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"I'd have to go far back in my memory to recall a finer man. I've seen him leave the clubhouse for a few minutes and stop to ask the clubhouse boy if he could bring back a sandwich. He's got real humility.
"Some of these guys—and I've seen them—they get to be a manager and right away they have to prove they're big men. They're quick to take credit for anything good a ballplayer does. But Hutch never does that, and these players respect him for it. He goes right on being himself, same to everybody, because he is a big man. I don't know how to say it"—Bauman shook his head—"he's humble, he's kind, he's strict and he's tough. He's all these things in one man."
"I saw where the front office blasted him for taking me out of that game in Brooklyn," Dark said. He held up the forefinger of his throwing hand, which had a piece of tape glued over the nail. "I had this bad finger. It was the only time I ever asked to be taken out of a game in my life. So he got blasted for taking me out. But he never once opened his mouth to explain. That's the kind of a man he is."
Hutch looks deep into a player to decide those who deserve his patience. "There's no secret to it," he once said. "A man is what he is, way back. I don't mean when he's 18 or 19, but long before that. It's deep in his makeup and nobody is going to do much about changing it."
Fred Hutchinson, 38, is his own best example. His high school coach, Ralph (Pop) Reed, remembers the way he stood on the Emerson grade school playfield, in Seattle, his catcher's mask pushed back over a shock of curly red hair, his face twisted in thin-lipped anger, eyes narrowed, arguing with an umpire. He was only 10 years old. "When I saw him stand up and have it out with an adult umpire," says Pop Reed, "I knew that here was a real competitor. The thing that impressed me was that he wasn't just shooting off his mouth. He was right and he knew it, and he had courage enough to say what he thought. He was already a tough, thinking ballplayer."
Hutchinson is the youngest son of a prominent Seattle family which settled in the Rainier Beach district near Lake Washington. His father, Dr. J. L. Hutchinson, who died a few years ago, was a prominent physician and surgeon. His oldest brother, Dr. William B. Hutchinson, is one of Seattle's leading chest and abdominal surgeons. Middle brother John is a full professor of physical education at Columbia University. Both of Fred's older brothers had a brief fling at professional baseball and they decided, even when Fred was tiny, that he would be the best athlete in the Hutchinson family.
Together they would stand Fred up against a garage door and fire tennis balls at him, taught him how to hit left-handed with a broomstick. They worked on him by the hour, coached him incessantly and, by his freshman year at Franklin High School, when he first reported to Pop Reed, he had the poise of a veteran. In his sophomore year, Hutch turned to pitching. Immensely strong as a youngster, Fred could almost lose a baseball in his huge hand, yet he never became an overpowering pitcher. His chief weapons were amazing control, a natural sinker, a short, choppy curve and a thoroughly domesticated change-of-pace. Those were his weapons, plus fine baseball instinct and a consuming desire to win.
Pop Reed, an acutely perceptive man, who now lives in semiretirement in Long Beach, Calif., still keeps in close touch with professional baseball. Says Reed: "If baseball wasn't a competitive sport—if it was just something you did for exercise—I don't think Fred would be interested in it. Looking back on it, I think he may very well be the greatest competitor baseball has ever produced."
In three years as a schoolboy pitcher, Hutchinson won 60 games, lost only two, yet major league scouts, almost to a man, shied away from his mediocre fast ball and wrinkly curve. The Seattle Rainiers, newly renovated under wealthy brewer Emil Sick, signed Hutchinson for $2,500 and 20% of any sales price that might result with a big league club.