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Born: February 5, 1928|
Roulette Township, Pennsylvania
Died: October 9, 1969 (aged 41)|
|April 18, 1954 for the Brooklyn Dodgers|
Last MLB appearance
|May 12, 1964 for the Philadelphia Phillies|
|Runs batted in||498|
Career highlights and awards
Donald Albert Hoak (February 5, 1928 – October 9, 1969) was a Major League Baseball player. Nicknamed "Tiger," Hoak was a third baseman who played eleven seasons in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1954–55), Chicago Cubs (1956), Cincinnati Reds (1957–58), Pittsburgh Pirates (1959–62) and Philadelphia Phillies (1963–64). He played 1263 games and compiled a .265 batting average with 89 home runs and 498 runs batted in.
As a youngster Hoak was a professional boxer, but pursued a baseball career after losing seven straight knockouts. He broke into the Major Leagues in 1954 after a stint in the United States Marines, as well as having played one season in Cuba. Legend has it that during his one season in Cuba, Hoak actually batted against Fidel Castro, who was a law student at the time. According to The Second Fireside Book of Baseball, Castro and some friends commandeered the park where Hoak's team was playing. Castro took some warmup pitches, then turned to face Hoak and called out the Spanish equivalent of "Batter up!" and pitched. He was wild, and threw several pitches near Hoak's head. After a few "dusters", Hoak turned to the umpire and said, "Get that idiot out of the game!" The umpire obliged, and spoke to some park policemen, who marched Castro off the field.
During his two seasons with the Dodgers, Hoak shared third base duties with Jackie Robinson and Billy Cox. In 1955, the Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series to win their only championship in Brooklyn. Hoak played third base in place of Robinson in the seventh and deciding game of that Series—the only World Series game Robinson did not play in during his career when his team was in the World Series.
After the season, Hoak was traded to the Chicago Cubs. In 1956, Hoak batted .215 with 5 home runs and 37 RBIs. He also set a National League record by striking out six times in one game, a 17-inning marathon on May 2, won by the visiting New York Giants.
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia
After the 1956 season the Cubs traded Hoak to the Cincinnati Redlegs in a five-player deal. In 1957 Hoak improved his batting average to .293, after leading the league well into May at over .400, and set career highs in home runs (19) and RBIs (89), as well as leading the National League in doubles with 39. In a game against the Milwaukee Braves on April 21, Hoak was involved in a controversial play that would lead to a change in the rules. He was on second base and teammate Gus Bell was on first, when Wally Post hit a ground ball to short. Hoak broke up a potential double play by fielding the ball himself and flipping it to Milwaukee shortstop Johnny Logan. Hoak was called out for interference, but Post was given a single on the play. The day before, Johnny Temple let Bell’s ground ball hit him with the same result, Temple being called out for interference and Bell being awarded a single. The two incidents prompted league presidents Warren Giles and Will Harridge to jointly announce a rule change that declared both the runner and batter out if the runner intentionally interferes with a batted ball, with no runners allowed to advance. (Without the new rule, it was sometimes advantageous for a runner to touch a batted ball, because doing so avoided a double play. In the plays already mentioned, Temple and Hoak were out according to a still-existing rule: a runner is out if a batted ball touches him in fair territory before it touches a fielder, with the batter getting a single and no runner advancing unless forced.)
1957 also marked Hoak's only All-Star appearance, but it also would be mired in controversy—though not of Hoak's doing. At the time (as they do now) fans had the right to vote for the starters (minus the starting pitchers). As a result a ballot stuffing campaign by Reds fans resulted in Hoak, Post, Temple, Bell, Ed Bailey, Roy McMillan, and Frank Robinson being voted into the starting lineup. First baseman George Crowe, then 36 and the eventual team home run leader with 31, was the only Red not selected; the fans instead voted for Stan Musial. (Crowe would be selected to the All-Star team in 1958—the only Red so honored.) Commissioner Ford Frick removed Bell and Post from the starting lineup and replaced them with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron; Bell remained on the team as a reserve, but Post was taken off altogether. Frick also stripped the fans of the right to vote for the starters, which they’d held since 1947 and wouldn’t hold again until 1970 (ironically, the Reds’ newly opened Riverfront Stadium would host the All-Star Game that year). In the third inning of that game, Hoak grounded out to shortstop Harvey Kuenn in his only plate appearance. He was subsequently replaced by Eddie Mathews.
Hoak batted .261 for the Reds during the 1958 season before being traded, along with Harvey Haddix and Smoky Burgess, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for four players (one of whom was Frank Thomas) and cash in January 1959. While Hoak batted a respectable .294 in 1959, it was his throwing error that cost Haddix his perfect game against the Braves after retiring 36 batters in a row on May 26, 1959. The Braves went on to win that game, 1-0. In 1960, Hoak batted .282 on a Pirates team that won the World Series; like the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh defeated the Yankees in seven games, and the Pirates won the 1960 Series on Bill Mazeroski’s famous ninth-inning home run in Game Seven. During the Pirates’ championship season, Hoak finished second in National League MVP honors to teammate Dick Groat.
Hoak played two more seasons with the Pirates (in 1961 he batted a career-high .298) before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. After batting .231 during the 1963 season he was released in early 1964.
Don Hoak also played in the Dominican Republic during the 1956 season with the Escogido team. His game always rapid and daring and full of risks. In those days the radio announcer called him "el loquito Hoak" (crazy Hoak) for his risky plays which contributed to his team winning several games and the season. In a final series a game was won when he stole home after making the pitcher nervous several times moving between third and home.
He died on October 9, 1969, of a heart attack while chasing his brother-in-law’s stolen car. Earlier that very day the Pirates had re-hired Danny Murtaugh as the manager — a position for which Hoak had believed himself a contender. His widow, actress/singer Jill Corey (whom Hoak married after the 1961 season and with whom he had a daughter, Clare), would claim for decades that Hoak died of a broken heart because the Pirates had passed him over.
- Chapman, Lou (April 21, 1957). "Hoak 'Retires' Himself". The Milwaukee Sentinel.
- "Ex Cub Don Hoak Dies of Heart Attack". Chicago Tribune. October 10, 1969. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
- Vrusho, Spike (August 1, 2000). "Belter Grins Through the Tears: The Tale of Don Hoak and Jill Corey". New York Press. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- The courtship of Don Hoak and Jill Corey
- The Deadball Era