Year Inducted: 1969 (Veterans Committee)
When a player does well on the big stage, they can join the collective consciousness and be remembered as better than they really were. Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series covers up his sub-.500 career record and average ERA and FIP. Bill Mazeroski‘s winning home run in Game 7 in 1960 got him into the Hall of Fame. More recently, many sports reporters were calling Madison Bumgarner the best pitcher in the game following his dominance in the 2014 World Series and Clayton Kershaw’s very recent losses in the postseason despite Kershaw’s dominance over the last several seasons. Jack Morris’ shutout win in Game 7 of 1991 kept him on the ballot for the Hall of Fame for 15 years. And Waite Hoyt’s performance in several World Series games helped him get into the Hall of Fame.
Hoyt, similarly to Herb Pennock, was a solid pitcher who primarily pitched for a stacked Yankee team in the 1920s. Hoyt threw over 3700 innings in his career, winning 237 games against 182 losses and posting an ERA of 3.59. Hoyt struck out roughly 3 batters every 9 innings while walking roughly 2. In the World Series, Hoyt was 6-4 with a dazzling 1.83 ERA in over 83 innings.
The problems with Hoyt’s induction as a player are many. First is his win total. Playing for the Yankees in the 1920s was probably the easiest team to pitch for in the history of the game. A lineup featuring Combs, Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Koenig and others means that there is a huge margin for error (Baseball-Reference shows that his teams gave him 5 runs of support per game for his career and his numbers with the Yanks are similar), and the fact that he only won 237 games is a decent indicator that he wasn’t that great of a pitcher.
That is further supported by problem #2, his ERA. While it was an era of high offense, Hoyt’s ERA of 3.59 was only 11% better than league average, which is good after 21 years but very much lacking compared to a lot of other Hall of Fame pitchers. This also affects the third reason, his peripheral stats. As mentioned earlier, Hoyt walked almost as many batters as he struck out, and was very hittable. In Hoyt’s 21-year career, his WHIP was 1.34 and batters hit nearly .270 off of him. In fact, he gave up nearly as many hits as Ty Cobb had in his career (4037 to 4189). Hoyt was an overall solid pitcher that benefited greatly from being on a team with a strong offense.
The final problem is Hoyt’s decline, which was precipitated by his drinking habits. Later in his career, he went through a rough divorce and started drinking heavily causing a spike in his weight. In his later years when he did pitch he was very good, but didn’t have the stamina to throw a lot of innings anymore. After leaving the Yankees, Hoyt bounced around the league and was cut many times before finally retiring in 1938 with the Dodgers.
Hoyt’s drinking, according to him, cost him a shot at 300 wins. It also nearly cost him a second career. After his playing days he became a broadcaster, and by all accounts he was a well-liked figure. His stories about the Yankees were very endearing to fans of the game. But, his demons did not abate. One day in 1945, Hoyt went on a drinking binge and was reported missing. He went to a hospital to treat his alcoholism and eventually won back the respect of fans by being open and honest about his issues on the air.
Hoyt as a player is not deserving of induction. Hoyt as a baseball lifer has a much stronger case, as his broadcasting career lasted 20 years (not as long as players like George Kell and Phil Rizzuto) and as previously stated, was a very well respected and loved announcer. Hoyt obviously had a strong impact on the game, so it makes some sense from an overall perspective that he was inducted.
Stay tuned for the next update to open the dog days of summer.
On deck 8/1/16 This man was the leadoff hitter for the Red Sox when Babe Ruth was in their starting rotation.