Fred Hutchinson of Cincinnati is neither the tallest nor widest manager in the big leagues, a statistic his pitchers wouldn't believe if you showed them the tape measure and the scales. Because when Hutchinson goes out to relieve a pitcher, he looks like a mountain, all covered with fur. It is one of the more terrifying sights in baseball, which may account, in part, for Hutchinson's success as a manager.
"You get in trouble out there," says Jim Davis, who used to pitch for Hutchinson at St. Louis, "and suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see him in the dugout. He's leaning forward on the bench or pacing up and down like a bear, and he's glaring at you. And suddenly you think: 'Good Lord, if I don't get the ball over the plate, he's going to come out here.' "
Actually, Hutchinson only frightens pitchers occasionally; he has never harmed one in his life. Dugout walls and batting helmets have not been so lucky. In sheer fury at a particularly sloppy performance, he slugged a concrete dugout wall until his fist was black and blue. In disgust because an opposing batter was walked, needlessly, for the third time in a game, he dealt a row of batting helmets such a whack that they ricocheted the length of the bench, bouncing off walls and bat racks and the skulls of innocent reserve outfielders and second-string infielders. And there have been times, after a losing game, when the sound of splintering furniture has been clearly audible through Hutchinson's closed office door.
But most of the time Hutchinson is just a gentle-hearted man, quiet and patient and, fortunately, very peaceful. His famed, though rare, rages have been directed at himself or fate. "So far as I know," says Jim Brosnan, who has pitched for Hutch at both St. Louis and Cincinnati, "he has never even chewed a ballplayer out while anyone else was present. And if he had I would know. Those things get around."
Hutchinson was a pitcher himself and, like anyone else, had his bad moments as well as a lot of good ones. He can understand a pitcher's problems and sympathize with them. Up to a point. After all, he is a manager now, and his job is to win ball games. He expects his pitchers to do their jobs, too.
Because of this the Cincinnati Reds, who were going nowhere in a hurry the first half of the season despite some of the best hitting in the National League, have settled down and are playing good baseball. When Hutchinson took over as manager, the Reds were a sagging seventh, with a dismal .438 won-lost record. Under Hutch, Cincinnati has played .500 ball and at one point moved up to challenge for a first-division spot. The surge came too late, of course, and the Reds will still finish far back, but at least they have looked like a ball club.
"What else can it be but Hutch?" says Brosnan. "When we were losing so many games, everybody said we had the hitting but no pitching. Well, we're getting some pretty good pitching now from the same staff we had all the time.
"He just settled everybody down. Before, there was no real rotation. You never knew what to expect or whose day it was to work. We sometimes used six or eight pitchers in a game. Now, Hutch has set up a rotation of five men. They know they're going to pitch regularly. The relief pitchers know what they're going to do. And once you get in the game you get a chance."
"It's more than that," says Bob Purkey. "I liked Mayo, but I guess he was too easygoing. You lost a game, and it didn't seem to be important. Mayo would say, 'Well, we'll win tomorrow.' With Hutch, when you lose, you know it's important. He says, 'We're going to win tomorrow'—and you can tell he means it. We are going to win. We'd better."
"There's a difference," says Vada Pinson, who can tell, even if he isn't a pitcher. "I like Hutch. I don't know him very well; he's not particularly close to the players. Maybe Mayo was too close. But you know that Hutchinson is serious about winning ball games. He lets you know that's what you're out there for. You really have to respect him."