A Teenager’s Idol Passes On

Grady Hatton, the former major league third baseman who managed the Houston Astros in the 1960s, has died. He was 90.  Alyssa Hatton, his granddaughter, says Hatton died Thursday of the effects of old age at his home in Warren, the rural East Texas Piney Woods town that was his home for 40 years.

Hatton hit .254 with 91 home runs and 533 RBIs in 1,312 major league games in 12 seasons from 1946 to 1960 with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs. He had a 164-221 record as Houston’s manager from 1966-68.

The Beaumont native starred at the University of Texas and served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

A funeral is scheduled for Monday at First Baptist Church of Warren. He will be buried Mount Pisgah Cemetery near Woodville.

I can’t remember when I wasn’t a baseball fan, but during the summer of 1946 when I was 13 years old (ready to start high school in the fall), I became a full-fledged Cincinnati Reds enthusiast.  I listened to every game on the radio back in the days when games played away from home were broadcast by Waite Hoyt adding his wonderful embellishments to bare minimum details received over the wire.  Of course, he called the home games from old Crosley Field with all of the background sounds of fans cheering, bats cracking, and the organ urging everyone to cheer a little louder.  I loved the Reds and I especially loved a rookie who came up that year – Grady Hatton.  He was 22 years old, single, handsome, and a good player.  He immediately became the darling of the teenage girls in Cincinnati or the “bobbysockers“ as the press called us.

Television was new and the Reds were not on the schedule yet – that would happen for the first time on September 21, 1947.  It was the only time in my life I ever played hooky.  I took the streetcar to my high school that morning and, knowing the broadcast would be over by the time I returned home in the afternoon, I got back on a streetcar heading for home and saw the game on our very tiny television set that my father had built.

The only way to see my idol was in person at the games (and I didn’t have the means to go to very many) or to grab any picture I could find in our daily Cincinnati Post or Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer.  All of the pictures I’ve posted are from my scrapbook which still survives with faded clippings of an exciting era for me.

I loved finding pictures of players off the field such as this one of the Reds at the railroad station, returning from spring training in 1948.  Grady Hatton is in the center along with some of my other favorites – Ewell Blackwell, Kent Peterson and Eddie  Erautt.
at train
From 1947 is this shot of Grady (second from right) in the dining room.  It’s interesting that the caption says this is the first year that players in training have received expense money.

dining room-training
I also liked this photo of Grady and his sister who was visiting from their home town of Beaumont, Texas.

with sister
RIP, my favorite ballplayer of all time.


Click on pictures to enlarge.

A Little Christmas Baseball Story

baseballcdI can’t remember when I didn’t love baseball.  I was encouraged in my devotion by my father who took me to Crosley Field to see the Cincinnati Reds, explained the fine points of the game during radio broadcasts, and by the time I was 10, appointed me as his pitching practice catcher.  I had a great ball glove with well-oiled pocket, but what I wanted for Christmas was an official, grey flannel, pin-striped baseball uniform.

baseball-johnnySure enough, on that wartime Christmas Eve in 1942, under the tree was the gorgeous soft uniform with elastic-banded knickers.  I couldn’t wait to put on the uniform although I had to look a little strange wearing it with finger curls hanging halfway down my back.

lilI wore the uniform all evening, watching my little sister with her toys, admiring the tree and eating my favorite Christmas candy – Mother’s fudge and the old-fashioned chocolate drops with cream centers and dark chocolate coating.

Toward the end of the evening, I plunged into a big leather chair and threw my legs luxuriously over the arm, not realizing that I had sat down on a big gooey chocolate drop.  There was a dark brown stain on the seat of those grey flannel knickers that never did wash out completely.

But it didn’t matter – the thrill of the gift and the pride in the wearing had already taken place on a long-ago memorable Christmas Eve.