Buc in the Hot Corner

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Hoak

Don Hoak was nicknamed “Tiger” partly because of his pre-baseball athletic career as a boxer, and partly because of his tough, aggressive style of play as a major leaguer. He played 11 seasons with five different National League teams, but his best seasons came as the third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1959 through 1962.

Don Hoak finished second to teammate <a rel=

Hoak was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and worked his way through the Dodgers’ farm system to make his debut with the team in 1954. After two seasons as a part-time player with the Dodgers, he was traded with Russ Meyer and Walt Moryn to the Chicago Cubs for Don Elston and Randy Jackson. He hit .215 in his only season with the Cubs, and was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds.

The 1957 season was his break-out year, hitting .293 for Cincinnati with 19 home runs and 89 RBIs. He also led the major leagues with 39 doubles, and was the starting third baseman in the 1957 All-Star game.

Hoak hit .261 for the Reds in 1958, and was traded with Smoky Burgess and Harvey Haddix to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton, John Powers and Frank Thomas. Hoak was inserted at third for the Bucs and hit .294 in 1959 with eight home runs and 65 RBIs. He led the league in games played with 155.

Don Hoak was an All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds in 1957.

Don Hoak was an All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds in 1957.

During the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960, Hoak had his best all-around season, hitting .282 with 16 home runs and 79 RBIs, while providing solid third-base play for Pittsburgh. He had two doubles and three RBIs in the 1960 World Series. Hoak finished second to teammate Dick Groat for the Most Valuable Player award that season.

Hoak hit for a career-high average of .298 in 1961, but his batting average slipped to .241 in 1962 and he was traded in the off-season to the Philadelphia Phillies. He hit .231 for the Phillies in 1963, and was released by Philadelphia six games into the 1964 season.

Hoak finished his career with 1,144 hits and a .265 batting average.

 

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Oh, What a Relief: Don Elston

Once he was moved full-time into the bullpen, Don Elston emerged as one of the National League’s most effective relief pitchers at the end of the 1950s. While overshadowed statistically by the Pittsburgh PiratesRoy Face, Elston brought a day-in, day-out consistency to protecting leads for the Chicago Cubs, a team that had precious few leads to protect.

Between 1960-1964, Don Elston averaged 55 relief appearances per season, with a 3.90 ERA and 32 saves.

Between 1960-1964, Don Elston averaged 55 relief appearances per season, with a 3.90 ERA and 32 saves.

Elston was signed by the Cubs in 1947 and toiled in their farm system for nearly a decade. He won 18 games in 1952 and 17 games in both 1954 and 1955, but didn’t find a permanent spot on the Cubs’ pitching staff until 1957, and he earned his place via the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had acquired Elston in a trade for Don Hoak, Russ Meyer and Walt Moryn. He appeared in one game for the Dodgers and then was traded back to Chicago, where he was 6-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 29 appearances, 25 as a reliever.

In 1958, Elston was used exclusively as a reliever, appearing in 69 games (tops in the National League) and finishing 39. He was 9-8 with 10 saves and a 2.88 ERA for a Cubs team that finished the season at 72-82. His nine victories tied him with Moe Drabowsky for second on the team after Glen Hobbie (who had 10 victories).

Elston followed up in 1959 by leading the league in both appearances (65) and games finished (49). He completed the 1959 season at 10-8 with a 3.32 ERA and 13 saves. In 1960, Elston was third in the National League in appearances (behind Face and Lindy McDaniel) with 60, finishing 33 games and saving 11. His record in 1960 was 8-9 with a 3.40 ERA.

In nine major league seasons, Don Elston appeared in 450 games, 449 with the Chicago Cubs and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In nine major league seasons, Don Elston appeared in 450 games, 449 with the Chicago Cubs and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

From 1960 through 1964, Elston was 24-30 with a 3.90 ERA. He appeared in an average of 55 games per season. His best season in the 1960s was 1963, when he was 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA in 51 appearances.

Elston retired after the 1964 season with a career record of 49-54 and a 3.69 ERA. He appeared in 450 games and saved 63. Elston was a member of the 1959 National League All-Star team.