As a pitcher with Detroit, Hutch was known to take out his wrath on water coolers and light bulbs. He was more restrained as a manager, but there were times when he couldn't control himself. One night, after the Reds lost a close game to St. Louis on a ninth-inning home run, Hutch threw a bag of baseballs through his Crosley Field office window. Afterward he was a bit sheepish when he had to explain the hole in the window and the splintered glass to newsmen who descended on his office.


Another time, when the Reds lost a double-header to the New York Mets at the Polo Grounds, Hutch boiled. He sat by himself in the dugout for about half an hour. Finally he called the clubhouse and someone answered.


"Any so-called players still around?" Hutch asked. The clubhouse man said there still were a few remaining. "Get 'em out of there. I'm coming in."

It didn't take long for the place to empty. No one wanted to be around when Hutch roared in. He was mad - mad at himself, mad at the world, mad at the team. But he didn't want to say something or do something he later would regret.

Even though he had a hair-trigger temper, he had the complete respect of the men in the game - his own players, umpires, rival players and rival managers. He treated his players the way players thought they should be treated. At the same time, he could hold a strong rein on them. He was unique in that respect and that's what made him so great.


Hutch was a pitcher during his playing career. He once was a Minor League Player of the Year and went on to pitch for the Detroit Tigers.

When he played, he was just as fiery as a competitor as he was as a manager. But his bark often was much worse than his bite.

One particular evening Hutchinson had been roughed up early and knocked out of the game. He called his wife Patsy to come pick him up at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. Mrs. Hutchinson brought along young son Rick, who later would become an executive with the Milwaukee Brewers, but cautioned the youngster not to say anything to his father because of the poor outing that night. She mentioned something about Hutch getting his ears boxed off.

When Hutch got into the car, the young boy was curious. He looked his father over without saying a thing. Finally Hutch roared, asking the boy what was wrong.

"Mom said you got your ears boxed off, and I just wanted to see what they looked like," the boy said.

Naturally Hutch couldn't be mad, and they all had a good laugh, as did many of Hutch's players years later when the story was retold.





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