Schoolboy's contributions before, during and after his big-league career are singular.
National Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of '69. (left to right: Stan Coveleski, Stan Musial, Roy Campanella and Waite "Schoolboy" Hoyt).
Having resolved all other burning questions confronting baseball (pitch clocks, ghost runners, the shift), it feels right to indulge in yet another existential issue. Every so often, when the twitter-addled, sabermetrics-infused debate over which players should or should not be in the National Hall of Fame arises, Waite “Schoolboy” Hoyt falls into the mix.
Hoyt was inducted into the Hall in 1969, so he’s not on anybody’s “who should be” list. The man himself once admitted that had he not let himself go in his later years, he would have had a firmer claim on the honor. Yet, the Hall’s Veterans Committee, charged with considering players of historical significance who may have been overlooked by modern-day baseball writers, saw fit to immortalize Hoyt among the one-percenters of Cooperstown.
They were dead right to do so, and not just because Hoyt was the best pitcher on arguably the best team in baseball history: the 1927 Yankees. Yes, some might say that Babe Ruth was that team’s best pitcher, and Hoyt probably would have good-naturedly agreed. Of course, Ruth wasn’t pitching that year, while Hoyt logged the best record in baseball. It’s also true that Hoyt didn’t pitch well in the 1927 World Series, which maims but does not kill his standing.
Hoyt deserves to be in the Hall for reasons that transcend his heroics on the Yankees, as storied as they are. “Schoolboy” pitched three complete games in the 1921 Series without giving up a single earned run. That’s 27 total innings pitched in a single World Series (which the Yankees managed to lose anyway). In 1928, he won two of the four games that swept the title to the Yanks for a second year in a row.
Granted, his performance during intervening years of the Roaring ‘20s was uneven at best, and his post-Yankees record didn’t exactly strengthen his Cooperstown case. His lifetime 237 wins and 3.59 ERA are certainly respectable if not quite spectacular. Sabermetricians are free to pick apart his 100-year-old stats based on 21st-century standards.
However, doing so ignores Waite Hoyt’s larger contributions to the game: before, during and after his big-league career.
Waite Hoyt was nicknamed “Schoolboy” because he was signed to the New York Giants at age 15, while still in high school. At the time, he was the youngest player ever recruited into Major League Baseball. He left home at 16 and endured three years bouncing around the country in the minor leagues with roguish men almost twice his age at a time when running off with a baseball team was like joining the circus.
In other words, “Schoolboy” contributed to the birth of modern-day baseball in a way perhaps few others can claim. Hoyt not only survived his odyssey but also helped create this formative moment at an impossibly young age. Then, as the ace pitcher of the 1927 Yankees, he was instrumental in creating the template for the team’s ensuing dynasty for decades to come.
Perhaps most egregiously ignored by retconners is Hoyt’s pioneering contribution after he retired from baseball in 1938, as one of the first former players to succeed as a gameday announcer. Before Hoyt, athletes were considered too dumb and inarticulate to call games.
Hoyt defied the naysayers. After 24 years as a professional baseball player, he completed another 24 as the beloved radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds. His innovative, storytelling style was not only wildly popular among fans but also influenced and inspired generations of sportscasters to come.
So, yes, Waite Hoyt “should be” in the Hall of Fame for these and probably some other reasons.
At the very least, he deserves the honor, is not leaving, and looks good in bronze.