Remembering Waite Hoyt, the voice of Crosley Field.
- View SourceThanks to Mike Dyer for the Waite Hoyt story. (See photo.)
Waite was a baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Yankees and the longtime Cincinnati Reds broadcast announcer at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Betty Hoyt, Waite's third wife, recalled her admiration of the man she ended up marrying decades later.
Born: Sept. 9, 1899
Died: Aug. 25, 1984
Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 along with Stan Musial, Roy Campanella and Stan Coveleski.
Teams: New York Giants (1918, 1932), Boston Red Sox (1919-1920), New York Yankees (1921-1930), Detroit Tigers (1930-31), Philadelphia A's (1931), Brooklyn Dodgers (1932, 1937-1938), Pittsburgh Pirates (1933-1937)
Stats: 237-182 lifetime record as a pitcher. He had 1,206 strikeouts and a 3.59 career ERA. He pitched three games in the 1921 World Series against the Giants and allowed only two runs both unearned over 27 innings, earning two of his six career World Series wins.
Waite's nicknames included `Schoolboy,' because he signed at the age of 15 after being discovered by John McGraw. Hoyt was also referred to as `The Merry Mortician' because he once worked as an undertaker.
Waite had connections through vaudeville and Mae West once recognized him on a train ride and gave him a hug. Waite's teammates were awestruck at the encounter. Waite also knew Bob Hope and played golf with him.
J. Fred Coots was a vaudeville partner with Waite in 1928-29; Coots played piano and Waite sang. Coots wrote over 700 songs, including "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".
Waite Hoyt began calling Reds games 70 years ago at Crosley Field, the ace of arguably greatest team ever. Betty (born Derie) was walking along Fifth Avenue during a New York City summer vacation trip with her mother, Helen in the 1950s when, by happenstance, they met Waite as he walked closer down the street. Waite was visiting his old house that week as the Reds were on a road trip in New York.
Betty initiated the introduction, explaining she was one of his Cincinnati fans; she asked him how his throat was holding up because she remembered him having a rugged broadcast schedule.
Waite chatted with them for a half-hour before Betty politely explained she and Helen had to return to the hotel to pack as there was a train to catch back to Cincinnati. When they returned, everyone said `how was your trip to New York?' And I said, `I met Waite Hoyt,. not realizing that she would stay connected with Waite not only as a fan, but later as a friend who answered his fan mail and eventually as his wife. They were married March 5, 1983 her first and only marriage and his third.
While Crosley Field celebrates 100 years this season, spring is another occasion to commemorate Waite calling Reds games on the radio which he did from 1942-65. Waite's first official game with the Reds was on Opening Day at Crosley Field on April 14, 1942. For those who grew up with the Reds in the 40s, 50s and 60s, you can't separate a Reds fan from listening to Waite, just a very compelling announcer, a great voice for radio - a great storyteller.
Waite was the ace pitcher on the 1927 Yankees' staff and a teammate to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig with the Murderers' Row lineup. He had a 21-year career (1918-38) with seven Major League teams.
Waite wanted to be a baseball announcer in New York after his playing days were over in the late 1930s, but ex-players transitioning into baseball broadcasting weren't the norm.
Waite wasn't the typical ballplayer, though. He was articulate and had a knack for the flair in front of an audience; he sang in vaudeville in the winter during his playing days in New York.
He joined a talent agency in the early 1940s which in turn got him an audition in Cincinnati and Burger Beer his sponsor for Reds broadcasts loved his style, Rhodes said.
Waite was less than thrilled to arrive in Cincinnati as a broadcaster figuring it wouldn't have the same gusto as New York. However, he warmed to the city as Reds fans adored him.
"He just liked the people," Betty said. "He loved Cincinnati. This was home to him. And he always said in his whole life his happiest years were here even though he was much more successful in other places. But he said that he really loved Cincinnati."
As a former teammate and good friend of Ruth, Waite would share stories about the Bambino during Reds games offering unique insight into the game's legendary slugger.
On the night Ruth died Aug. 16, 1948, Waite discussed his friend for almost an hour on WCPO radio after the Reds had played earlier that day. It was Waite's extemporaneous tribute to Ruth which struck a chord with Betty.
Betty heard that eulogy and first wrote Waite a letter to explain her admiration for his personal tribute to the Sultan of Swat.
Waite followed up with a thank you note the first time he wrote to her and Betty still has the letter and the envelope. The envelope is postmarked Sept. 9, 1948 Waite's 49th birthday. It reads in part:
"Dear Miss Derie: This is merely a sincere expression of appreciation for your time and trouble in writing me your kind reactions to my eulogy on Babe Ruth," Waite wrote. "I assure you it was not a `feat' on my part - nor a tremendous accomplishment - as my subject automatically supplied its own appeal. I merely had to orate. I suppose my sincerity carried some weight as it was from the heart.
"After it was over, I did not realize I had done anything special. I merely talked as so many players have talked about the Babe down through the years and, I guess, will continue to talk about him."
Betty remembers riding the trolley to Ladies' Days at Crosley Field where she said the sight of the stadium "took my breath away."
Waite was happy in his retirement and enjoyed the company of his friends around baseball and at various functions and in Cincinnati. He was overjoyed at being elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, Betty said. Waite connected with Betty and the two married March 5, 1983 in Chicago in the home of Waite's niece.
In 2007, Waite's broadcast contributions were honored with a replica microphone bearing his last name on the concrete façade beneath the press box at Great American Ball Park. Betty said Waite's legacy continues with the way he was authentic to the fans and had a genuine appreciation for the kindness they showed to him over the years.
"He always treated everybody with the greatest respect," Betty said. " I never heard him be short with anybody or anything like that. "He was a very kind man. Everyone loved him."