Saturday, February 05, 2005


February 5th, 1928

Don Hoak Born

Don Hoak was a third baseman for a variety of teams in the 50s and 60s, best known probably for his time with the Pirates where he was viewed as the emotional leader of the 1960 team that defeated the Yankees in the World Series. Hoak had formerly been a boxer but he retired after receiving seven straight knockouts, although I can assume Don only remembered the first two or three.

Hoak is one of only a few players in the post World War II era to have a rule change instituted based solely on a play he made. In April 1957, Hoak was on second base with Gus Bell on first and Wally Post at the plate. Post hit a groundball to shortstop Johnny Logan for a seemingly sure double-play. However, before Logan could field the ball, Hoak stepped in front, fielded the ball barehanded, and after a moment, flipped the ball to the confused Logan and trotted off the field. The umpires ruled Hoak out for being "hit" with a batted ball but Post received credit for a single and Bell advanced to second. The play caused a minor sensation, Arthur Daley in the New York Times quoted 'baseball men' (a group whose identity is seemingly more secret than the Illuminati) as wondering if 'Master Donald' had opened a Pandora's Box, ushering in a new era of players interfering with balls in play. Of course, it was nothing of the sort as NL President Warren Giles (working with AL Umpire-in-Chief Cal Hubbard) soon modified the rule such that any play in which a runner intentionally interfered with a ball in play resulted in both he and the batter being out with no advance by any other runners.

Hoak died in 1969, he was pursuing a car thief who had stolen his brother-in-law's car when he apparently suffered a heart attack. It was the end—quite literally, I suppose—of a bad day all around for Hoak. Earlier he had received word that his manager from 1960, Danny Murtaugh, had been named manager of the Pirates for the 1970 season, a job that Hoak had coveted after some successful seasons managing in the minors.

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