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  • LaMarr Hoyt R.I.P...

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    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    Former White Sox front office executive Dan Evans broke the news Tuesday morning that LaMarr Hoyt, the 1983 American League Cy Young Award winner and White Sox pitcher from 1979-1984 had died at the age of 66.

    Hoyt came to the White Sox as part of a four-player deal with the Yankees literally right before the club headed north to open the season on April 5, 1977. “Bucky” Dent was the player sent to the Bronx because then Sox owner Bill Veeck couldn’t get him to agree to a new contract.

    Hoyt came to the Sox along with Oscar Gamble, Bob Polinsky and 200,000 dollars. It isn’t known if Hoyt was considered a throw-in to the deal or not because Bill Veeck and Roland Hemond originally wanted left hander Ron Guidry included in the trade and Yankee owner George Steinbrenner was prepared to do it until then manager Billy Martin intervened and got him to change his mind.

    Hoyt made his White Sox debut on September 14, 1979 at home where he pitched a one-two-three inning against the Athletics.

    In 1980 he opened the season in the White Sox bullpen but by late July he moved into the starting rotation. When the year was done, he pitched over 112 innings, with 13 starts, three complete games and a record of nine and three.

    1981 though was the season when things began to come together for the big man from South Carolina.

    It started that opening day in Boston (the return of Carlton Fisk game) as he pitched two innings in relief to pick up the win after Fisk’ dramatic three run home run in the top of the eighth inning gave the White Sox the lead in the game.

    Another highlight came towards the end of that year in Oakland on September 27 in the first game of a double header. Starter Ross Baumgarten got knocked out in the first inning giving up five runs and not retiring anyone. Hoyt came on to try to stop the bleeding. He did more than that.

    He wound up throwing all nine innings, getting credit (since Baumgarten didn’t retire a hitter) for a complete game and even got the win as the Sox came back to beat Oakland 9-5. Hoyt only allowed five hits while striking out eight.

    For the year he again went 9-3 with a 3.57 ERA and 10 saves in the year that saw two months of the season cancelled in a labor dispute.

    1982 began the same way as 1981 with Hoyt in the Sox bullpen but after a few weeks he moved into the rotation for good. He made 32 starts with 14 complete games, throwing over 239 innings. Included in the highlights that season were a pair of complete game, three-hitters on June 15 at Oakland and August 14 against the Yankees. He picked up his 19th win of the season to lead the league the final day of the year at Minnesota again tossing a complete game in a 6-1 win.

    The 1983 season was his crowning achievement but it didn’t start out that way as Hoyt and the entire Sox club started out slowly, falling to eight games under the .500 mark by late May. Rumors were rampant about the possibility of manager Tony LaRussa being fired or trades taking place to shake things up. But White Sox special assistant Bobby Winkles was brought in to evaluate the situation by co-owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn. He preached patience and he turned out to be correct.

    By June 22 the Sox were back to the .500 mark and one of the most dramatic season turn-arounds was shaping up.

    By July 4, the date of the start of the All-Star break, Hoyt was 9-8, the club was 40-37. After the break, particularly in the final two months, the Sox went on a winning rampage, destroying the division on their way to 99 wins and a 20-game lead over second place Kansas City. Hoyt, Rich Dotson and Floyd Bannister went a mind-blowing 42-5 as the big three of the starting rotation. Hoyt at one point won 13 straight, not losing a game after July 23. His 20th win that year came on September 11 at home against the Angels when he went 10 innings in a 5-4 victory.

    By the end of the season Hoyt would go 24-10, with 36 starts, 11 complete games, a shutout, over 260 innings pitched, a 3.66 ERA and 148 strikeouts as opposed to only 31 walks.

    His control that year was impeccable. Hoyt, in later years, boasted that hitters couldn’t even get a foul ball off him unless he let them do it. He allowed 27 home runs that year but as he said, he’d rather pitch to contact with a nice lead and give up a solo home run rather then have guys on base.

    In the 1983 A.L.C.S. Hoyt opened the best of five series in Baltimore and was magnificent in a 2-1 Sox win. He went the distance, losing his shutout in the rain in the 9th inning on a bloop hit by Cal Ripken. He then got Eddie Murray to ground out to end the game. He allowed five hits with four strikeouts.

    He was in line to start the fifth and deciding game of the series but Baltimore closed it out in four, beating the Sox 3-0 in game #4 at Comiskey Park 3-0 in 10 innings.

    On October 25 he was awarded the Cy Young Award becoming the second Sox pitcher to ever win it following Early Wynn in 1959. He easily outdistanced the Royals Dan Quisenberry 116-81 in voting points by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

    1984 proved to be a turning point however. The Sox were almost a unanimous pick to repeat as divisional winners and a very good bet to get to the World Series. They added Tom Seaver to the starting rotation and actually were in first place at the All-Star break having won seven in a row and 10 of 12. But after the break it all fell apart. According to Sox outfielder Ron Kittle the club “quit” in the second half and finished a disappointing 74-88.

    Hoyt’s ERA ballooned to 4.47 with a record of 13-18. He did start 34 games, complete 11 of them and throw over 235 innings but he wasn’t the same pitcher that won 61 games between 1980 and 1983.

    His best single game performance in a Sox uniform came on May 6 as he one-hit the Yankees winning 3-0 at Comiskey Park. The reigning Cy Young Award winner lost his no-hitter on a single by Don Mattingly with one out in the seventh inning.

    With concerns about his weight and at the time unfounded rumors about possible drug use, Sox G.M. Roland Hemond sent Hoyt to the Padres along with prospects Kevin Kristan and Todd Simmons for a young shortstop named Ozzie Guillen, utility player Luis Salazar and pitchers Tim Lollar and Bill Long. The deal was completed on December 6, 1984.

    LaMarr actually had a very good 1985 season in San Diego going 16-8 with a 3.47 ERA, making the All-Star team where he started, throwing three innings in Minnesota, getting the win. He only gave up two hits, one of which was to the Sox Harold Baines.

    Following the 1985 season, he was arrested twice within a month on drug-possession charges, checking into a rehabilitation program nine days after the second arrest. This prevented him from playing most of spring training.
    He pitched through an injury to his rotator cuff rather than risk a surgery that could end his career, and he logged an 8–11 won-loss record with a 5.15 ERA.

    Barely a month after the season ended, Hoyt was arrested again for drug possession when he tried to bring 500 pills through the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the U.S.-Mexico border. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail on December 16, 1986, and suspended by then-Commissioner Pete Ueberroth on February 25, 1987. An arbitrator reduced his suspension to sixty days in mid-June and ordered the Padres to reinstate him. Though the Padres still owed Hoyt about three million dollars under the terms of his contract, the team gave him his unconditional release the following day.

    The White Sox gave him a second chance, signing him after his San Diego release and giving him time to get back into shape. A fourth arrest on drug charges in December 1987 ended his return.

    Over time Hoyt worked to stay clean and sober and returned at times to take in games in Chicago as well as attend team sponsored functions like Sox-Fest.

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