Waite Hoyt: The Broadcast Years in Cincinnati

Waite Hoyt
Summer 1988
Waite Hoyt: The Broadcast
Years in Cincinnati
Ellen Frell
When the William Morris Agency in New
York notified Waite Hoyt, in November 1941, that they had
scheduled an audition for him for the job of play-by-play
announcer for the Cincinnati Reds, Hoyt recognized it as a
critical chance.
In some ways it paralleled his "audition" for
Manager John McGraw of the New York Giants twenty-six
years earlier, when at age fifteen, Hoyt was offered a chance
to pitch batting practice for the Giants. Like that opportunity of 1915, making good at the Cincinnati audition held the
promise of a new career.
Hoyt had parlayed that earlier opportunity
into two decades of professional baseball that included some
remarkable highlights: pitching twelve games in seven World
Series, matching Christy Mathewson's record for twentyseven innings pitched without giving up a single earned run,
leading the American League in victories (22-7) and earnedrun average (2.63) for the 1927 Yankees, considered the best
team in the history of the game; and later elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame.
In the 1920's baseball was the only game in
town, and Hoyt and his colorful teammates and friendsLefty Gomez, Joe Dugan and the game's patron sinner Babe
Ruth—were front page news. America was freeing itself from
the rigidity of the war years and heading for the forbidden
treats of Prohibition and the pleasures of the flapper era. In
New York, the self-proclaimed fulcrum of the world, a young,
handsome Yankee ballplayer did not lack for excitement.
Hoyt made the most of it. The ballpark by
day, the bright lights of New York and the Great White Way
at night, with the prettiest faces of New York on his arm. It
was a glorious and exhilarating time, and Hoyt himself
summed it up better than anyone else with a statement that
still epitomizes both the era and the man himself: "It's great
to be young, and a Yankee."
But in 1941 that career was over for Hoyt and
now, with distant rumblings of war growing louder, another
opportunity presented the hope of a different career, baseball broadcasting. And the man who packed his bags that
day in late November for his trip to Cincinnati was by no
Ellen Frell, of Chicago, is a
magazine writer and an Emmyaward winning script writer for
an NBC television documentary.
means the raw, innocent teen who had stepped up to the
mound at the Polo Grounds in 1915 and become an instant
sensation.
Two decades in a man's life bring many changes.
Hoyt had been given his walking papers from the Brooklyn
Dodgers in May, 1938. His playing days were over. By the
late 1930's he was making inroads into radio in New York.
He had spent-some winters during his Yankee
years singing on Broadway and had made a dozen successful
guest appearances on radio shows. With his playing career
on the wane, he had capitalized on an excellent natural
voice, an urbane manner, and the knack of telling a compelling story. For a while he did a sports show and a prime time
sports quiz.
He began to build a reputation in New York
for radio work, firmly anchoring it to his baseball foundation. By 1939 Hoyt was doing a pre-game show for the New
York Yankees on WABC called "According to Hoyt," where
he commented, with verve and wit, on the game when he
played it and the foibles of his teammates.
But play-by-play was the real meat of baseball
announcing and Hoyt knew it. He never lacked for a sense
of the dramatic moment, and no one knew the lip biting
On January 1, 1942, Waite
Hoyt moved his family to Cincinnati to begin his career
announcing the Cincinnati
Reds' baseball games.
Queen City Heritage
tension of a close game better than he who had played in so
many. He wanted to be back on the field during those
moments, if in voice only. He yearned for the real action of
the game underway, the emotional rush after the words
"Play ball." In spite of his successful radio exposure doing
programmed shows, the key job of play-by-play eluded him.
But a man must operate within the restraints
of his time and his era, and in the 1930's, a sports broadcast
booth was not an acceptable arena for an ex-player. Hoyt
repeatedly and vocally indicated his availability for play-byplay, and just as repeatedly been turned down without even
being allowed to audition. Three major league teams denied
him a shot at the job including the Yankees. Players, they
felt, lacked the verbal ability to announce.
To the man who had always been a lover of
literature and adept with words, this was a low blow. Brought
up to know a predicate from a participle, Hoyt had been
frequently kidded during his playing years about his intellectual pursuits. "The guy was always reading,}> cracked one
ex-teammate. Hoyt, who balanced his literary adventures
with countless live ones by day and by night, knew better.
But there was conflict within.
The world of baseball of the 1920's and the
1930's was a rough world, especially the minor leagues
where Hoyt had cut his teeth on language and behavior
completely alien to his genteel upbringing at home in
Brooklyn. There were moments when he had trouble reconciling the rugged characters and the circumstances of his
livelihood with his equally real love of culture and the arts.
And now he was being denied a chance at
those jobs because of a stereotype he had never fit. "They
told me ballplayers don't have the vocabulary to do play-byplay," he said.
Ten years earlier when Hoyt's temper was
firmly connected to his vocal chords, he might have come up
with some choice vocabulary in response. But now, like a
pitcher bearing down on a hitter, he opted to redouble his
efforts. He moved his family from their new home in New
Jersey back into New York City to be closer to the pulse of
baseball and radio. And he signed on with the prestigious
William Morris Talent Agency to make sure no opportunity
escaped him.
If there were parallels here with hisfirstchance
at the big leagues years earlier, there were even bigger differences. The man now evaluating his possibilities was neither
youthful nor naive. The Waite Hoyt who left his apartment
and walked out onto Seventy-Fourth Street for his tryout in
Cincinnati was a forty-two-year-old retired baseball player,
the head of a family, looking toward a horizon that as far as
he could see offered little except this one good chance.
He still had the professional athlete's rush of
energy in a crisis. And as he had done for so many other
more physical competitions earlier in his life, he began to
review strategy. This was one he could not afford to lose.
Cincinnati in 1941 had two major radio stations broadcasting the Reds games, each using their own
announcer. A third station, WKRC, was on the lookout for
an especially good play-by-play announcer to solidify a new
and unusual three-way arrangement among the station, the
Reds, and The Burger Brewing Company. The brewery had
picked up sponsorship of the Reds games on WKRC to
increase their objectives of bringing good beer—via good
baseball—to the Cincinnati area.
Burger was tightening up an excellent marketing campaign over an area that encompassed several states.
They planned to gain further control over the quality of
their broadcasts by signing their soon-to-be-picked announcer as their direct employee, avoiding station control. They
wanted a quality voice that would become a trademark for
them and their product.
During his baseball career Hoyt
pitched in seven World Series
games for the Yankees.
Waite Hoyt
Summer 1988
The final decision on an announcer would be
based on a careful review of audition discs.
Hoyt had years of experience under his belt in
outguessing opponents. He suspected that his competitors
for this job would submit imaginary play-by-play broadcast
discs, and his sense of theater (perfected watching his father
perform vaudeville routines and by his own experience on
Broadway) told him this was a dangerous choice. Realistic
play-by-play would be fairly slowly paced, while invented
on-the-field theatrics could not help but come across as
contrived. He had a completely different idea for showcasing his talent.
He went into the studio, marked his script for
pauses, and began. On the disc was Hoyt's rich, energetic
voice, telling a story full of emotion and interest, sending a
clear message to The Burger Brewing Company: they had
found their man.
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Bud Koons, former President of The Burger
Brewing Company, clearly remembered Hoyt's audition disc.
"When all of them had been reviewed," Koons said, "Hoyt's
stood out a mile from the rest. Most people did simulated
ballgames. He made an offbeat imaginative tape about a
little boy. It was his tape that won it for him."
A few days later Waite Hoyt was back in New
York uprooting his family for the second time in six months.
This move would be to a small city in the Midwest, the
Queen City, a long way both in geography and personality
from the bright lights of New York.
And both Hoyt and his wife Ellen were native
New Yorkers. Ellen had grown up on Fifth Avenue and her
parents, siblings, friends, and social life were all here. She
had spent time in Europe, but had never been west of
Pittsburgh.
If the Midwest was foreign to Ellen Hoyt,
baseball was even more so. Though she adored her husband
she had never been involved in Hoyt's career plans, either
baseball or radio. She was hardly enthusiastic about moving
so far away from her world for a purpose she did not
understand.
Far bigger problems were upon Hoyt with the
advent of World War II. Ten days after he accepted the job,
on December 7, 1941, he awoke and turned on the radio to
learn that America was at war. He cabbed to the building
that housed WOR Studios at Broadway and Forty-First
Street where he broadcast a half-hour radio show at 1:30.
Later that afternoon he and Ellen walked down Fifth Ave-
While a Yankee, Hoyt spent
the winters singing on Broadway and making guest
appearances on radio shows.
^^Bi
nue and through Central Park, confused by the dozens of
rumors that were plaguing the city: fleets of enemy ships
seen outside New York Harbor, imminent attacks expected
from the Japanese.
Hoyt noticed the beauty of the mild December day and he felt the idea of war to be almost surrealistic.
But the reality was there and it was not pleasant.
To this man about to change his home, his
work, and his life, questions came flooding in. The future of
the country was in doubt. Would America survive this war,
and in what form? What would happen to baseball if the war
continued. Would Roosevelt decide to ban the sport? If
baseball survived, with most able-bodied men wanting to
enlist, who would play it?
Would he be out of a job tomorrow?
Hoyt moved his wife, small son, and belongings to Cincinnati January i, 1942, with great enthusiasm
and equal trepidation. For the second time in his life he was
stepping up to a new career under the cloud of a wartime
America full of ambiguity about the value of sports during
wartime and a much deeper uncertainty about the future
itself.
His broadcasts emanated from
a booth atop the grandstand at
Crosley Field. It was open to
the weather, freezing on many
an opening day and dripping
with humidity in August.
Everybody in Cincinnati knew who Waite Hoyt
was, but not everybody believed their good luck. Many felt
Hoyt was a temporary figure in their town, a New Yorker
who would reap the rewards of a high visibility job and then
disappear back into the East. It was a town not known for its
quick acceptance of outsiders, and Hoyt felt, not for the first
time in his life, to be on the outside looking in.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt allowed baseball
to continue during the war years as a distraction for those at
home and "a way to help the country's morale." But the way
the Cincinnati Reds had been playing for the last two years
was hardly uplifting. The Reds had won the pennant in
1939 and 1940 but there had been little to get enthusiastic
about since then. In 1941 and 1942 they finished well out of
the running.
The Burger Brewing Company was concerned.
Not only was their team putting in a poor showing, but
wartime rationing had forced them to reallocate their
resources and disrupt distribution. They tiptoed through
the first months of the war hoping things would improve.
Up in the broadcast booth things were no
easier. Hoyt found it difficult to adjust to two other sports-
Summer 1988
Waite Hoyt
casters announcing the same game at the same time he was.
It was often even harder for his companions. Frequently
they were the same reporters that stations sent out to cover
news, weather, and society dances. Although one or two
could report a game with competence, too often whether
they knew anything about baseball was often a matter of
luck. Hoyt found himself instructing them, carefully so as to
not embarrass them, about the subtleties of the game and
the nuances of play. As usual, he was a stickler for accuracy.
By now Hoyt had signed on with Burger
directly, and was, for all intents and purposes, the entire
broadcast team for the Cincinnati Reds. His broadcasts
emanated from a booth atop the grandstand at Crosley
Field. It was open to the weather, freezing on many an
opening day and hot in August, but it was close to the fans,
the players, and the action. "Crosley Field," as Hoyt said,
"bred intimacy."
Across a five-state area Reds fans would turn
on radios and hear: "Three o'clock and baseball is on the air.
Good afternoon fans, this is Waite Hoyt for Burger Beer,
bringing you the Cincinnati Reds."
He had a strong, rich voice, applied his Brooklyn accent with a full vocabulary, and showed no reluctance
to describe exactly what he saw on the field. Something
compelling about his delivery made you want to hear him
out through the rest of the story to learn how it all came out.
His voice had the immediacy and excitement of a man who
knew what he was talking about.
He reported the games with strict honesty. If
a player booted the ball, that's how it came out of Hoyt's
mike, not as a bad bounce. He would never use euphemisms
to describe an error. This approach was not always welcomed in those years when the Reds were making more than
their share of errors. But Hoyt respected the integrity of the
game and the intelligence of the fans and refused to repaint
reality.
Above the little table where he penciled in the
starting lineup and computed the statistics as the game went
on, he pasted a code of broadcast ethics. He was careful not
to single out individuals unless for the positive. Out of the
routinely mediocre play of those months there were nevertheless star performers and good moments, and Hoyt made
the most of them.
In spite of—some thought because of—the fact
that Hoyt refused to cheerlead for a lackluster team, he
began to build a following. John Murdough, assistant to Bill
De Witt (President and General Manager of the Reds) at that
time remembers trying to get Hoyt to change his style. Hoyt
had described, all too effectively, how the Reds had taken a
drubbing in Chicago.
"I said to him, 'Waite, you could have toned
that down. Try to help us a little, will ya?' and he yelled, 'I
can't build up the team when we're getting beat right and
left! Not with scores like 10-2!'
"We had a few words then," Murdough remembers. "We fought about it. But the more I think about it, he
did the right thing. Cheerleading interferes with reporting a
game. It wouldn't have mattered what the ballclub or anyone else urged him to do. He had an allegiance to the fans to
give the best description he possibly could of the game."
And the best description, Hoyt felt, was voiced
in the past tense. "For one reason only; Accuracy," as Hoyt
emphasized many times. Not for him the pseudo-action of
the present tense.
He was accepted quickly by the players, who
realized he was accurate, fair, and disinclined to criticize
them. They hung around for pitching suggestions, which
were always given with deference to the coaches and an
admonition to check with them before trying out any changes.
Murdough continued: "Sincere athletes have
a great respect for other athletes. You could always tell the
guys on the ballclub who were the good ones: they wanted
to talk to any athlete they felt was superior. They always
wanted to talk to Waite."
"Pete Rose was one of those. He loved Waite.
He talked to him constantly about the differences in the
game between his day and now, and about Ty Cobb. He
found out a lot of things."
Road games presented Hoyt with a completely different set of problems. For the first ten years with the
club, Hoyt did not travel with the team, but broadcast from
a ticker-tape that clicked out the plays, largely in code, to his
broadcast table in a studio.
He described the plays with the same immediacy and spontaneity of someone watching the action, but it
was a more difficult job. He explained the problem to people
in later years: the difference between the smell of the open
air and feel of a ballpark, and the sterility of four walls and
reading the plays in code from a piece of paper. Without the
action in front of you, he said, "You have to create your own
excitement."
But create excitement he did, and even those
few who remembered that he was not broadcasting from the
game itself came under the spell of his recreations of the
action on the field. It seemed that he was right there, watching every play, reporting what he saw. The immediacy of
Queen City Heritage
these recreations was compelling.
He was building a following for his broadcasts
and making friends both in and out of the Reds' organization during those early years. He was "well-liked and accepted
everywhere" as one veteran of those years put it. He had a
feel for people. "Waite did a lot of stuff that people didn't
know about. He'd go out of his way to be good to a kid who
just joined the ballclub, to help make him feel at home," said
one member of the Reds' organization who worked with
him those years.
But Hoyt, so adept at making others feel at
home, still felt himself on trial. As with many self-assured
public figures he had a less certain inner side. Even in his
earlier years of remarkable baseball success he often wondered if he should have not chosen a different career path.
He was still uncertain of his acceptance in Cincinnati, in
spite of the fact that by 1944 he had purchased a home and
settled into the life of a permanent resident. He was gaining
ground every month as a popular historic figure, but the
view from the gallery of witnesses from that era too often
does not match his view from within. It was sometime
during those years that the drinking problems that had
occasionally surfaced during his playing years reappeared
with new vehemence and Hoyt became an alcoholic.
Sober for weeks at a time, and somehow able
to not let his drinking interfere with his broadcasting, he
kept up the charade for a number of months with only his
wife and close associates suspecting a problem. But on June
21, 1945, he disappeared and was reported missing by Ellen,
who contrived a story that he suffered occasional bouts of
amnesia as the result of being hit on the head by a baseball in
earlier years. His disappearance made front page news.
Two days later, front page news again reported
him as having been found and returned to his home where
he was resting "under a doctor's care." The story reached
New York, and his ex-teammates, most of whom had suffered the excesses of liquor side by side with Hoyt during
the 1920's reacted with predictable humor to the idea that
Hoyt, known to have an excellent memory, had been subjected to amnesia. Babe Ruth wired him: "Never Heard of
Amnesia. Must Be New Brand."
But there was little humor in the reevaluation
of his life that Hoyt chose to make during the next few weeks
under the guidance of two close friends and Alcoholics
Anonymous. He admitted, first to himself, and then one day
in the summer of 1945 to his fans and his public that he was
an alcoholic. He knew the admission might cost him his
public or his job but he was under no delusions. Alcoholism
was already costing him his health, his marriage, and his life.
He braced for the response. And it came:
support flooding in from people across the country. One
man close to Hoyt remembers "People loved him after the
drinking problem was out of the way because they knew what
a battle he'd had, and he'd overcome it. Before that he was
accepted, after that you might say he was almost canonized."
Not so curiously, the only reservation about
his admission of alcoholism came behind closed doors at
Burger, where executives worried that an admitted alcoholic
was hardly the spokesman a beer company needed. But
Burger was carried along by a wave of public support that
was completely behind Hoyt, and strong public admiration
for his nerve in admitting what was, in those days, an unacceptable social problem with overtones of real stigma. The
idea of anyone else announcing was quickly dropped in the
face of pro-Hoyt momentum that grew larger and larger as
the months went by.
In the new light of sobriety, Hoyt reviewed
his life and found it wanting in some respects. He had relied
on close friends and the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous to support him as he carefully reconstructed his thinking, and now he was ready to return the favor from a position of strength.
From that point on he gave personal and emotional help to individuals who came to A.A. In 1946 he
stood up before a packed room and delivered a speech which
was remembered as an emotional high point in the lives of
those present that evening. In it Hoyt admitted the fears he
felt when he exposed this weakness to his public and private
life, the loss of some "friends" and the patient love of others,
the gradual improvement in his life that had resulted once he
admitted he was an alcoholic:
From my standpoint I believe that you attain a certain awareness of the plenitude of life's offerings.... little delights
which seemed so trivial, so beneath our notice in our drinking
days. We believe in the sincerity of spirit behind a compliment.
We learn to accept a rebuke, or advice. We become tolerant. We
come to look upon the world as a friendly place. We come to see
the reasons for the existence of many things.
Better than all else—the truth is refreshing. For
some fortunate reason—fortunate for us—people are most willing
to help someone who is making a comeback.
You see before you an alcoholic who has attained
some measure of recovery. Tou^e heard admissions by him about
his drinking days, and I imagine you tacitly admit there has
been some improvement in him. Therefore you borrow from him
some of his confidence and, I hope, desire.
Summer 1988
Waite Hoyt
For eleven years Hoyt was the Reds' broadcast
team, and the lack of regular backup announcers resulted in
some unusual programming. On September 9, 1946, Hoyt
broadcast three baseball games simultaneously. Six telegraph
operators took the copy and four staff men at the station
kept the accounts running as Hoyt voiced the play-by-play
play for three critical games in the last days of the season.
He announced nonstop for five and one-half hours with
only an occasional bite of sandwich and whiff of some
smelling salts to keep him going.
Poor backup programming forced Hoyt into
these odd, sometimes humorous situations like the record
three game, five and one-half hour broadcast, but it also
opened the way for what became his on air trademark.
During games when rain delayed the play, Hoyt began
reminiscing, telling stories that were remnants of his days in
the major and minor leagues, stories filled with the colorful
characters that shared train berths and escapades with him in
the late teens and '20's and '30's.
His skill as a storyteller was considerable. He
had vivid on-the-air presence, and the excitement he showed
in reliving these moments made the transition from his
memory out onto the airwaves with no loss of immediacy.
He took you back to a hotel lobby in New Orleans in 1919,
to a wild card-game in a dusty traincar on a road trip. He
re-fought Yankee brawls on the field over a knockdown
pitch, described how Babe Ruth had barely escaped a crowd
of ladies who stormed the locker room.
The stories were never about his own glories
in the game, but were instead tales told on himself or humorous evaluations of hundreds of aspects of the art of playing
baseball. Umpires, rules, fines, player trades, ballpark dollies, uniforms, and the thousand and one incidents of his
own active and exciting life all became part of the experience
of baseball in Cincinnati. The entire 1927 Yanks including
the Babe, Miller Huggins, and the dozens and dozens of
others they encountered emerged from Hoyt's mike during
air time to fill the hours and the summers of the listeners in
Cincinnati. They were insights from other years spent inside
other ballparks in another America, prewar and vibrant.
They drew upon characters and events spiced with a vocabulary not usually applied to the world of sports, and always
tempered with humor.
He had a hearty, boisterous laugh that would
build from a soft nearly sinister chuckle, as if the scene he
was describing was right there in front of him and he couldn't
help marveling at it, then building to a crescendo of "Ha-ahaaha-aha-aha!," carrying the listeners along with its waves
oflaughs.
Hoyt's rain delay stories, begun as a way to
pass the time until the main event could be resumed, became
the main event themselves. "I knew people who didn't give a
damn about baseball who would turn Hoyt on when they
heard he was doing a rain delay," one fan said. It would have
been a close decision, during those years when the Reds were
at the bottom of the league whether people listened to
For several seasons, Hoyt did
not travel to away games but
broadcast from inside the
studio using a ticker-tape that
clicked out the plays.
Queen City Heritage
friend, the audience snowballed. It was baseball's most eloquent player paying tribute to baseball's most remarkable
player in a broadcast interrupted more than once with the
emotion of the moment, tearful laughs over the rough bear
of a man who brought baseball fully into America's consciousness. Hoyt signed off more than two hours later to a
virtual avalanche of phone calls, telegrams, and letters, gratitude from people who well knew they would never have
another chance to get to know Ruth so well.
Hoyt answered each telegram and letter, and
with characteristic modesty:
I assure you it was not a feat on my part, nor a
tremendous accomplishment as my subject automatically supplied
its own appeal. I merely had to create.
I suppose my sincerity carried some weight as it was
from the heart. After it was over, I did not realize I had done
anything special. I merely talked as so many players have talked
about the Babe down through the years and, Iguess, will continue
to talk about him. May I add, broadcast is a pleasure when the
response is so human and gratifying.
It makes one realize that all of us share the same
sentiments about so many things. I try to carry that thought in all
my broadcasts.
Hoyt's broadcasts for his reminiscences or for the action.
You could hear another era through Hoyt's
on-the-air conversations. He was a master of anecdote wellplaced, of humor that was never caustic. At the mike he was
an athlete with perfect grammar, a Yankee with a love of
fastballs and frolic, a gentleman in the locker room.
In the late summer of 1948 Hoyt was broadcasting over the wire when an assistant in the studio handed
him a telegram that Babe Ruth was dead. The assistant
reported later that Hoyt was visibly shaken but interrupted
the game only to repeat the sad news to the fans and to
mention that if they'd like to stay with the station after the
game was over he would say a few words about the Babe.
He began simply, remembering the good times
with his teammate and friends, and those few words grew, as
the minutes went by, into a eulogy that few other men could
have delivered. As word flashed around Cincinnati that
Hoyt was on the air speaking about his recently departed
Waite Hoyt broadcast a two
hour eulogy to his good friend
and teammate, Babe Ruth (left
Hoyt, right Babe Ruth).
Waite Hoyt was a pallbearer at Ruth's funeral
at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York that September. While
carrying the coffin out into the heat of the afternoon, Joe
Dugan, another pallbearer and ex-Yankee, leaned over and
said to Hoyt in a soft voice, "Boy, I could sure use a beer."
Hoyt answered with a mischievous grin, "So
could the Babe, Joe, so could the Babe!"
Hoyt told an interviewer later that he felt that
the Babe Ruth eulogy had been the point at which he
became a true Cincinnatian. As he entered the 19 5 o's he was
more at home with himself than he had ever been, though
that realization on his part lay perhaps years behind the
reality of his acceptance.
Broadcasting was beginning to change. Hoyt
did the first TV/radio simultaneous broadcast as the new
medium began to encroach on territory previously so firmly
in the hands of radio. There were others sharing the mike
with him now, like Jack Moran(i95 3-i96o) and later Gene
Kelly and Claude Sullivan. The behind-the-scenes camaraderie worked its way out over the airwaves, and audiences
would be privy to the devious playfulness of Hoyt. He
would wait until Moran, who enjoyed a hearty appetite,
took a big bite of sandwich and began to chew, then Hoyt
would instantly land on Moran for an on-the-air opinion
and chuckle heartily while he struggled to swallow or sink
Waite Hoyt's rain delay stories
became so popular with serious
fans and casual listeners alike
that a record album of Waite's
best stories was issued.
Summer 1988
Waite Hoyt
11
into dead airwaves.
In 1953 Hoyt was asked to broadcast the
All-Star game and two years later he added a winter sports
show to his schedule. By this time the crowds that pressed
around him for autographs were as thick as those surrounding the players. In 1956 WSAI, by then home of the Reds'
broadcasts, celebrated Hoyt's 2,500th broadcast and fifteen
years as spokesman for the Reds.
Cincinnati literally danced in the streets when
the Reds took the pennant in 1961. They had waited more
than two decades for a celebration like this, and when Hoyt
and the players returned from their road trip victorious, the
crowds were ready for them. The party went on into the
night, with Hoyt on an open-air stage on Fountain Square
singing songs from his vaudeville days to jubilant crowds.
Several days later he broadcast the World Series, when the
Reds lost to the Yankees (4-1).
By 196 5 escalating costs had caused Burger to
release its sponsorship of the games. The replacement sponsor wanted to sign Hoyt on again, but Hoyt had a fierce
loyalty to Burger. They had stood by him during the years of
his drinking, before A.A., and they had stood by him afterwards when the thought of a non-drinker representing a
beer company was ample reason to turn the job over to
another. He could not think of divorcing himself from the
organization that had stuck by him during those times.
Burger was part of his professional life. During his broadcast of the World Series in 1961 he had, out of
long habit, announced "This is the Burger Beer Broadcasting Network" when the game had been sponsored not by
Burger but by Gillette. "We owe Gillette one in next year's
Series," he joked. This, after all, was the announcer who
described home-run balls hit by the Reds as "heading for
Burgerville."
Cincinnati celebrated Waite Hoyt Day on September 25, 1965. On the day that Burger surrendered its
sponsorship of the games, Hoyt pitched his last broadcast
after twenty-three years and more than 4,000 games. It was
October 3, 1965, and it marked the end of an era in Cincinnati.
Though Hoyt had minor stints in broadcast-
WAITE HOYT
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r.
Queen City Heritage
ing later in the 1960's and 1970's, his days at the mike were
effectively over. In 1969 he was elected to Baseball's Hall of
Fame and his vocal skills did not fail him. He gave a speech
that brought the audience of thousands present at the induction ceremonies to its feet. It was not possible to walk down
a street in Cincinnati with Hoyt without witnessing how
much he meant to its people.
In broadcasting Hoyt had found a way to mix
baseball and brains, the physical and mental sides of his
being that had conflicted in earlier years. And perhaps the
microphone connecting him, the speaker, with the neverending stories from a distant time was the most effective way
he could find to be a part of the public and the fans, yet retain
some of the solitude he loved.
There are men in whose actions you can read
the pulse of an era, men who wear, in their voices and on
their faces, the map of a different time, the romance, if you
will, of events past. And most baseball fans are romantics. To
love this game you must value emotions, tactile sensations
like the feel of leather, the smell of cut grass, the dramas and
dilemmas that are part and parcel of the game.
It was all there in Hoyt. A predilection for
life's high points, an appreciation of human nature, an exaltation of the common man. It went from him to all of us
listening out there, waiting for his laugh and his perfectly
chosen words to make us part of the game that is America's
sweetheart.
WAITE CHARLES HOYT
"SCHOOLBOY"
NEW YORK YANKEE PITCHER 1921-1930,
LIFETIME RECORD: 237 GAMES WON, 182
GAMES LOST, ,566 AVERAGE, EARNED RUN
AVERAGE 3 3 9 . PITCHED 3 GAMES IN 1921
WORLD SERIES AND GAVE NO EARNED RUNS
ALSO PITCHED FOR BOSTON, DETROIT AND
PHILADELPHIA A.L.AND BROOKLYN,
NEW YORK AND PITTSBURGH N. L.
(Excerpted from a book in process, "Waite Hoyt"
by Ellen Frell, Copyright 1988. All rights reserved.)
Jack Moran shared broadcasting duties with Hoyt from
1953-1960. In this picture
Moran is on the left, second
baseman Johnny Temple in the
center, and Hoyt on the right.
In 1969 Hoyt was elected to
Baseball's Hall of Fame.
`