Baseball Follows Me to Seattle

The Joint Meeting of the two major math associations, the MAA and the AMS, was held January 6-10, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. I was selected to present a paper on how I use baseball to teach statistics using my book Sandlot Stats.

My wife Tara persuaded me to take a tour of Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners. During the tour, our guide mentioned the name Fred Hutchinson and called him the biggest Seattle sports hero of them all.

Safeco Field, Tour Seattle, WA

I was somewhat amazed at this statement. Ken Griffey Jr. had just been selected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame and of course there is Ichero Suzuki and Edgar Martinez. I had heard about the Hutch Award but really never associated this award to Fred Hutchinson nor did I know what this award represented. In retrospect, I did remember Fred managed the Cincinnati Reds at one time. The rest of this blog tells the story of Fred Hutchinson.

Who was Fred Hutchinson? The man referred to as Hutch played for the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, Fred’s performance in 1938 reached a stature that will likely have no equal. He amassed a sterling 25-7 record, winning his 19th game on his 19th birthday in front of a record crowd of 16,354 that lined the outfield fences three rows deep at Seattle’s historic Sick Stadium. Fred then reached national fame with the Detroit Tigers, winning 95 games over 11 years and notching 18- and 17-win seasons in 1947 and 1950. He later managed the Seattle Rainiers (in 1955 and 1959) and the major-league Tigers (1952-54), St. Louis Cardinals (1956-58) and Cincinnati Reds (1959-64), which he piloted to the World Series in 1961. Tragically, the man known for his tenacity, winning determination and courage died of lung cancer in 1964 at the age of 45.

Hutch’s awards included:

  • Man of the Year, Seattle, 1938
  • Most Valuable Player, Pacific Coast League, 1938
  • Manager of the Year, National League, 1957
  • Manager of the Year, 1961
  • American League Player Representative, 1947-52
  • Sport magazine Man of the Year, 1964

A Seattle newspaper quoted Hutch as saying, “The ones who work the hardest are the ones who make it, the ones who win. Sometimes that’s the only difference. If you don’t work hard at this game, you might as well hang them up. Sweat is your only salvation.” The memory of Hutch will live on forever through the Hutch Award and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Foundation.

The Hutch Award was created in 1965 in Hutch’s honor. The award is given each year to a major-league player who best exemplifies Hutch’s honor, courage and dedication. Each year, MLB teams are invited to nominate a player for the award. Past winners cast ballots to choose the next recipient and focus on a player’s philanthropic activities, the real purpose of the award. The annual Hutch Award Luncheon takes place at Seattle’s Safeco Field, where the aisle end of each row of seats features an engraved sketch of Fred Hutchinson.

Safeco Field, Tour Seattle, WA

Over the past 15 years, the Hutch Award Luncheon has raised more than $4.3 million. Last year’s winner was Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who supports Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

In memory of his brother, Dr. Bill Hutchinson named his cancer research center after Fred. Today, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center stands as a living memorial and a testament to the profound connection between the two brothers. Since 1975,at Fred Hutch, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

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