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.
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.
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.