Name: Waite Charles Hoyt
Born: September 4, 1899 (Brooklyn, NY)
Died: August 25, 1984 (Cincinnati, OH)
Yankee Years: 1921-30
Primary number: 12
Yankee statistics: 365 G, 276 GS, 2,272.1 IP, 157-98, 3.48 ERA, 115 ERA+, 713 K, 36.4 rWAR, 28.8 fWAR
A New Yorker in just about every sense, Waite Hoyt played a significant career on the mound, and continued to build his legacy in a move to the broadcasting booth. Acquired via trade by the Yankees, he pitched in part of 10 seasons in pinstripes, and was a staple in the rotation of New York’s excellent teams of the 1920s. He was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame, and his impact on some of the Yankees’ more significant stretches, and the game as a whole is undeniable.
Hoyt was born a few months before the onset of the 20th century to parents Addison and Louise Hoyt in the Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn. He grew up in Flatbush, learning the game with other kids of the area, playing different variations of baseball with sticks, rocks, and whatever else they could make work. He would eventually attend Erasmus Hall, where he took with him a reputation as a hard thrower, but one who also struggled to succeed in the classroom. Although his grades prohibited him from playing for the school team early on, Hoyt was still able to excel in other local leagues.
In 1915, the young right-hander improved on his grades, found a spot on his school team, and continued his rapid ascent in the baseball scene. He began to associate with various players and teams in a few different professional and semi-pro leagues, eventually even throwing batting practice for the Brooklyn Robins. His skills caught the eyes of many, including those of some in the Giants organization. Charles Dooin, a catcher and scout for the Giants, convinced his manager to invite the youngster to the Polo Grounds to throw batting practice there. His talents impressed rather quickly, and Hoyt signed a contract with the club in unprecedented fashion at just 15 years old. His father, of course, had to co-sign with Waite.
He tore up opposing batters across various leagues that year, and returned to Erasmus Hall for school in the fall. That following season, he started three games, winning all of them and tossing a pair of no-hitters. He would leave school shortly after, however, with his future in professional baseball becoming clearer by the day.
Hoyt’s professional career began in the spring of 1916, as he bounced around various levels of the minor leagues between 1916 and ‘17. The following year, Hoyt participated in spring training with the Giants, and earned his first big league call up in July at just 18 years old. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts in a blowout loss. Despite the nice start, he was sent back down to the minor leagues. Disappointed, Hoyt quit pro ball, while refusing several of the Giants’ efforts to trade him. Eventually in 1919, Hoyt signed with the Boston Red Sox, with an interesting stipulation. He recounted: “I said I would sign if they put a clause in the contract that I’d start a game within four days after I arrived. I wasn’t going to sit around on any more benches or be farmed out. It was that or I’d quit.”
Hoyt’s Sox debut was one that quickly showed his abilities on the mound. Against the Tigers, he crafted a 12-inning complete game victory, and followed it with two more winning decisions afterward. It was the beginning of a fine-but-unremarkable two seasons with Boston, as he maintained a 3.85 ERA (87 ERA+) over the course of 226.1 innings of work.
He did, however, garner the interest of the Yankees in the offseason following 1920. He was eventually traded to New York, joining a recent exodus of great players from the Sox to the Yankees.
A Staple in the Roaring ‘20s
Hoyt’s trade to the Yankees would kick off a stretch that would be the most significant of his rich playing career. In 1921, his first season in the Bronx, Hoyt quickly earned the trust of a locked-in member of the starting rotation. It would turn out to be one of his best, in which he went 19-13, with a 3.09 ERA and completed 21 of his 32 starts. The Yankees made it to the World Series that year, against Hoyt’s former team in the crosstown Giants. It was a losing effort, but Hoyt was sensational. In 27 innings (three complete games), the righty did not allow a single earned run.
1922 and ‘23 were similar stories for the still-young pitcher. He had a 123 ERA+ across the two seasons, earning himself 36 more victories, and the same amount of complete games to boot. In ‘22 the Yanks returned to the World Series, but lost yet again to the Giants in a tie-aided sweep, which was much less fruitful for Hoyt, who took a loss in Game 3. In the following year however, the Yanks and Giants would meet for a third consecutive Series. Hoyt’s regular season started slowly before an excellent second half as the Bombers marched back to another pennant. Hoyt was given the start in Game 1, but was unable to get through the third inning of what would be his only appearance of the series. The Yankees did eventually take the series, the first of the franchise’s many championships.
Both Hoyt and his squad had middling years in 1924 and ‘25, with the Bombers failing to return to the World Series in both seasons, including a 69-85 finish in the latter. The right-hander was above-average in each campaign, with 3.79 and 4.00 ERA marks respectively, though they were his two worst since arriving in the Bronx. The following year was much the same for Hoyt, now 26 but in his ninth big league season, though the Yankees did return to the World Series that season. In the Classic, Hoyt gutted through nine innings in Game 4, and ran into some tough luck in Game 7’s loss to the Rogers Hornsby/Grover Cleveland Alexander-led Cardinals. He had a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings.
Good things were around the corner though, as 1927 would stand to be the year to remember for Hoyt, and perhaps even the Yankees’ franchise. That spring, he claimed to have a realization, one that motivated him to refocus his efforts on the field, and to begin taking advice from manager Miller Huggins and others. The results spoke for themselves — Hoyt had a career-best and league-leading 22 wins and 2.63 ERA (148 ERA+) across 256.1 innings, while completing 23 of his 32 starts. The Yankees, meanwhile, with their famed Murderers’ Row in the fold, finished with a record of 110-44, steamrolling the American League. At 27, Hoyt enjoyed the best season of his career, and was solidified at the top of baseball’s best team’s rotation. In the World Series, Hoyt notched a victory in Game 1 in what was an eventual 4-0 sweep over the Pirates.
Hoyt was a solid pitcher yet again in the following season, as the Yankees won another 100 games and an American League pennant. He set another career-high with 23 wins, and yet again played a major role come October. Hoyt crafted a three-hit win in Game 1, and worked another complete game victory in Game 4 to complete their second consecutive sweep in the World Series.
In 1929, Hoyt took a step back, with an ERA well north of 4.00 in just over 200 innings of work, and was not much better to start the ‘30 season. Amidst a managerial change due to Huggins’ sudden passing and Hoyt’s struggles on the mound, the pitcher’s relationship with the Yankees was strained, and he was traded to the Tigers mid-season. His run with the Yankees was over, and it was a mighty fine one. He had gone 157-98 with a 3.48 ERA, and pitched over 200 innings in nine different seasons, while playing a major role in six pennants and three World Series wins.
Hoyt would play in the Major Leagues until 1938, as he bounced between the Tigers, Athletics, Dodgers, Giants, and Pirates, including a handful of excellent seasons with Pittsburgh.
Hoyt pitched in seven World Series, and was fantastic, notching six wins and crafting a 1.83 ERA in 83.2 innings. He struggled with his health and his personal life after leaving the Bronx (including an ongoing battle with alcoholism), but his run of significance in the baseball world was far from over.
A Man of Many Talents
If there were anything Waite Hoyt was not, it would be one-dimensional. During the offseason in the 1920s, Hoyt worked, in a way, in celebrations of both life and death. Known for having a strong voice, he performed in vaudeville shows alongside legitimate acts, while also working in the funeral and mortuary business with his father-in-law.
With that voice in tow, Hoyt continued to delve into the entertainment world post-retirement. He would begin hosting a Yankees pregame radio show called “According to Hoyt,” but wouldn’t break into play-by-play for a few more years. In 1942, the Cincinnati Reds brought him on as a play-by-play announcer, and would do so for 24 years. He was a pioneer for former players in the broadcasting world, and became beloved behind the mic, garnering just as much fame as he did on the mound.
Hoyt was known for being a rich storyteller, often dipping back to his time with the 1920s Yankees, around greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Known for filling rain delays with captivating stories, he mastered his own style of calling a game. His most memorable moment perhaps came after Ruth’s passing, after which Hoyt spoke for two unscripted hours following a game the day his close friend’s death was announced. He even released a pair of albums compiling the best of his on-air stories.
In 1965, Hoyt retired from full-time broadcasting, and four years later was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame via the Veterans’ Committee. He served on it himself until passing away from a heart attack in 1984.
Although Hoyt’s qualifications as a player can at least be somewhat questioned, his impact on the game, and on one of the Yankees’ most successful stretches in their rich history is hard to deny. As a reliable staple on the mound for some of the best teams in baseball history, and as in the booth after retiring, Waite Hoyt earned a spot inside our top 50 Yankees.
Staff rank: 48
Community rank: 48
Stats rank: 40
2013 rank: 35
Eugene Murdock, interview with baseball player Waite Hoyt, 1976. Cleveland Public Library
Wolf, Gregory H. SABR bio