Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt remembered for careers in baseball, broadcasting
Cincinnati — To the people living in the tri-state area surrounding Cincinnati, Waite Hoyt is a well known name. Wherever he goes, workmen in hard hats and businessmen hurrying to keep appointments call out, ''Hi, Waite! How are you?'' And he always smiles and waves back.
It is easy to understand why these passersby recognize this familiar figure. After all, he is a member of baseball's Hall of Fame. He won 237 regular season games and six more in the World Series during a 21-year big league career, and was the ace pitcher for the New York Yankees during their glory years of the 1920s. Certainly he was one of the greatest professional athletes of his day.
Yet, successful as he was, it is his second career as a broadcaster that has made him so recognizable to today's fans - many of whom had not yet been born when he was performing all those feats on the playing field.
Now, a year or so past his 80th birthday, Hoyt likes to reminisce and talk about both careers as he continues to live a busy and useful life in retirement.
When he signed an optional contract with the New York Giants in 1916 at age 15, Waite left home to enter an entirely different world from that of his boyhood in Brooklyn.
The transition was not always easy, and Hoyt became somewhat of a loner, preferring to read rather than take part in the card games and other forms of recreation favored by his older companions. Without being aware of it, he was supplementing his limited formal education and preparing himself for the new field that he would enter years later.
After three years in the minor leagues, Waite made it to the majors where he pitched for seven different teams. His first chance as a starting pitcher in a big league game came with the Boston Red Sox in 1919, and he defeated Detroit 2- 1 in 12 innings. He was only 18 years old at the time!
Waite Hoyt the pitcher is best remembered for his days in New York. He won 17 games for the 1923 team that went on to become the first Yankee World Series winner; was the 22-game-winning ace of the 1927 world champions who are still considered by many the greatest team of all time; and won 23 the next year for another powerhouse. He won the World Series opener in both 1927 and 1928 and also notched the final victory in the latter year as the Yankees swept both classics in four straight games.
The financial rewards for players of that era could hardly rival the seven-figure contracts of the modern stars. His top salary as a star pitcher was
When his playing days were over, Hoyt was determined to seek a place in radio. Through his love of literature he had greatly expanded his vocabulary and developed an outstanding ability to express himself in a colorful but concise manner. Yet again, he had to prove himself. Things were different from today's pattern of ex-athletes jumping right into bigtime broadcasting jobs, and Waite began in radio much as he had in baseball - in a series of ''minor league'' positions.
He landed a job with a New York station doing a short program following the ball games. His break came late in 1941 when he auditioned for - and won - the job as play-by-play announcer for the Cincinnati Reds.
During the next 24 years, Hoyt became known as Mr. Cincinnati Reds. He did the play-by-play as well as the sidelights. At first when the team was on the road he remained in Cincinnati, where his descriptions from telegraph reports were so realistic and dramatic that most of those listening thought he was actually on the scene. Later he traveled with the team on the road for many years.
When a game was delayed by rain, Waite entertained his listeners with tales of games and players of the past. His humor-filled stories became so popular that many fans actually looked forward to the delays that brought them on. This prompted his sponsor to put out two record albums entitled, ''The Best Of Waite Hoyt In The Rain.'' They were in great demand and are collectors' items today.
Those were exciting days for Waite as he followed the team from coast to coast bringing the games to a huge audience over a network of stations throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virgina. He was also in demand as an after-dinner speaker, and in one year he made 52 personal appearances.
Busy as he was, Waite felt he needed a hobby. In 1954 he took up painting. He worked in oils and acrylics, studying with several well-known artists and spending many hours producing landscapes, seascapes, and still lifes. A Cincinnati art gallery sponsored a Waite Hoyt one-man show where he exhibited 41 paintings - and sold 39 of them.
Hoyt has known some presidents, including Ronald Reagan. He has played ball before the Emperor of Japan and in such faraway places as Korea, China, Manila, and Hawaii. Yet today he is alone in his comfortable and tastefully decorated home. Ellen, his wife of 50 years, is confined to a private sanatarium. His children and grandchildren live in the East, making family visits infrequent.
Waite remains enthusiastic, though, as he speaks on sports, art, politics, the younger generation - and the future! He enjoys the recognition from the cop on the corner who calls out, ''Hi, Waite! How ya doin'?''
''Great,'' he says with a cheerful wave and the smile of one already planning tomorrow.