Hub Kittle

For nearly eighty years, Hub Kittle loved and studied pitching. He first realized that this was his calling when he was eight years old. He could outthrow all the neighborhood kids. “Something clicked there, that I had something the good Lord must have gave me. I don’t know why, I couldn’t outfight ’em and I couldn’t outrun ’em, but I could outthrow ’em. Well, all of a sudden, I decided I wanted to be a ballplayer and from there on, I just kept throwing baseballs.”[1]

Hubert Milton Kittle was born in Los Angeles on February 19, 1917. His parents were Hubert M. Kittle and Dorothy Wilson. Dorothy was a cabaret singer and performed on the Orpheum Circuit with her sister. Hub’s father was a policeman, and later a detective. He was also an avid competitive motorcyclist [2] and an aerial cop.[3]

Hub’s childhood was difficult. His father committed suicide at age 36, when Hub was six, because he was under suspicion of some sort of corruption.[4] After his father died, Hub was farmed out to his grandparents.[5] Hub’s brother Robley was killed when he was about 12, hit by a car while riding his bike delivering newspapers.[6]

Hub attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, and their baseball team won the city championship in 1934. After that Hub received a scholarship to the Army and Navy Academy in San Diego. On weekends he was playing with a semi-pro team called Walter Church Service Stations. Ted Williams was the right fielder. “Boy, he could even hit then! One day I pitched a no-hitter and there was a scout, Ernie Johnson [7], there in the stands, and after the game he called me over by the fence and said, ‘Hey, young man, I like what I see out there and I’d like to sign you with the Red Sox. I’m going up hunting this weekend, but I don’t have a contract. But I’ve got a piece of paper and I want to sign you, $150 a month.’ Well, this was like heaven to me, you know, so I went in and turned my books in, turned my sword in, and told the colonel that I was going to be a ballplayer.”[8]

The Red Sox contract wasn’t genuine, and after some wrangling Hub ended up signing with the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He reported to the Angels’ San Bernardino camp in February 1936.[9] In March he was cut from the Angels’ squad and farmed out to the Ponca City, Oklahoma, club in the Western Association.[10] Doubting that he was ready to pitch for their team in Ponca City, they sent him to their rookie club, the Catalina Cubs, on Catalina Island just a few miles off the California coast.

Hub pitched for the Catalina Island Angels, whose opponents were semi-pro teams from the mainland such as Fox Studios and the Paramount Cubs. “We were getting $50 a month, and we were working for the Santa Catalina Island Company. They hired us to play ball, but since we worked for Mr. Wrigley’s company, we did other things, too. They had us pick up the garbage, empty the cans by the ballpark–it was part of our work.”[11]

In those days, there was no formal training for rookies, but older players often gave tips and advice. Kittle was a wild pitcher. One day, after he’d hit Steve Mesner, manager Charlie Grimm took him out of the game. According to Kittle, “The next day, he told George Uhle to help me. My delivery was all over the place–I had this fancy twisted-up wind up. He straightened my delivery out, cleaned up my mechanics. I’ll never forget what he taught me that day. He said, ‘Stick that stinky stuff–hold the ball in front of you, turn it like this, anticipate the ball into the catcher’s glove.’ And all of a sudden, I threw strikes!”[12]

Hub won 15 and lost 3 games, and pitched two no-hitters.[13] The second one was on August 28, 1936, against the West Brothers Plasters of Long Beach. A walk, hit batter and an error led to a run in the first inning, but after that no one reached first base.[14] “Well, I thought I was a big shot then and I could pitch anywhere, you know, but I’ll be darned if they don’t come and tell me that I am going to Ponca City.”[15]

Ballplayers on Catalina Island lived a rather different life than most ballplayers. For one thing, movie stars (or future movie stars) spent time on the island. This included Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe (aka Norma Jeane Dougherty) and Ronald Reagan. Norma Jeane didn’t move to Catalina until 1943, but Kittle claims that “I got pictures of Marilyn Monroe–out on Catalina. She was a good ball fan, she came to the park.”[16] Fishing was different at Catalina, too. “One of my great friends, Gene Feeling, an outfielder–we had a rowboat, and we’d go where they took the glass-bottom boat. I talked him into rowing so he could strengthen his throwing arm. I’d been fishing and in the boats ever since I was a kid. There was a Greek restaurant, the Acme Cafe, on the corner near where the boats launched. We made the owner a deal: I’d furnish all the fish, and he’d give me a $5 meal ticket, all punched with holes. We’d fill the boat all the way up with sheephead and fish like that. We ate well!”[17]

Hub went to Catalina for spring training several years, probably 1936 through 1939 and maybe 1940.[18]

In 1937 and 1938, Hub pitched for the Ponca City Angels in the Western Association. For 1937, his record was 9-15 with a 5.30 ERA. Kittle recalled, “To make a long story short, I didn’t have a very good year. I was way over my head, and I was so wild and my control was terrible.” The one record he established for the league that year seems to confirm his assessment: He hit the most batters, 15. Also, he tied for the second most wild pitches, 14. [19]

Hub also drove the bus and, fortunately, given his record that year, he was a very good bus driver. At the end of the season, the ball club owner said, “Kittle, you didn’t have a very good year, did you?” “No, sir.” responded Kittle. The owner went on, “Well, we didn’t have a very good ball club either, but you know young man, I like your enthusiasm and your hustle and your work habits, and furthermore you are the best bus driver I ever had, and I want to give you a little raise for next year.” Hub was shocked, since he expected to be released, and he was thrilled with the $5-a-month raise. “My hand was shaking when I signed the contract.”[20]

About Hub’s adventures driving the bus, there’s a very entertaining 1989 Sports Illustrated article [21] with a dozen anecdotes from all sports, four of which were obtained from Kittle during a nine-hour interview at his home in Yakima. One of the anecdotes ended, “And, baby, that’s not even one of my best bus stories.” Fortunately, the last one ended, “And that, son, is the best damn bus story I know.”

At the end of the 1937 [22] or 1938 [23] season, Ponca City had a home game against Muskogee. There were 90-mph winds, a Dust Bowl gale. Kittle and the opposing pitcher, Alex Swails, both pitched complete games and set an organized baseball record that Hub didn’t expect to be broken. Kittle walked 11 batters while Swails walked 32, for a total of 43 walks in nine innings, the most walks ever recorded by two starters. Hub was mortified in the seventh inning when Swails hit a bases-loaded home run and all the Ponca City fans cheered.[24]

The 1938 season was better for Hub. His record was 18-8, 3.19 ERA, and the team won the pennant.[25] He was sold to Yakima in the Western International League in January 1939 for $1,000.[26] He and another ballplayer, who was heading to Bellingham, drove an old Model A roadster to Yakima, with a St. Bernard named Jake in the rumble seat. Kittle had never been to the Pacific Northwest. When they reached Yakima Valley, the cherry blossoms, the cattle and the stream, it was love at first sight for Hub. He felt like Brigham Young, who had announced “This is the place,” back in 1847.[27] Yakima’s management wasn’t as enthusiastic about getting Hub, though. He had broken his leg in a horse-riding accident before being peddled to Yakima.[28] In fact, he had a fine year and went 20-10, 3.43 ERA, becoming the first Yakima pitcher to win 20 games in a season.[29] For his efforts, he earned $125 a month.

The next year, he went 9-5, 2.95 ERA, and earned $135 a month. In July 1940, Yakima sold him to the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League for $5,000 [30], where he posted a 3-3 record, 5.24 ERA. It was noted that he specialized in a forkball and that the spread between his index finger and his middle finger was six and a half inches.[31] After one disastrous start [32], he became the long man out of the bullpen. He was paid well for the time, $300 a month.

Hub started the 1941 season with the Seals, and went 2-2. Hub struggled and, at one point, lasted less than an inning [33], though he improved in relief.[34] When the Seals threatened to send him to Tacoma, he quit and considered going to work in an automobile plant in Los Angeles.[35] However, he went to work for Firestone Tire Company in Visalia, California. He sold tractor, truck and bus tires and big heavy equipment. “Now, I am doing pretty good and I should maybe have stayed with Firestone, because I would have been set for life.”[36] Before Hub left the Seals, he was involved in a freak accident. He was hitting fungoes during fielding practice, when Al Steele, a very promising young second baseman, was smashed in the nose and knocked unconscious.[37] Al Steele was never the same, and Hub felt terrible about this for the rest of his life, even though it was an accident.[38]

While at Firestone, Hub was persuaded by a scout to join the Jersey City Giants and went to their spring training in 1942 in Jacksonville, Florida. Distracted by the war and being away from his family in Yakima, he didn’t do well in Jersey City. He was optioned to Oklahoma City in the Texas League. He claims he pitched a shutout, but his record was 1-4, ERA 3.15. He was given his “free agency,”[39] so he called Ray Jacobs, manager of the Spokane Indians in the Western International League, and got on that team. He had a respectable record of 15-14, with an ERA of 3.34, and he established a league record of 33 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.[40] In addition, when the manager was suspended without pay for the rest of the season, Kittle acted unofficially as the manager because he was the oldest player on the club. At age 25 he got his first taste of managing.[41] After the season, Kittle was sold to the Oakland Acorns in the Pacific Coast League.[42]

Kittle pitched briefly for Oakland in 1943 with a 2-1 record, with a 2.75 ERA. One of the wins was an 11-9 victory over San Diego on May 12. The starting pitcher, Jack Lotz, lasted a third of the first inning in which San Diego scored seven runs. Kittle “relieved” Lotz for 8 2/3 innings. The score was tied 8-8 after two innings! [43] His only loss was on May 29 to the Sacramento Solons, 4-3 in 12 innings. Both pitchers, Hub and Al Brazle, went the distance. Hub struck out 8, walked 3 and gave up 13 hits. [44]

Hub was the first Oakland player to be drafted into the service.[45] On June 3 he was on his way to Los Angeles to report in; another player, Walt Raimondi, was scheduled to report at Monterey the next day.[46] After Hub got his draft notice, he was approached by a soldier who said, “Kittle, I hear you are going into the army next week. Well, I’m Red Ruffing [47], and I manage the Sixth Ferry Command in Long Beach. I’d like to have you come and pitch for us. When you get to Fort MacArthur, you give me your serial number and I’ll put in a request for you.” Then he got a call from Joe DiMaggio, who was managing the Santa Ana Base team. DiMaggio wanted him to pitch for Santa Ana, but they didn’t have any recreational or physical therapy openings. So, even though he couldn’t play any instrument, he was advised to go down to the Musicians’ Union and register as a cymbal player. “I give ’em my dough and now I am a goddamn cymbal player.”

Thus began a rather checkered career in the Army. When it was discovered that he had been assigned to both the Ferry Command and to Santa Ana, Kittle was given a choice and took the Ferry Command. At the Ferry Command he was assigned to the gym and became a masseur for the fighter pilots. Meanwhile, of course, he was playing ball, which involved flying to places such as San Francisco to play other teams. Some of the players were major leaguers, among them New York Giants catcher Harry Danning. This was exciting for Hub, as he had never pitched to a big league catcher before.[48]

Kittle was on the Service All-Stars team on August 21, 1943, when they defeated the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League 8-2 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.[49] The All-Stars played the Angels for the first four and a half innings, then the Hollywood team for the remainder of the game.[50] This game was a benefit for the American soldiers in the Pacific. Most members of the team were major leaguers, including Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky. The next day Kittle won a 5-1 game, pitching for the Ferry Command against the Coast Guard Repair Base. He had a no-hitter through eight innings, but gave up two hits and a run in the ninth.[51]

One day Hub indicated that he’d “love to fly one of these babies.” About two weeks later he was ordered to report to Fort MacArthur near Los Angeles for cadet assignment. With a little help from a buddy, he managed to pass his first test and was flown to Buckley Field in Colorado for more tests. “Now we are in little cubicles all by ourselves. I don’t do good on these tests at all.” The sergeant told him, “Kittle, we’re sorry but we’re going to have to send you to the college training detachment. You’re going to have to go to the University of Nevada for three months to get some more education.”

After a month at the University of Nevada, a lieutenant told him, “Kittle, we want you to be squadron commander. You’re the oldest and you are showing your way in it.” Kittle was very happy, but he needed to score sixes in navigating, piloting and engineering. He only got a six in piloting, so he was washed out. He was asked what he wanted to do: armament school, radio school, or what. He hoped to see some action in the war, so he went to armament school and graduated as an armorer. After school he was sent to basic training at Camp Howe in Texas. “All of a sudden they are going to ship us to Europe for the Battle of the Bulge, so we go to Fort Meade in Maryland. Then they changed our orders and shipped us clear back to the States,” and then on to Diamond Head in Hawaii. Hub ended up spending his time on Saipan, northeast of Guam.

On Saipan, Kittle managed a ball club for the Pacific Olympics that he was told to put together himself. Most of the troops on Saipan were blacks in the Engineering Corps and the Transportation Corps, and many of them were fine ballplayers. In fact, eight of them had played in the Negro leagues.[52] Kittle was unwittingly a pioneer for the integration of baseball. One key player told Kittle, “I ain’t going to play with no black guy, period. I am going to get suspended.” Kittle told him he was crazy, so he took him out and got him drunk until he agreed to play. Kittle put together a great team, the Saipan Hilltoppers, and they beat Tinian, Guam, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. His team was in the title game for the championship, which was played in Guam. By this time, the war was over and “there is no more bombing or fighting. When we got there, you would think this was the seventh game of the World Series. I never saw so many generals and admirals and bands playing.” It came down to a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning of the game. Then “way up in the sky, you heard this whine and it is a P-51 up there and the pilot turned that baby over and dove it all the way down to the ground and committed suicide in front of everybody. Everybody was shocked and there was a big ball of flame, you know.” After some time, it was all quiet and the umpire said, “Play ball!” Kittle’s pitcher was unnerved and walked the next two batters. Kittle had him walk the next guy to load the bases, so he could have the force at home and get the double play. The next batter hit a fly ball into left field, and the runner on third managed to score in a tight play at home.[53] Kittle’s team lost 3-2.

Kittle was sent back to Hawaii after the Japanese surrendered. He was a first sergeant and helped process troops who were being sent home. Finally, his tour of duty was over, and he took a ship back to the States. His ship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on his 29th birthday, February 19, 1946.

Back in the States, Hub went to spring training with the Oakland team. Kittle said that, “They didn’t want me, I was too old.” According to The Sporting News, there was a “row” between manager Casey Stengel and Hub Kittle after Kittle’s release on March 13. Kittle had only been out of the army a week and didn’t feel that Stengel had given him a fair chance.[54]

However, Oakland got him a position on the Bremerton Blue Jackets team in the Western International League. His pitching record for 1946 was 15-10, ERA 3.71. In 1947, his record was 13-14, ERA 2.79. To quote The Sporting News again, “chalking up his second straight shutout, Hub Kittle calcimined Salem 4 to 0 on May 7 allowing only one hit, a single by Lou Kublak in the second inning. He faced only 28 batters in registering his sixty-second victory in the league.”[55] Hub went on to pitch seven shutouts, a season record in the league.[56]

By this time, Hub had been married for several years to the former Cleo Capistran, a native of Yakima whom he had met at a game at Sicks Stadium in Seattle, and had settled down in Yakima. He had leased a chili parlor, Hub Kittle’s Chili Parlor, with thirteen stools and four booths. He had a tremendous cook, Rosalie Wurtz, who had worked for a chili parlor in Spokane.[57] The cafe only lasted about three years, because Hub wasn’t able to give it enough time and attention.[58]

At Bremerton, Hub was a player/coach and was the manager’s “right-hand man.” Then the league made a rule that a player could not be a coach. When Hub was told that he could no longer be a player/coach, which meant a $50-a-month salary cut, he went home to Yakima to run his restaurant. Three of his customers were owners of the Yakima Packers in the same league, and one of them asked Hub if he’d pitch home games if he traded for him. “Yeah, I’ll do that.” So he was traded for an outfielder who was sent to Bremerton.

The 1948 Yakima team was “the worst ball club I ever seen in my life.” The manager was co-owner and had never managed before, so he resigned in July and the job was offered to Kittle.[59] The team did pretty well after he took over, but their record under Kittle was 26 wins and 53 losses for a .329 percentage. Kittle improved his team by signing his groundskeeper and also a drunk who signed a pledge “that he wouldn’t drink or I’d fire him.”

On June 16, pitchers John Marshall for Bremerton and Kittle for Yakima “split a double-header by trading victories and defeats. Marshall won 5-0 over Kittle in the seven-inning opener at Bremerton. In the regulation nightcap, both saw service in relief, with Kittle turning the tables on Marshall and receiving credit for a 5-4 victory. The triumph ended a nine-game losing streak for Yakima.”[60]

Don McShane saw what Kittle was doing in Yakima and asked him if he’d be pitcher and manager for the Klamath Falls Gems in the class D Far West League. This suited Kittle perfectly. He managed the team in 1949 and 1950. His pitching records were 7-2, ERA 3.69, and 10-0, ERA 3.93. It is likely that he was a relief pitcher at this point, or, in today’s terms, the “closer.” In 1949 his team record was 78-46, good for second in the league. In 1950 the team won the pennant with 82 wins and 52 losses. In the beginning, Don McShane was Kittle’s biggest critic. However, “God bless his soul, when he died, he left me $36,000 in his will. I was like a son, you know. He didn’t have any kids.”[61] Kittle was grateful for all that he learned about managing from McShane.

On May 24, 1950, Klamath Falls lost to Redding, ending a ten-game winning streak. The game was “marked by a gang fight–and ended when park police took over, with Jeffrey [Klamath Falls’ first baseman] and manager Kittle being ejected.” A business manager and two players were fined ten dollars by the league president. Kittle was fined $15 “for abuse of umpires.”[62]

Kittle’s Klamath Falls team was his first experience managing a team affiliated with a major league team, the Philadelphia Phillies. In 1951 they moved him to the Salt Lake City Bees in the class C Pioneer League. They won the pennant with an 84-52 record. In 1951, the sportswriters named Kittle the Pioneer League’s manager of the year.[63] Still a playing manager, Kittle’s pitching record was 4-2, with an ERA of 1.80. He was a very effective “closer” before the idea was in vogue. In 1952 the Bees won only 60 games while losing 71. “Closer” Kittle went 6-6, ERA 1.94.

In 1953 and 1954, Kittle managed the Terre Haute (Indiana) Phillies in the Three I League. As with the Salt Lake Bees, his first year was better than the second. In 1953, the team won the pennant with 76 wins and 52 losses. In 1954, they won 60 and lost 76. Hub did some pitching with records 2-1 and 1-0.

In 1955, Kittle returned to Yakima in the Northwest League and managed the team until 1960. In addition, he was business manager from 1957 through 1959.[64] They had split seasons, but their combined records were 59-69 in 1955 and 86-45 in 1956, the latter handily winning both halves of the split season. In 1957, they won 67 and lost 66. In 1958, they won one of the splits, with 41 wins and 28 losses, going 35-32 in the other half-season. They won the playoffs 4-1 over the Lewiston (Idaho) Broncs.[65] In 1959, they won 70 and lost 69, but the second half of the season they were 40-31.

In 1959, shortstop Dick Rautmann was released by Tri-Cities (in the same league), so he begged Kittle for a job shortly before a game. Hub agreed and was rewarded with a homer, two singles, four runs, and 0 errors in 7 chances.[66] Hub had essentially stopped pitching, but the record shows 0-0 records in both 1955 and 1958. Around this time Hub got his real estate license. Of course, he was a big success.

In 1960, Kittle was still managing the Yakima Bears. Members of the Board of Directors were trying to sell advertising for the team, but were not very successful. One day Hub told them, “Why don’t you give me that book; I’ll go out and try to sell something.” He did and sold the whole book in about two weeks.[67] This led to his becoming the General Manager.

Kittle loved baseball so much that he helped two rival clubs, Salem and Tri-Cities, when they needed it. His reward was that he almost lost pennants to each of them. When Salem threatened to drop out of the league in 1959, Kittle induced Dwight Jordan to take over the team. Jordan, who had been president of Yakima’s organization, kept the Salem club going for two years and almost beat Yakima for the pennant in 1959. In 1960, when things started badly for the Tri-Cities club, Kittle arranged to obtain some players for the team, and soon Tri-Cities became Yakima’s chief rival for the flag. The result was that, after having a gate of less than 47,000 in 1959, the Tri-Cities club drew more than 80,000 in 1960 to lead the league in attendance. [68]

In 1960, The Sporting News named Kittle the “Minor League Executive of the Year.” In the citation,[69] it was noted that “when he assumed the front-office chores in 1957, the club was $50,000 in debt. By the start of the 1960 campaign, the indebtedness was reduced to a mere $5,000. Seeing complete success in the offing, Kittle decided to concentrate on the business end. He retired as field pilot.” The citation also mentioned that the retiring club president, John Strosahl, gave Kittle all the credit for this turn-around.

Kittle continued as General Manager of the Yakima Bears in 1961.[70] In October 1961, Nick Morgan, Jr., owner of the Hawaii Islanders in the Pacific Coast League, hired Kittle as General Manager for 1962.[71] He was the right man for the job, because the Islanders’ problem was pitching, especially relief pitching. Hub acquired three new relievers as well as lefty Dick Egan, who was on assignment from Detroit.[72] (Egan had a limited major league career with a 1-2 record over two years.)

In the fall of 1962 Morgan and Kittle were making big plans for 1963.[73] However, on December 20, 1962, Hub was appointed General Manager of the Portland Beavers, also in the Pacific Coast League.[74] He had been dropped by Hawaii “when that club changed hands and the new owners decided on a clean sweep. Kittle was out of a job about one week.” [75]

In 1964, twenty-five years after he first pitched for Yakima, Kittle accepted the managing job there “’cause I had gone to 238 pounds, without pitching and batting practice. I just gained weight. I had diverticulitis and I wanted to go back on the field anyway, so I resigned from Portland.”[76] “I made over 100 speeches at luncheons and banquets, and naturally I had to eat too. Finally, my doctor told me I’d better get back on the field.”[77] Yakima was glad to have Hub Kittle back, and he had a lot to say about baseball, as noted in a Sporting News article titled, “Just Like Beer and Pretzels–Yakima and Kittle Go Together.”[78] Kittle liked Yakima too: “I’m happy to be back in Yakima and on the field with the kids again. It wouldn’t make any difference to me if I spent the rest of my life here.”

The Yakima Bears’ record was 72-68 in 1964, but they won the second half with a 44-28 mark. As seemed to happen when Kittle managed a team for two years, they didn’t do as well the second year, finishing 62-77. But they did have a star second baseman in Felix Millan. Kittle felt that Millan had “all the tools,” but was concerned that he not be advanced too quickly. “He still isn’t sure of the strike zone.” Millan walked only 14 times in over 300 plate appearances. “That means he’s swinging at everything. He should walk more. With that speed of his, he’s too valuable on base to pass up walks.” Millan only struck out 17 times. [79] (Millan was an infielder for twelve years in the majors, with the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets. He had only 22 home runs in 5,791 at bats.) Ten years later, in discussing why he uses “half a bat,” Felix stated, “It gives me better control of the bat. When I was in the Braves organization, Hub Kittle had a talk with me. He told me I was never going to be a home-run hitter and that I should choke up on the bat and punch the ball.”[80]

Yakima was playing in Eugene when Yakima first baseman Bob Aguilar saw “manager Hub Kittle give the hit-and-run sign, took off for second base and was an easy out. Later he found out Kittle was merely swatting mosquitoes in the third base coaching box.”[81]

In 1966-1967, Kittle managed the Austin Braves in the Texas League. Even before he began the season as field manager in Austin, he was a big hit with the press with his storytelling and big voice. “I prefer it right where I am. I wouldn’t be a general manager again if they gave me a gold-plated swivel chair.”[82] Hub participated in the Atlanta Braves spring training camp in West Palm Beach, his first experience coaching in a major league baseball camp.[83] There, Hub was the victim of an unusual accident. “As he tried to move a batting cage, one of the steel supports fell on his head, requiring twelve stitches. He didn’t miss a day’s work.”[84]

For these years, Austin had uninspiring records of 67-73 and 69-71. Nevertheless, in 1966 Austin won the one-game playoff, 10-1, against Albuquerque. In 1966, Hub pitched one scoreless inning against Arkansas in the last “fun game” of the regular season.[85] The record book shows 0-0, ERA 0.00.

Since he had been in Yakima in mid-1964, Kittle had been working with a power hitter, Glen Clark, who followed Kittle to Austin. In Austin, Clark moved from the outfield to catcher. He did so well that they scheduled a Glen Clark Night in 1966. [86] Clark was briefly in the majors, where he went 0-for-4 for Atlanta in 1967.

The 1967 season in Austin started out with a “dazzling 15-strikeout no-hitter” by Jim Britton. He gave up one walk.[87] Britton made it to the majors and had a 13-16 record with ERA 4.02. Adrian Garrett and Walt Hriniak were two hard-working sluggers who helped the team win ten of eleven games in late June and early July.[88] Both of these players made it to the majors. Garrett played in 163 games over eight years and ended up with a batting average of .185, with 11 home runs. Hriniak played in 47 games in 1968 and 1969 and had a batting average of .253, with no home runs, and went on to become an outstanding hitting coach.

In 1968, Kittle moved from the Braves organization to the Astros organization. He managed the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs in the Texas League to a 60-79 slate. The next year he managed the Savannah Senators in the Southern League, with another poor record, 59-76. On August 6, 1969, Kittle put himself on the team’s active list. “I haven’t pitched since 1965, but maybe I’ll be able to help some.” [89] On August 9, he “became the oldest active player in the history of the league.” He worked the last 1 2/3 innings of a 11-1 loss to Charlotte. He gave up four hits and three runs, two of which were earned.[90] This works out to a 10.80 ERA, but the record book gives his season record as 0-0, ERA 9.00. Perhaps he worked another third of an inning sometime, without giving up a run.

After the year in Savannah in 1969, Hub had planned to quit managing, [91] but in 1970 he managed the Oklahoma City 89ers in the class AAA American Association. [92] After that, Hub stopped managing except for a good year in 1977 with St. Petersburg. In 1970, the 49ers won 68 games and lost 71. The center fielder was Cesar Cedeno, who later starred for the Houston Astros. Hub knew that “he’s for real. I’ll tell you that.”[93]

Kittle was the manager of the American Association All-Star Team that played Iowa, the Eastern Division leader, in July 1970. Hub’s team included Ross Grimsley, John Mayberry, and Jeff Burroughs, who all became successful major leaguers.[94] The All-Stars won the pitchers’ duel in Des Moines, 1-0. The four All-Stars pitchers gave up six hits, six walks and had ten strikeouts. Iowa’s two pitchers gave up six hits and had eight strikeouts, but they gave up only one walk. [95]

One suspects that Hub was born to manage, as well as to pitch. Indeed, he managed the Spokane Indians for part of the 1942 season when he was only 25. In total, Hub managed nearly twenty years in three eras. From 1948 through 1959, he managed the Yakima Bears [96] for six years, the Klamath Falls Gems for two years, the Salt Lake City Bees for two years, and the Terre Haute Phillies for two years. Excluding the dismal 26-53 record of Yakima in 1948, a team that Hub inherited in July, his eleven teams had a composite record of 798 wins and 658 losses, for a fine .548 winning percentage.

Hub’s second managerial era was 1964-1970 when he managed Yakima for two years, the Austin Braves for two years, followed by years managing Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, Savannah in the Southern League and the Oklahoma City 49ers. The composite record for this era was 457 wins and 515 losses, for a percentage of .470. Hub’s third “era” was 1977 when he managed St. Petersburg in the Florida State League to a second-place finish with 83 wins against 56 losses for a percentage of .597.

Excluding the 1948 fiasco, Hub managed 2,567 games with 1,338 wins, for a lifetime percentage of .521. Does the drop of the percentage, from .548 to .470, from the first era to the second era, signify that Hub had become a poor manager? Not necessarily. Two possible explanations exist for the decline: In the first era, he had an excellent “closer” for several years. And perhaps by the 1960s the major league teams were micro-managing more, and were more interested in player development than having their farm teams win games.

Throughout his managerial career, Hub spent a lot of time in Latin America: Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. He was fluent in Spanish. The Latinos would call him “Coyote” (“The Boss”). Hub said that these players knew that baseball was the only way out of their poor circumstances, so they gave the game all they had. Former Astro and Cardinal pitcher Joaquin Andujar called Hub “Papa.”[97] In all, Hub spent 17 seasons in winter ball. [98]

In 1946, Hub went to Hermosillo, Mexico, and pitched winter ball. His team won the pennant. He also managed there in 1947 and 1956-60. In 1954-55 he managed Obregon in the Pacific Coast League of Mexico, and in 1955-56 he managed Navojoa in the same league. After 1960, Americans were prohibited from playing in Mexico for a few years. Kittle played more winter ball, but not in Mexico after 1960.

Hub’s 1957-58 Hermosillo team won the Mexican World Series Championship. The deciding seventh game of the series was played in Mexico City. It “was the most thrilling game that I’ve ever participated in, in all my life.” [99] Jim Bunning, one of the premier major league pitchers in the 1950s and 1960s [100], enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1996, was pitching for the Mexican Lobos and had a 3-0 lead going into the 9th inning. After two outs, Bunning gave up a home run, then a walk. “The next guy up is the little third-base utility guy who couldn’t hit you if you run through here.” So Kittle told his one remaining player on the bench, who had a cast on one of his wrists, to go up and bat one-handed. “Bunning throws him one and he hits one right on the fist, but it goes right over the first-baseman’s head and it’s fair.” Two on and the next batter is his pitcher, Jaime Ochoa, a big Mexican from the States. And Kittle doesn’t have anyone left on his bench. After a long pitching battle, Bunning “came back and threw him another fast ball and Ochoa goes boom and right over the light towers and by the time he gets to second base, there are so many Mexicans out there, they got him up on their shoulders.” Finally, Kittle and some of his players battled the crowd to get Ochoa on the ground and led him by the hand to third base and then “I put the third-base line between my legs and I’ve got Ochoa and I’m pulling him all the way to home plate and all the Mexicans are just going crazy. Well, I put him and he stands on home plate” and the observant umpire called him safe. There followed several days of wild celebration!

Returning to Mexico in 1955, he managed in Obregon, and the following year managed in Navojoa. Kittle first got to know Whitey Herzog in Navojoa. He didn’t have a car, but he had a horse that a horse trainer loaned him, because Hub gave street kids some balls and bats. “Anyway, Whitey is coming in a little plane and we didn’t have no airport in Navojoa, just a little runway, you know. So, I take the horse out and he lands and gets out of the plane and I said, ‘Come on, kid, get up here on my saddle. I’m going to take you and get you a hotel room.’ So I picked him up on my horse and took him downtown and got him into this little fleabag of a hotel, and he never will forget it as long as he lives.” They won the pennant with Whitey Herzog and some other fine players, including Marvin Williams, “one of the outstanding black hitters of all time.”

In 1966 and 1967 Kittle managed the Lara Cardinals in the Venezuelan League. [101] Under Kittle, the team was a pennant contender, though they had been near the cellar the year before. The Sporting News noted that Kittle “has taken a squad composed chiefly of lesser lights and molded it into a solid, and at times a spectacular, team.”[102] A key was 21-year-old bonus catcher Dave Duncan, whom Kittle expected to be in the majors the next year. (Duncan spent eleven years in the majors with a low batting average of .214, although he hit 109 home runs in 2,885 at bats. He went on to become an outstanding pitching coach for Tony LaRussa with the White Sox, Athletics, and Cardinals.)

Kittle managed in the Dominican Republic in the winters of 1967-76.[103] In 1967-68 he managed for Escogida;[104] and from 1971-76 he evidently managed the Estrelles Orienteles.[105] Many successful Astros played for Kittle in the Dominican Republic, including Cesar Cedeno, J. R. (James Rodney) Richard, and Joaquin Andujar. In 1975 it was noted that Kittle helped J. R. “change his delivery to one that is more comfortable and compact.” [106] Andujar was named the league’s outstanding pitcher in 1975. [107]

Later Hub commented: “The Dominican is the hottest baseball area in the Caribbean. And most of the good ones come from the area around San Pedro (de Macoris). I managed there a number of winters, and the prospects just keep coming.” Kittle had a fascinating theory on why San Pedro players are bigger and physically stronger than most Latinos and possess a more fiery temperament. “Not many people know this, but a lot of people in that area of the Dominican have Arab blood. Lebanese immigrants settled around San Pedro a long time ago, and a black-Arab bloodline was established. Andujar has Arab blood. A lot of people living in San Pedro do. It has produced one helluva combination–great athletes who are also fierce competitors.”[108]

In the winter of 1978-79, Hub was a scout for the Cardinals in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. As usual, he focused on pitchers. [109]

By 1971, Hub Kittle was 54 years old, and everyone knew that he couldn’t qualify for a pension, [110] but he wasn’t interested in managing. So the Houston Astros hired him on January 13, 1971 [111], under condition that he kept his mouth shut, eyes open and just worked.[112] He was a bullpen coach and a first-base coach in 1971-1975 for four different managers: Harry Walker, Leo Durocher, Preston Gomez and Bill Virdon. Kittle was happy to be there and got along with all of them. When Leo Durocher became the manager, he had pitching coach Jim Owens fired the day before the season started and replaced him with Hub Kittle. Durocher made the move because he “wasn’t completely satisfied” with the pitching.[113]

In an exhibition game between Detroit and the Astros in 1973, Durocher called on Kittle to protect a lead in the ninth inning. Kittle pitched a scoreless inning and got the save. The full story was reported in two entertaining articles, “Astros, Kittle Win Laugher, 10-7” by John Wilson in the July 20, 1973 Houston Chronicle and Joe Heiling’s “Kittle’s Spittle Breaks Up The Lip” in The Sporting News. [114] See Appendix 1 for John Wilson’s article. Joe Heiling’s article refers to the Astros’ manager, Leo Durocher, who was known as “The Lip.” This pitching performance allowed Kittle to claim that he’d pitched in professional baseball in five different decades. As we’ll see, he will also pitch in the 1980s.

After the 1973 season, Durocher retired as the manager of the Astros and was replaced by Preston Gomez for the 1974 season. [115] Both Gomez and Kittle were rehired for the 1975 season. [116] In the opening week of the 1975 season, Atlanta’s Carl Morton shut out the Astros on five hits. Hub Kittle had mixed emotions about this because he had talked Morton into converting from an outfielder to a pitcher in 1965 in Yakima.[117] Kittle and fellow Astros coach Jimmy Williams were fired after the 1975 season. [118]

In 1976 Kittle was a roving pitching instructor for the Cardinals’ minor-league system.[119] Then in 1977, he became manager of the Cardinals’ minor league team in St. Petersburg, Florida. He helped one of his pitchers, Victor Cruz, by encouraging him to emulate Juan Marichal’s wind up. “I coached Marichal in the minors, and I felt Cruz needed to get a kick and turn in his wind up like Marichal did.” 120] (Victor Cruz had an 18-23 record, with ERA 3.09, in the majors from 1978 to 1983.)

After managing in St. Petersburg, Kittle continued to be a pitching instructor and coach in the Cardinals’ organization. For the years 1978-1980, he was a pitching instructor with Springfield (Illinois) in the Triple I League. He also pitched in a game in 1980. The record book shows 0-0, ERA 0.00, but the story is more interesting than that. He was 63 when he pitched, so he was the oldest player in the history of professional baseball. The day before “Senior Citizens Night,” he was told he’d be the starting pitcher against Des Moines the next night, August 27, 1980. Hub signed a $1 contract. On the first pitch the batter attempted a bunt. This made Hub mad, and the next pitch was right under the batter’s chin. Hub finished the inning, 1-2-3, using only nine more pitches, [121] before his prearranged departure after one pitch in the second inning.[122]

Hub described the game eighteen years later: “I warmed up in the bullpen, felt pretty good. Before I knew it, I’m on the mound in front of a packed house. I looked down at the first batter and I swear to God he looked like he was two miles away. He looked so small. I was used to throwing batting practice up in front of the rubber all the time, and now I had to throw it what seemed like a mile. So I says to myself ‘what are you doing here you dumb, dumb, dumb donkey?’ I took my wind up on the first hitter, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t try to bunt the ball off of me. The ball went foul and I said to him as he went by ‘with the next pitch you are going down on your gazeba, boy!’ Next pitch I put right under his chin. All the fans clapped like hell. I got him out and got the next two batters plus the hitter in the next inning and that was that.”[123] Kittle said he tossed a combination of forkballs, curves, fastballs and change-of-pace pitches. He explained that he could get the youngsters out because they saw mostly fastballs early in their careers.[124]

Another record that Hub has is that he pitched in six decades, counting the exhibition game in 1973.

Whitey Herzog, Hub’s old friend in Mexico back in the 1950s, was a brilliant manager of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1980 to 1990. At his insistence, Hub was his pitching coach for the Cardinals from 1981 to 1983. He signed his coaching contract in December 1980. [125] In 1980 Herzog was General Manager as well, and proceeded to clean house. He did and observed, “The General Manager has done his job. If the manager doesn’t mess it up, we’ll be all right.”[126] One thing Hub did was to convince Herzog to trade for the temperamental pitcher Joaquin Andujar. This was something of a gamble because of his strange and emotional behavior. He sometimes showered in his uniform. On the mound, after a strikeout, he might blow on his finger like it was a six-shooter. Other times on the mound, his anger would flash out of control.[127] But Andujar felt appreciated by the Cardinals. “These people, the Cardinals, they treat me like a human being. They talk nice to me, my manager and everybody else, and when I go out there to pitch, I would die for them.”[128]

Hub’s biggest thrill was working with J. R. Richard, who was the wildest pitcher he’d seen. J. R. came up from AAA ball in September just before a series in San Francisco. He pitched a game in which Willie Mays was playing first base and Hub was first-base coach for the Astros. In his first at-bat Mays struck out. When he got back to first base, he yelled at Hub, “Hubert! My Lord! Who was that? He nearly scared me half to death! Where’d you get him?” In his next at-bat Mays struck out again and just shook his head as he returned to first base. After he struck out in his third at-bat, he slowly returned to first base and exclaimed, “Hubert! You know what! Nobody’s ever struck out Mays four times, have they? Well, I tell you what. That guy ain’t going to strike me out again, because I ain’t playing anymore.”  Richard struck out 15 Giants in his big league debut.[129]

While pitching coach with the Cardinals, Kittle worked closely with Bruce Sutter and Jim Kaat, as well as John Stuper, Dave LaPoint, Dave Rucker, and Steve Mura–guys who were never as good as on Kittle’s watch. (Ref: http://redbirdnation., February 11, 2004) He also worked with John Martin and Andy Rincon. [130] When Kaat was 42, Kittle said that “Kaat is phenomenal. He knows what he’s doing at all times and has what we call old-school desire in all aspects–conditioning and positive attitude.” [131]

Under Whitey Herzog the St. Louis Cardinals were famous for playing Whiteyball: Rather than rely on power hitters, they hit and ran, and stole over 200 bases every year from 1982 to 1988. The Cards’ 314 steals in 1985 were the most in the NL since John McGraw’s New York Giants stole 319 in 1912. In 1981, the Cardinals had the best record in the Eastern Division of the National League, but that was the year the season was split after a players’ strike and they didn’t win either half. Finally, they won the World Series in 1982 over the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games, and Hub got a Series ring. Hub had never played in the majors and never even dreamt of getting a Series ring. He’s been very fortunate.[132] He loved baseball. Hub told people that he was never fired, so he had job security.[133] Kittle wasn’t just a pitching coach. The day before the first game of the World Series, which was played in St. Louis, the Cardinals stayed home and rested. Several Brewers arrived early, so there was a press conference at their hotel. Herzog declined to attend the press conference and sent Kittle instead, as the sole Cardinal representative.[134]

Longtime Cardinals’ coach George Kissell once said of Hub, “He’s the Santa Claus of pitching coaches. Only he can’t come down the chimney anymore, his bag is so full of tricks. Nobody teaches pitching like he does.” Pitching was in Hub’s blood. An ex-forkballer, he talked about the nuances of grip, wind up, plant, and release until the cows came home. Pitcher Bob Forsch shared the following with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “I remember going into a hotel in Chicago and there were Cardinals fans everywhere. Hub corners me in the lobby and he’s picking up his foot and telling me how to turn my hip toward home plate. I was so embarrassed.” Another time, during the 1982 stretch run, a few Cardinal players stumbled into their New York hotel at 3:00 in the morning. They notice some chatter coming from the hotel restaurant–and it’s Hub Kittle teaching the Latino busboys how to throw a split-fingered fastball. (Ref: _01, February 11, 2004)

Whitey Herzog said of Hub: “Hub Kittle was way past 60, with a face as worn as an old Rawlings mitt by the time he came to the Cardinals as my pitching coach. He’d spent four decades hitting fungoes, steering buses, sleeping in back seats, telling stories of the old days, and sharing the secrets of making a hitter look foolish with a thousand beanpole kids you and I never heard of. Name the place, Hub had been there. God bless guys like him. They are the game.” Also: “I’d see him take an 18-year-old pitcher who couldn’t throw 83 miles an hour off to the side, and ten minutes later the guy’s out on a rubber humming it 88, 89. I can’t even tell you how he did it except to use those five magic words: ‘He was a baseball man.’”[135]

There was a Hub Kittle Fan Club while Kittle was with St. Louis. Appropriately enough, it all started in a bar. At least once, about fifty fans in their club shirts sat behind the Cardinals dugout. Hub thinks that he’s the only coach to have had a fan club.[136]

On June 8, 1983, Hub was ejected from a game by the home plate umpire “for hollering.” Kittle claimed that this was his first ejection in his long career. [137] This is a rare instance where his excellent memory failed him. Could he have forgotten his season with Klamath Falls?

After the 1983 season, Kittle was replaced as pitching coach by Mike Roarke.[138] From 1984 to 1996, Hub was pitching instructor for various Cardinal rookie teams: Chandler, Arizona; Calgary; Hamilton, Ontario; Erie; Glenn Falls, New York; Johnson City, Tennessee; Peoria, Arizona; and the Augusta Cardinals in Sussex County, New Jersey. His last year with the Cardinals was 1997. In a wonderful article in Sports Illustrated, John Garrity [139] writes about three old and very wise men: Hub Kittle at 72 and 68-year-olds George Kissell and Dick Sisler, who worked with young players on the Cardinals’ junior farm teams. The rookie league Peoria Cardinals, the rookie league Johnson City Cardinals, and the Class A Hamilton Redbirds all benefited from their combined wisdom. Garrity eloquently illustrates how “the curmudgeonly Kittle has a gentle touch when he’s teaching the science of pitching.” When, in the previous summer, the Cardinals obtained a new Director of Player Development, there was concern that these old-timers would be replaced by young coaches. But the new director said, “Nothing’s going to change for these guys as far as I can foresee.” Garrity ends the article: “And so Hub Kittle is still out there shouting profane encouragement to his pitchers, forcing mothers in the stands to cover their children’s ears. George Kissell continues to slip unannounced into small-town ballparks on summer nights, checking on the progress of players and managers. And Dick Sisler still stands behind the cage in the afternoon sun, saying, ‘Stay back…watch his arm…stay back….’ The Cardinals know better than most. Gray matter matters.”

Joaquin Andujar pitched for Hub in the Dominican Winter League for five seasons. Hub was a great supporter of Andujar and had recommended him to the Astros. When Andujar went to the Cardinals in 1981, manager Whitey Herzog was concerned because of Andujar’s reputation as a wild pitcher and eccentric character. “I just hope the sonofagun can pitch as good as I’ve heard,” he said. Kittle responded, “He’s not wild with me. I know how to handle him.”[140] And indeed Andujar performed well for the Cardinals, winning two games in their 1982 World Series victory. Andujar started the 1982 season very strong with a 1.08 ERA after his first three starts. Whitey noted that “he’s not trying to throw the ball by everybody.” Andujar agreed: “Hub Kittle tells me the name of the game is throwing strikes. I can throw 95 to 97. But I’m just throwing 90 or 92 and trying to win games.”[141] Andujar had excellent control all season. He gave up 1.69 walks per nine innings pitched, third best in the National League that year.[142] Later Andujar indicated how Hub had helped him: “I used to kick my leg high and look up. I wasn’t looking at home plate.” [143] To make the baseball feel lighter, Andujar would lift a big iron ball 15 or 20 times between innings. In August, he was tiring between innings, so Hub finally took the iron ball away from him. “He’s strong, but not that strong. His pitches were beginning to flatten out.”[144]

The next year, 1983, was tough for Andujar. He started the season with two wins, but ended up with only six wins while losing 16. Andujar said it was just bad luck. “I think I pitched better than in 1982. There was nothing wrong with me last year. It was just luck.” He could easily have blamed his poor showing on his substantial personal problems that year or his strained relationship with Hub. When asked what happened between Andujar and himself, Kittle responded, “I don’t want to get into that. He’s been one of the pride and joys of my life in baseball. When I had him (in the Dominican Republic), he was nothing. He wouldn’t have got to Class A or Double A. Then, all of a sudden, he’s a World Series hero. Whoo boy! My dream had come true. Let’s just leave it at that. If you can’t appreciate that, then you don’t know what old Hub is all about.”[145] Andujar’s self-analysis must have been right, because his best years were 1984 and 1985 when he won 20 and 21 games, respectively. When asked about his comeback in 1984, Andujar responded, “Comeback from what? I don’t think I pitched any different this year.” After the 1984 season, Andujar said, “Everything I have I owe to Hub Kittle. Mike Roarke (current pitching coach) helped me, but Hub Kittle taught me everything I know.”[146]

An excerpt from an article [147] by Roger Angell, who was observing Andujar pitching in 1987 spring training describes Kittle’s approach to Andujar: “A white-haired mahogany-tan gent with a cigar came along the aisle and sat down behind us and put his arms up on the back of our row of seats. ‘You see it, don’t you, Rig?'[148] he said instantly in a deep, mahogany-colored voice. ‘The whole key to Joaquin is that front knee. If he don’t pick it up in his motion and bring it right up ‘long-side the back leg, it opens him up too soon. There–he just did it again. He throws three-quarters that way, and when he’s three-quarters the goddam ball gets up, and his slider just goes shh-shh-shh. When he gets tired, he does that all the time, and his sidearm is horseshit. He’s got to tuck in that front knee–just that much more gives him time to get up on top of the ball….Like that–he did it that time.’ After a few more comments along these lines, Kittle half rose and shouted something in Spanish to Andujar. ‘Go full circle!’ he roared. ‘Keep the ball down, hombre.’ Joaquin, struck dumb, stared around the stadium in confusion–I think for a moment he looked straight up at the sky. Then he spotted Kittle and waved his glove. The next two pitches were good breaking balls, and then he struck out the batter with a fastball to end the half inning. ‘There,’ said Kittle. ‘That’s the pistola. He’s still got it.’”

In 1973, Houston pitcher Ken Forsch said, “Hub helped me a lot. He’s gotten me to relax. When I first came up I had a loose wrist. But last year, I had my wrist cocked, or stiff. I don’t know why, but I did. Hub spotted it and we corrected it. Now I’m throwing with as much velocity as ever and my ball is moving.”[149] (Forsch had a 114-113 record over sixteen years, with Houston and then with the California Angels. His ERA was a respectable 3.37.)

In 1976, Eddie Solomon was pitching for triple-A Tulsa and wanted to return to the majors. He credited his new motion to manager Ken Boyer and Hub Kittle, who was a minor league pitching coach for the Cardinals. “Hub helped me with my rhythm and Kenny with my breaking ball. I’ve stayed as compact as possible with my motion instead of falling all over the mound. And I’m not rushing myself.” [150] Eddie had a modest major league career, pitching in 191 games over ten years (1973-82). He won 36 of them and lost 42.

Ray Searage, in the Cardinals organization, indicated that Hub Kittle taught him the forkball that has made him into an effective reliever. [151] Searage won 11 and lost 13 games from 1981 to 1990. He never started a game and saved 11 games.

John Stuper, who played for the Cardinals from 1982 to 1984, indicated that Hub had the most significant influence on him since he started playing pro ball. Hub helped him develop a couple of extra pitches and to improve his delivery. [152] Stuper had a lackluster career with a 32-28 record, but he did win the sixth game of the 1982 World Series when the Cardinals were down 3-2. He pitched a four-hitter, and this was the only complete game by a Cardinals pitcher in the Series.

When Hub was managing the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs in 1968, he thought highly of rookie catcher Hal King, and said that he “has a major league bat and a major league arm right now.”[153] Hal King did play for several teams from 1967 to 1974. He played in 322 games, had a batting average of .214 and hit 24 home runs.

In 1970, Hub was one of several people enthusiastic about Cesar Cedeno who was playing centerfield for Oklahoma City. Cedeno, who was just three months past his 19th birthday, was tearing up the league. His batting average was hovering between .360 and .380, and he led the league in homers. Kittle said that he “is not ready for the big leagues, but when he goes up, he’s going to be there for a long, long time. He still throws to the wrong base now and then and he’s run us out of a couple of rallies, but he’ll overcome merely by playing and learning.” Kittle admitted to being concerned about Cedeno playing at the Triple-A level so soon. “He had to come through. I gotta admit I was plenty worried this spring. I didn’t think we’d have much hitting and here I am counting on a 19-year-old kid to supply the power.” Kittle was happy with Cedeno’s hitting style. “I tell him to go up there and take his cuts. Believe me, if anybody gets this kid messed up, I’ll shoot the guy.” [154] Cedeno was called up a few weeks later on June 20, 1970. He had a solid major league career spanning seventeen years (1970-86). His batting average was .285 and he hit 199 home runs in 2,006 games.

That same year, Hub commented about the Tulsa Oilers pitcher Jerry Reuss. “He’s the best in the league. As soon as he learns to perfect his curve and off-speed pitches, he’ll be hard to beat.” [155] Reuss was soon called up to the Cardinals and had a solid 22-year career in the majors. He won 220 games and lost 191. He went 18-6 in his best year: 1980 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 1977, when he was managing St. Petersburg in Florida, Hub was enthusiastic, at least for a day, about his pitcher Benny Joe Edelen. “That was a major league job,” he commented after Edelen had held the power-hitting Daytona Beach team to four singles in a 2-0 shutout. In his third victory in five decisions, Edelen struck out eight batters.[156] In the majors, he had a 2-0 record in twenty-seven games, with an ERA of 6.75. He didn’t start or save any games.

When Hub was 82, in 1999, George Kissell told Benny Looper (who was farm director and later vice president for player development for the Seattle Mariners, and had been a catcher in the Cardinal organization) that Kittle needed something to do. So Benny visited Kittle in Yakima in the winter.[157] Then he called Bryan Price who had just become pitching coach for the Mariners. Benny asked Bryan whether Hub could be of assistance, and Bryan thought it was a great idea. He had known Hub nine years earlier when Bryan was a new pitching coach in the Cardinals’ organization. When they first met, Hub immediately started talking about pitching and illustrating his point by putting Bryan into different positions. This took place in front of the other pitchers and was a humbling experience because the pitchers were seeing their coach being coached. Yet Bryan was “honored to learn from this guy.”[158]

From 2000 until shortly before his death, Kittle worked with pitchers on the Seattle Mariners’ roster and its rookie teams in Phoenix and Everett, Washington. He was paid $1. Price indicated that “Hub had a very good understanding that if guys are too sensitive, they won’t make it in this game. So he didn’t tiptoe around feelings. His coaching involved constructive criticism with a lot of praise. Hub made everyone feel special so that they felt good about what they were doing. But he would call them if they weren’t working hard enough or they weren’t listening. Players needed to put their egos aside and be mature enough to learn from Hub.” Benny Looper indicated that even though Hub was over 80, he brought an enthusiasm to the ballpark that rubbed onto the players. “Hub had a passion for baseball and for helping young men. He was gruff, but the players loved him because he helped them and cared about them.”

Bryan Price indicated that Seattle’s AAA pitching coach, Rafael Chaves, was very close to Hub Kittle, partly because “Hub was especially good with our young Latino players.” Price also stated that “as much as Hub helped our young pitchers, his true value was helping us coaches. He made all the pitching coaches, including me, so much better.” Chaves played for Kittle in Puerto Rico winter ball. He pitched best when he pitched for Kittle. Kittle was “very demanding, with a deep intimidating voice, but deep down he had a big soft heart. He cared a lot about other people.” Kittle told Chaves that “before I die, I want you to know all that I know.” Another time he said, “if I can’t do baseball, then I’m ready to go.” What made a big impression on Chaves is that Kittle was always thinking baseball. He would make pitchers go through their mechanics in a hotel lobby, on the sidewalk, in Wal-Mart, K-Mart, wherever they were. [159]

With regard to pitching, Hub felt that mechanics were most important. When his daughter asked him how he learned about the mechanics, he responded that, “if it hurts, change.” His pitching philosophy was: “The inside is mine–don’t you forget it!” [160]

At spring training, Hub would lecture the kids fresh from high school or college, warning them that they weren’t all the best of the bunch. He’d warn them about the temptation of “chicks” and indicated that they would have to choose between chicks and baseball.[161]

The book Beating the Bushes: Life in the Minor Leagues, [162] by Frank Dolson, is dedicated “To all those minor league baseball players whose dreams didn’t come true.” Hub Kittle never played in the major leagues, but his dreams still came true. After seventeen chapters, and before his epilogue, Dolson has a short chapter titled, “A Look Back…and a Look Ahead.” Most of the chapter is devoted to Hub Kittle.[163] Dolson points out that the minor leagues are so many things to so many people. “To me, the minor leagues are men like Hub Kittle, who spend most of their lives there without fanfare, without very much money, without complaint….Hub Kittle is what the minor leagues are all about–or, at least, should be all about.”

Hub always wanted to help little kids. He worked with some in his backyard. Parents would willingly send kids to him, but his daughter felt obligated to call the parents of little 7- and 8- year-olds to warn them that Hub would be rough and demanding, loud and swearing, i.e., he’d treat them like young adults. But many of them appreciated and loved Hub. Some of them visited him, or sent cards, when he was in the hospital.[164]

When Hub was with the Mariners, his main job was training the coaches. He was on the Mariners’ payroll until the end. He didn’t want to be, but they insisted. Hub would watch the games on TV; then the pitching coach Bryan Price would call him for his critique. Hub was honored at Safeco Field on September 13, 2003.[165] Also, in 2002, Hub was inducted into the Washington State Sports Hall of Fame in Tri-City.[166]

Hub Kittle died on February 10, 2004. Two preachers presided at Hub’s memorial service. Each had a story about his first encounter with Hub. When very young, preacher #1 was at the US-Mexico border trying to get to a Mexican town to play baseball. Hub saw what was going on. “What’s going on here?” After he found out, he said, “I’ll take care of everything.” After a great deal of conversation in Spanish, Hub instructed preacher #1 to “give this man $5.” Preacher #2 first met Hub on the golf course. Ignoring all golf-course etiquette, Hub proceeded to give preacher #2 an unsolicited golf lesson. A touching song at the end of the service was Kenny Rogers’ “Ball and the Bat.” It was clear at the memorial service that everyone viewed Hub with respect and affection.

Never really outside of baseball, Hub nevertheless had a life off the field. Hub was married to Cleo from about 1940 to 1960. They had three children: Charles (Chuck), Diana and Edwin (Ed). Edwin was born in Salt Lake City in 1952 and was named after Ed Leishman, the owner of the Salt Lake City Bees, who walked the hospital halls the day Edwin was born.[167] The Kittles’ naming Edwin after Leishman indicates a reconciliation between two men who didn’t like each other when they first met. That is, when Hub pitched for Yakima and Leishman was manager and farm director of several opposing teams, Leishman accused Hub of cheating. Hub’s explanation implies that the allegation wasn’t without merit: “But Eddie Leishman used to manage Spokane when I pitched for the Pippins in ’39 and I didn’t like him and I used to tell him he used to get on me ’cause I was cheating [emphasis added] and he told the umpires to inspect me all that time and I used to say, ‘Get up and bat and hit you little singer midget and I’ll knock you on your rump.’ He didn’t like me and then when I pitched, he was farm director for the Yankees in Victoria when I pitched the seven straight shutouts against him and he accused and they accused me–that’s another story I could tell you. [Unintelligible] had my rosin bag inspected by the Goddamn league–well, anyway.” [168]

As of August 2004, Hub and Cleo had five grandchildren. Kittle later married Wanda June Breum, who brought four step-children to the marriage, and who died in 1989.

At Hub’s request, his tombstone reads, “He Loved the Game.” Indeed, he loved life, but baseball was the biggest part of it. He was responsible and took care of his families, but he didn’t pay much attention to the kids. He didn’t include them in his baseball life, so they weren’t encouraged to follow in his footsteps. None of the kids went into baseball, and none of his daughters married ballplayers.[169] “Baseball was number one to me–nothing else mattered.”[170]

Incidentally, Hub is not related to Ron Kittle who was in the majors for ten years (1982-1991), mostly with the Chicago White Sox. As Ron explained in 1982, “I met him once and he wanted to claim me as a long-lost son, but I am not related to the man.”[171]

Although loved by many, Hub wasn’t lovable. He was loved because he cared about young players and worked hard with them. But he was tough and blunt with them. This was true away from baseball, too, as when dealing with waitresses in restaurants, for example. Hub didn’t care what people thought. Hub scared his daughter’s boyfriends to death, giving them a fierce fatherly cross-examination on their first meeting. But he was very affectionate.[172]

Beyond baseball, Hub’s other early interests were pool and poker. Later he was a golf addict, [173] and he loved growing roses. When he was with Cleo, he enjoyed dancing and the movies. Cleo indicated that he was a great dancer.[174] In fact, he was already famous for his superb dancing back on Catalina Island.[175]

Hub Kittle never made much money. Of course, it meant a lot to him when he didn’t have very much. At 85 he could still rattle off his monthly salaries in 1937, 1938 and 1939 ($90, $95, and $125). He was a good salesman at Firestone, for the Yakima Bears, and when running a restaurant and selling real estate in Yakima. He may have played winter ball in Latin America to help ends meet, but his love of baseball was probably a bigger factor.

Hub Kittle died just nine days before his 87th birthday. A subsequent story, “Kittle was a Hub of Passion, Energy,” by Larry Stone, baseball reporter for the Seattle Times (published February 12, 2004), is a beautiful eulogy for Hub. See Appendix 2. Another fine eulogy was published in the Billings Gazette. See Appendix 3. It resonates with me, because my interest in Hub Kittle goes back to his two years managing the Salt Lake City Bees in 1951 and 1952. Appendix 4 contains a touching online “eulogy” written by a fellow who only encountered Hub Kittle once, but it was a memorable encounter.

Finally, a website [176] pointed out that Hub Kittle appeared as a character in the 1983 war movie “Under Fire”. The Kittle character, played by Richard Masur, was a PR agent working for Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. One of the screenwriters was Ron Shelton, an ex-minor leaguer of Bull Durham fame. (These claims were confirmed by Ken Ross, who viewed the movie on March 16, 2006.)


I became aware of Hub Kittle when he was manager of the Salt Lake City Bees, in the Class C Pioneer League, in 1951 and 1952. I was just a teenager, but Hub seemed special and the Bees did great in 1951. Then he disappeared from my life until around 1980 when I noticed that a Hub Kittle was manager of the Oklahoma City baseball team. I presumed it was the same Hub Kittle. Ever since I’ve wanted to know more about the man.

Because of the SABR Biography Project, I volunteered to write a mini-biography of Hub Kittle. Jack Altman, who played for Kittle in Yakima back in the 1950s and had stayed in touch with him, had the same idea and collected a lot of material as well as interviewing Hub in 2002. Jack graciously turned his material over to me including copious notes and correspondence, which really jump-started my work. Since Jack’s interview ended around the 1950s, and since Hub loved to talk, Jack had arranged for us to interview him in February 2004 even though he was in failing health. Unfortunately, Hub died before our appointment.

Jim Vitti also interviewed Hub Kittle in 2002, and he generously shared his interview with me. He also gave me encouragement and many useful tips. Many other people have helped me with this project, including Mark Armour, the inspiration behind SABR’s BioProject, my friends and baseball aficionados Dan Schlewitz, Jamie Selko and Ken Raymen, and long-time friend John Anderson. Rafael Chaves, Benny Looper, Bryan Price and Hub’s old friend Eddie (Lefty) Carnett were kind enough to do telephone interviews with me. Gene Elston and Harry Shattuck in Houston helped me find information about an exhibition game in Houston on July 19, 1973. Finally, special thanks to Hub’s daughter, Diana Harris, and Hub’s first wife, Cleo, who met with my wife and me in Yakima in August 2004. Not only did they share their memories of Hub, they loaned me several tapes of TV interviews and the tape of Hub’s memorial service.


Houston Chronicle, July 20, 1973 [177]
By John Wilson

“Glory hallelujah!” Hub Kittle shouted in the Houston clubhouse. “I could meet my Maker tonight and die happy.”

The 56-year-old Astro pitching coach had pitched the ninth inning of Thursday’s night exhibition against the Detroit Tigers and protected a 10-7 victory.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever pitched in a major league stadium,” the skin-headed veteran from Yakima, Wash., said in ecstacy. “Now, I’ve pitched in a major league stadium, wearing a major league uniform and against a major league team. If I died tonight, I’d have no regrets.”

The beleaguered Astros needed a laugher and this one was that, not in the baseball sense that word is used, but in that it was a real fun game.

Comedian Jerry Lewis started at first base for the Astros and acquitted himself remarkably well, even getting a base hit his second time at bat as he played five innings. He also walked once.

Tiger pitcher Mike Strahler may not have been throwing his best stuff to Lewis, but still that was a pretty good accomplishment for the 47-year-old screen star who is remarkably athletic and looks 10 years younger than his age.

It was a big night for the comedian, just as it later was to be a big night for the Astros’ pitching coach.

“You know, I’ll bet that was the first time in the history of the game that somebody from outside baseball ever played in a regularly scheduled exhibition game,” manager Leo Durocher said later. “Jerry has played in intrasquad games for me in Arizona when I was managing the Cubs but never in a regular exhibition game.”

Lewis handled several throws to first during his stint but tangled himself up and couldn’t get to one wide throw when shortstop Roger Metzger had to make a tough play.

One high pop between home and first was handled by pitcher Tom Griffin.

“I started to yell ‘Lee’ and then realized Lee May wasn’t there,” Griffin related. “I decided I better catch it myself. When we got back to the dugout, Jerry said, ‘I didn’t even see the ball but I pretended I just called for the kid to have a chance. He’s great.’”

As thrilled as Lewis was over playing in a game between major leaguers, he was no more so, indeed probably not as much as, was Kittle later.

Kittle spent more than 35 years in the minor league vineyards and had given up any hopes of ever seeing the majors in any capacity for many years before being tapped by Houston for a coaching job.

He thought he had missed one of his last goals three years ago. He was managing Houston’s Oklahoma City team in 1970 and hoped that late in the season he would have a chance to activate himself and pitch in a game. Then he would be able to say he pitched in five decades, the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. But the Oklahoma City team was fighting for the pennant and he never had a chance to do it.

“Now I’ve pitched in five decades,” Kittle chortled.

Bob Gallagher’s inside-the-park grandslam home run gave Houston the lead and its final four runs as the Orange scored six runs in the last of the eighth to come from a 7-4 deficit. Lumbering Frank Howard and Dick Sharon had a hard time cornering Gallagher’s drive off the left-center fence. The speedy outfielder sprinted around the bases while the two crossed paths in failing to cut the ball off and then scurried to try to pen it up as it evaded them off the wall.

Kittle walked the first man he faced in the ninth.

His bench shouted at him in mock dismay. You don’t walk batters in the ninth inning with a three-run lead–you make them hit the ball. That is a pitcher’s axiom preached by all pitching coaches.

Ken Forsch rushed out to the mound and took Kittle his glasses. Kittle tried a couple of pitches wearing them and then stuck them in his pocket.

The coach was the center of attention in the clubhouse. Doug Rader gave Hub a $50 gift certificate as player of the game. Actually it was one Rader himself had been awarded several days ago.

The players were particularly amused that Kittle had thrown a spitball to one batter. The umpire threw the ball out of the game and didn’t even say anything to Kittle.

“He loaded it up,” Rader laughed. “It had tobacco juice and everything all over it.”

There had been no plan for Kittle to pitch but when the Tigers used five pitchers, manager Billy Martin didn’t want to deplete his staff and sent his pitching coach, Art Fowler, to warmup. Fowler, 51, did come in and got the final out after the Astros scored those six runs in one inning off Bob Miller.

When Hub saw Fowler go out to warm up, he said, “If he can pitch, I can” manager Leo Durocher related. “So I said, ‘Well, get out there and start getting heated up.’”

“Was I throwing pretty hard?” Kittle asked his fellow coaches as they undressed in their clubhouse compartment.

“You looked like Nolan Ryan,” Preston Gomez deadpanned.

“But my ball was moving, really,” Kittle insisted. “And I didn’t throw one pitch that was right down the pipe.”

Dr. Harold J. Brelaford, the team physician, came through the doorway. “Hub, you might as well let me shoot you in the knees now. If I don’t you won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”

Kittle pulled the longhandle underwear ball players wear up over his knees, which already were puffing up. He flexed his knee and there was a popping sound. The doctor probed the knee with his fingers.

“What’s that?” Kittle asked.

“That’s fluid,” Dr. Brelaford said. “We can drain it if you want me to.” The doctor punched his finger on the side of the knee. “Does that hurt?” he asked.

Kittle’s face contorted in pain. “Oh, God, yes,” he said.

Durocher appeared and asked Kittle, “Can you go tomorrow or Saturday if I need you for an inning?”

Kittle’s face lightened up. “My arm’s great,” he declared. “It’s just my legs that aren’t worth a damn.”

After walking the first batter he faced, Kittle got a couple of popups and a forceout to end the game. The Detroit manager, Billy Martin, had decided this was the time for him to make a comeback and had been the middle out in the inning.

The Astros open a three-game series against the New York Mets tonight. Dave Roberts (9-7) will face John Matlack (7-11) in tonight’s 7:30 contest.


Seattle Times, February 12, 2004 [178]
By Lary Stone

Hub Kittle wasn’t just larger than life, he was louder than life. And his life was filled with more passion, more verve, more pure energy than just about anyone I’ve ever met.

He was, over a remarkable 64-year professional baseball career, the absolute best at what he did, which was teaching the art and craft of pitching to anyone who would listen. But there was nothing clinical or sterile about Hub; he imbued his lessons with gestures and hands-on demonstration, and that held true into his 80s, when Kittle worked with Mariners pitching prospects even after he was largely confined to a wheelchair.

“I can’t imagine there being a better pitching coach in the history of baseball than Hub Kittle,” Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price said yesterday. “He was every man’s man–gruff and very opinionated, willing to speak his mind. If you couldn’t accept that, if you were thin-skinned, then you were vulnerable around him. But if you coveted information and wanted to get better, he was as good as they come.”

Kittle, who died this week in Yakima at 86, did his best work with youngsters fresh out of high school, young prospects on the rise in remote minor-league outposts and the Latin players with whom he forged deep bonds. When he showed up at Safeco Field last September for the last time, to be inducted into the Washington [State] Sports Hall of Fame, virtually all of the Mariners’ young pitchers surrounded his wheelchair to offer their congratulations.

“That was an emotional moment for me,” said Benny Looper, the Mariners’ vice president of player development and scouting. “The players in the big leagues didn’t have to come out there, but they wanted to give him the respect and recognition he deserved. That was a touching time.”

Kittle also had a highly successful stint as the pitching coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, working under Whitey Herzog when the Cardinals won the World Series in 1982 with a staff that included Bruce Sutter, Jim Kaat and Joaquin Andujar, the latter Kittle’s most famous protégé and most loyal admirer.

Andujar was known as an incorrigible screwup when Kittle got hold of him with the Houston Astros, the pitcher’s undeniable talent undone by bouts of anger and lunacy. Under Kittle, first in Houston, then in St. Louis, Andujar blossomed into a vital member of a championship staff. Kittle was something of a legend in Latin America, where he managed winter ball for 17 seasons in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, learning fluent Spanish while building an empathy for the plight of young Latins.

But you didn’t have to be a professional to get the full Kittle treatment. When I was a young reporter in the early 1980s in Yakima, Kittle’s beloved home since the 1930s, my sports editor at the Yakima Herald-Republic, Jim Scoggins, invited me over to dinner to meet Kittle, a close friend.

By the end of the evening, I felt like Hub was an old friend of mine, as well. After regaling us with great baseball stories–and no one could weave a tale quite like Kittle, who seemed to have befriended every prominent baseball man since Babe Ruth–he got a baseball out, showing me various grips. I learned how to hold the split-fingered fastball. Legend has it he also taught the pitch to Roger Craig, who became the guru of the split in the late 1980s. Whenever I saw Hub after that–far too infrequently–Kittle would bellow, “How’s your slider?”

That voice, gravelly and croaking, the result of vocal-cord surgery in 1958, was Kittle’s trademark. [This probably refers to surgery on May 28, 1957 for removal of a growth in his throat. [179] You often heard him before you saw him, and everyone in the vicinity heard him, too. Looper, who first met Kittle while a player in the Cardinals’ organization, then hired him for Seattle in ’99, remembers being across the aisle from Kittle on a flight from Seattle to Phoenix. “The whole plane got a lesson in pitching,” he said.

Those wonderful stories he loved to tell were as much a part of Kittle’s repertoire as pickoff moves and the correct technique for fielding bunts. They weren’t pithy one-liners that could be reduced to a sound bite, but long, intricate, colorful vignettes, rife with characters that seemed to have jumped straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel. And they could be hilarious, as when he came out of retirement in 1980 to pitch an inning at Class AAA, at the age of 63, only to have the first batter try to drop a drag bunt on him, fouling it off. “He went down on his butt the next pitch,” Kittle would bellow with satisfaction.

Or the first time he met Herzog, who was sent to the Dominican [actually, Mexico] to play for Kittle’s team. As Kittle told it, Herzog was waiting for his ride at the airport, when Kittle rode up to the terminal on a horse, emerging out of the jungle in full gallop. “Are you Herzog? Get on.”

They often seemed like tall tales, but invariably the parties involved corroborated them, right down to the smallest detail. “His memory was better than ours,” Price said. “When he played, every guy had a nickname–Slappy, Blimpy, Three-Tooth. It was brilliant. It got you longing to have played back then so you could have one of those cool nicknames, too.”

To Price, Kittle’s Mariners legacy is not just the knowledge he imparted to young pitchers, which will benefit everyone from Gil Meche to Rafael Soriano. Beyond that was the knowledge he gave to the coaches, who will pass on Kittle’s methodology, and hopefully his passion, for decades to come. “You can get into all the technical points, but you don’t need to,” Price said. “He got all the coaches and players back into focusing on the real common sense part of pitching. And beyond that, on how much fun it was supposed to be when you were doing it. I didn’t do that well as a player in the pros. It seemed like there were always hills to climb, and I didn’t enjoy the ride. He always talked about enjoying that ride.”

No one enjoyed the ride more than Kittle, whether it was on a horse in the Dominican [Mexico, actually] or a broken-down bus in Ponca City, Okla. “You couldn’t help but be affected by his enthusiasm for the game of baseball,” Price said. “It was completely unparalleled. I never met anyone as infectious, and as infected by the game of baseball, as Hub.”


Billings Gazette, February 12, 2004 [180]
Former Pioneer League Skipper Hub Kittle Dead at 86
Gazette Staff

Hub Kittle, a veteran of nearly 70 years in baseball and a familiar name to old Billings Mustangs’ fans, died Tuesday in Yakima, Wash., at age 86. His professional career began as a 17-year-old pitcher in the California League in 1936, reached its pinnacle as pitching coach of the St. Louis Cardinals’ World Series championship team in 1982 and continued through last season as a special instructor for the Seattle Mariners, tutoring the Northwest League farmhands on their Everett teams when the AquaSox played in Yakima, his longtime home.

Kittle is best remembered by [Billings’] Cobb Field faithful as manager of the visiting Salt Lake City Bees in 1951 and 1952 when several brushback battles erupted into on-field fights. Kittle was his own best relief pitcher, compiling a 1.80 ERA in ’51 and 1.94 in 1952.

His 1951 team won the Pioneer League pennant by 7 1/2 games over Ogden and 18 1/2 games ahead of Billings. In 1952, he finished sixth, 18 games behind Pocatello and 12 1/2 games behind third-place Billings.

Kittle retired as an active player in 1955 but continued managing through 1970–except for four seasons as a general manager of three different minor league teams that included a The Sporting News Minor League Executive of the Year Award–until devoting his time strictly to coaching in his later years.

Billings Heights resident Charlie Beene, a former Mustang pitcher, played for Kittle in Yakima after arm problems had cost him any chance of making the major leagues. “He was the ultimate guy to talk to about pitching,” Beene recalled Wednesday after hearing of Kittle’s death. “He’d sit and talk pitching with the guys in the hotel rooms after games for hours. He had one little tip after another. But if anyone changed the subject, wanted to talk about girls or anything else, he’d say ‘time to go to bed, guys’ and that would be the end of the conversation for that night.” That was back in the late 1950s, but little had changed 30 years later. The August 14, 1989, issue of Sports Illustrated contained a lengthy feature on the St. Louis roving minor league instructors, Kittle, George Kissell and Dick Sisler, entitled “College of Cardinals,” and how they passed their baseball knowledge on to young prospects.

Beene recalled one in particular: “He said when he had two strikes on a batter, he would look at the centerfield fence instead of the batter. That would really shake the guy up and he’d be worried about getting hit, not what Hub was going to throw.” Kittle also had the distinction of being the only known player to have pitched professionally in six decades. His final appearance came on August 27, 1980, while serving as pitching coach of the Cards’ Triple A affiliate in Springfield, Ill. He was put on the active roster and started before a full house on Senior Citizens’ Night. He only pitched one inning [plus one pitch] but retired the side on nine [ten, actually] pitches at age 63. In the 1970s he appeared in an exhibition game at the Astrodome against the Detroit Tigers and in 1969, while managing Savannah, Ga., he appeared as an emergency relief pitcher.

Published in the King County [Washington] Journal, February 12, 2004
Sitting next to Kittle a true pleasure for any baseball fan
by Greg Johns

As I slid into my seat on a flight bound for Phoenix last spring, an elderly gentleman in a Mariners’ cap struck up conversation. I figured him for one of the multitudes of Seattlites on the annual pilgrimage to Peoria to take in some fun, sun and spring training baseball.

“Goin’ down to watch the Mariners?” I asked innocently. “Watch?” the old fella harrumphed. “I’m going down to teach the (blankers) how to play!” Thus started the most interesting three-hour flight of my life. Hub Kittle could do that to you.

For the rest of the afternoon, I listened to the oldtimer spin yarns of ballgames and ballplayers past. How he pitched in six different decades. How he coached in every minor-league outpost imaginable. How he used to ride out on horseback to meet incoming players in the old days.

I couldn’t tell fact from fiction with Hub Kittle. His stories seemed incongruous in these days of million-dollar arms and billion-dollar sports industries. His stories jumped from one era to another with nary a transitional sentence, a stream-of-consciousness documentary that left my head spinning like the forkball he was famous for back in his Pacific Coast League heyday.

But one thing was crystal clear. This man loved talkin’ baseball. And at 85, he was still valuable enough to provide his services as a special assignment coach with the Mariners.

I don’t remember all the details of what Kittle delivered. I wasn’t working. The notebook and tape recorder were tucked away in the luggage compartment overhead. But between bites of a sandwich and tugs on a Coke, we talked baseball. Truth be told, Hub talked. I nodded.

He talked about the youthful prowess of J.R. Richard, the flame-throwing Astros star he mentored his rookie year in 1971. He talked about cheapskate minor-league owners, about holding out for a $10-a-month raise after winning 20 games back in the 1930s. He talked about pitching an inning of minor-league ball in 1980, at the age of 63, which gave him the distinction of being the only man ever to pitch in six different decades. This after putting himself in a game when he ran out of pitchers for a team he was managing in the ’70s.

Time flew almost as fast as our Alaska Airlines flight. Before I knew it, we were at the gate in Phoenix. I vowed to myself to look Kittle up again when I got the chance. To sit down with him when I had pen and notebook handy.

Off the plane we went our separate ways and I spent the next week rounding up the usual Mariners’ spring training stories about Edgar’s future, Pineiro’s promise, Bob Melvin’s new managing style and the canceled trip to Japan. Then the season started, games were played, the year came and went. And yesterday I picked up the paper and saw the tiny story: “Hub Kittle dies at 86.”

I never finished the conversation I wanted to have. Never wrote the column I knew would be fascinating. Most importantly, I never had the opportunity to tell Hub Kittle what a great time I had on that flight to Phoenix. Sometimes you wish life gave you a second chance. But that’s the way this world works. And too often we never realize what we have until it’s gone.


Kip Carlson and Paul Andresen, The Portland Beavers. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Frank Dolson, Beating the Bushes: Life in the Minor Leagues. South Bend: Icarus Press, 1982.

John Garrity, “The College of Cardinals,” Sports Illustrated, August 14, 1989, pages 64-76.

Peter Golenbock, The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. New York: Avon Books, 2000.

Rob Rains, St. Louis Cardinals: 1892-1992. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Jim Vitti, Cubs on Catalina, Darien, Connecticut: Settefrati Press, 2003.


[1] Jack Altman 2002 interview

[2] August 2004 interview with Hub’s daughter, Diana Harris, and Hub’s first wife, Cleo

[3] 1992 interview on KYVE-TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[4] Harris/Cleo interview.

[5] 1995 TV interview by Jerry Morelli, Sports Beat, Jersey City

[6] Harris/Cleo interview.

[7] Interview of Hub in 1971-1975 by Gene Elston

[8] Altman.

[9] Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1936, p. 9

[10] Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1936, p. 16

[11] Interview of Hub in April 2002 by Jim Vitti

[12] Jim Vitti, Cubs on Catalina, Darien, Connecticut: Settefrati Press, 2003, p. 81

[13] Fresno Bee, August 31, 1980

[14] Los Angeles Times, August 29, 1936, p. 13

[15] Altman.

[16] Vitti, p. 116. As we’ll see, Hub played baseball for the Army in Long Beach in 1943, so it is most likely that he saw Norma Jeane when his team played a team on Catalina.

[17] Vitti, p. 244

[18] Telephone interview with Eddie (Lefty) Carnett, February 8, 2006

[19] 1937 Spalding Official Base Ball Guide

[20] Altman.

[21] “The Boys on the Bus,” Sports Illustrated, July 3, 1989, pp. 60-68

[22] 1995 TV interview by Jerry Morelli, Sports Beat, Jersey City

[23] The Sporting News, June 28, 1980, p. 26; Swails’ obituary

[24] Interview of Hub in 1971-1975 by Gene Elston

[25] Ibid.

[26] The Sporting News, January 19, 1939, p. 10

[27] 1992 interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[28] The Sporting News, June 13, 1964, p. 47

[29] The Sporting News, September 12, 1956, p. 36

[30] Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1940, p. 10; The Sporting News, July 18, 1940, p. 14

[31] The Sporting News, July 18, 1940, p. 14

[32] On July 21, 1940, Kittle lasted only one-third of an inning, giving up five hits and three runs. The Los Angeles Angels went on to get 11 runs that first inning. Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1940, p. A9

[33] The Sporting News, April 17, 1941, p. 15

[34] The Sporting News, July 17, 1941, p. 3

[35] Los Angeles Times, July 29, 1941, p. A10. The headline was “Hub Kittle Quits Baseball.”

[36] Altman.

[37] The Sporting News, May 29, 1941, p. 16

[38] Interview of Hub in 1971-1975 by Gene Elston

[39] The Sporting News, May 21, 1942, p. 2

[40] The Sporting News, May 21, 1942, p. 33

[41] Altman.

[42] Los Angeles Times, February 27, 1943, p. 8

[43] Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1943, p. 17. Kittle went 1 for 3 at the plate.

[44] The Sporting News, June 3, 1943, p. 13

[45] 1992 interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[46] Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1943, p. 13

[47] Hall of Fame pitcher who won seven of nine World Series decisions. He won at least 20 games per season each year between 1936 and 1939.

[48] Altman.

[49] The Sporting News, August 23, 1943, p. 9

[50] Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1943, p. A8

[51] Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1943, p. A11

[52] 1992 interview on KYVE-TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[53] Altman.

[54] The Sporting News, March 21, 1946, p. 19

[55] The Sporting News, May 21, 1947, p. 32

[56] The Sporting News, September 9, 1948, p. 36

[57] Altman.

[58] Harris/Cleo interview.

[59] The Sporting News, July 21, 1948, p. 33

[60] The Sporting News, June 30, 1948, p. 32

[61] Altman.

[62] The Sporting News, June 7, 1951, two articles on p. 42

[63] The Sporting News, October 3, 1951, p. 30

[64] The Sporting News, April 16, 1958, and April 8, 1959, no page numbers

[65] The Sporting News, September 17, 1958, p. 43

[66] The Sporting News, May 6, 1959, p. 37

[67] Altman.

[68] The Sporting News, April 1, 1961, p. 2

[69] The Sporting News, January 4, 1961, p. 16

[70] The Sporting News, September 12, 1961, no page number

[71] The Sporting News, November 8, p. 28

[72] The Sporting News, May 23, 1962, p. 37

[73] The Sporting News, September 8, 1962, p. 33, and October 13, 1962, p. 17

[74] New York Times, December 21, 1962, p. 14

[75] The Sporting News, January 5, 1963, p. 35

[76] Altman.

[77] The Sporting News, September 3, 1966, p. 35

[78] The Sporting News, June 13, 1964, p. 47

[79] The Sporting News, July 24, 1965, p. 43

[80] The Sporting News, August 16, 1975, p. 8

[81] The Sporting News, September 4, 1965, p. 39

[82] The Sporting News, January 15, 1966, p. 24

[83] The Sporting News, April 2, 1966, p. 8

[84] The Sporting News, March 19, 1966, p. 9

[85] The Sporting News, September 24, 1966, p. 33

[86] The Sporting News, July 9, 1966, p. 37

[87] The Sporting News, April 29, 1967, p. 37

[88] The Sporting News, July 22, 1967, p. 45

[89] The Sporting News, August 23, 1969 , p. 39

[90] The Sporting News, August 30, 1969, p. 45

[91] Altman.

[92] Washington Post, Times Herald, January 8, 1970, p. E3

[93] The Sporting News, June 6, 1970, p. 33

[94] The Sporting News, July 25, 1970, p. 39

[95] The Sporting News, August 1, 1970, p. 36

[96] They were the Braves for one year.

[97] Harris/Cleo interview.

[98] 1982 interview on Jim Bolen’s Sports Attic, KMOX TV, St. Louis

[99] Altman.

[100] Frank Dolson, Beating the Bushes: Life in the Minor Leagues. South Bend: Icarus Press, 1982, pp. 36-38

[101] The Sporting News, October 8, 1966, p. 54

[102] The Sporting News, November 12, 1966, p. 46

[103] Jack Altman notes

[104] The Sporting News, November 4, 1967, p. 47

[105] The Sporting News, November 6, 1971, p. 55; October 28, 1972, p. 13; November 9, 1974, p. 46; and November 15, 1975, p. 39

[106] The Sporting News, February 8, 1975, p. 39

[107] The Sporting News, November 15, 1975, p. 39

[108] The Sporting News, July 5, 1982, p. 37

[109] The Sporting News, January 20, 1979, p. 42

[110] Altman.

[111] New York Times, January 14, 1971, p. 48

[112] 1992 interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[113] Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1973, p. H2; New York Times, April 6, 1973, p. 50 or 87; Washington Post, Times Herald, April 6, 1973, p. D4; The Sporting News, April 21, 1973, p. 12

[114] The Sporting News, August 4, 1973, p. 28

[115] The Sporting News, November 13, 1973, p. 24

[116] The Sporting News, October 19, 1974, p. 21

[117] The Sporting News, April 26, 1975, p. 18

[118] Washington Post, September 7, 1975, p. 48; The Sporting News, September 27, 1975, p. 5

[119] The Sporting News, February 19, 1977, p. 50

[120] The Sporting News, July 30, 1977, p. 47

[121] 1992 interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[122] Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1980, p. C3; Fresno Bee, August 31, 1980, and The Sporting News, September 20, 1980, p. 41

[123] Letter to “Seth” from Hub Kittle, July 21, 1998, signed “The oldest man ever to play in a baseball game.”

[124] New York Times, November 24, 1980, p. C2

[125] Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1980, p. E4

[126] Rob Rains, St. Louis Cardinals: 1892-1992. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992, p. 215

[127] Peter Golenbock, The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. New York: Avon Books, 2000, p. 534

[128] Peter Golenbock, The Spirit of St. Louis. New York: Avon Books, 2000, p. 553

[129] 1992 interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[130] The Sporting News, June 7, 1982, p. 27

[131] Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1981, p. SD_B4

[132] 1992 Interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Yakima’s own Mr. Baseball: Hub Kittle”

[133] 1982 Interview on Jim Bolen’s “Sports Attic,” KMOX TV, St. Louis

[134] Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1982, p. D1

[135] Quoted in Vitti, p. 60

[136] 1982 interview on Jim Bolen’s Sports Attic, KMOX TV, St. Louis

[137] The Sporting News, June 20, 1983, p. 37

[138] Washington Post, October 12, 1983, p. D2

[139] Garrity, pp. 64-76

[140] The Sporting News, June 27, 1981, p. 27

[141] The Sporting News, May 3, 1982, p. 17; Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1982, p. C6

[142] The Sporting News, April 25, 1982, p. 61

[143] The Sporting News, May 2, 1983, p. 21

[144] Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1982, p. F8 or OC_B8

[145] The Sporting News, March 19, 1984, p. 39

[146] The Sporting News, November 5, 1984, p. 49

[147] “The Sporting Scene: The Arms Talks,” New Yorker, May 4, 1987, pp. 103-126

[148] Kittle was speaking to Bill Rigney, then chief baseball adviser to the Oakland Athletics.

[149] The Sporting News, July 14, 1973, p. 9

[150] The Sporting News, May 22, 1976, p. 39

[151] The Sporting News, April 18, 1981, no page number

[152] The Sporting News, July 19, 1982, p. 39

[153] The Sporting News, March 16, 1968, p. 20

[154] The Sporting News, June 6, 1970, p. 33

[155] The Sporting News, June 27, 1970, p. 39

[156] The Sporting News, June 11, 1977, p. 38

[157] Telephone interview with Benny Looper, May 11, 2005

[158] Telephone interview with Bryan Price, May 4, 2005

[159] Telephone interview with Rafael Chaves on May 18, 2005

[160] Harris/Cleo interview.

[161] Ibid.

[162] Dolson.

[163] Dolson, pp. 245-249

[164] Harris/Cleo interview.

[165] Ibid; and Seattle Times, September 14, 2003, p. D17

[166] Interview of Hub in April 2002 by Jim Vitti

[167] Harris/Cleo interview.

[168] Altman.

[169] Harris/Cleo interview.

[170] Interview of Hub in April 2002 by Jim Vitti

[171] The Sporting News, May 24, 1982, p. 39

[172] Harris/Cleo interview.

[173] 1994 interview on KYVE TV (Yakima), In Focus, “Baseball in Central Washington”

[174] Harris/Cleo interview.

[175] Vitti, p. 60

[176] posted by “Brian” the day after Hub died.

[177] Copyright 1973 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company. Posted with permission. All rights reserved.

[178] Copyright 2004 Seattle Times Company. Used with permission. This permission is for one-time use on the SABR BioProject website only. This article cannot be used in derivative works, ancillaries, or other formats or media, without express permission of the Seattle Times.

[179] The Sporting News, June 12, 1957, p. 47

[180] Reprinted with permission of the Billings Gazette. (Steve Prosinski, August 1, 2006)

Full Name

Hubert Milton Kittle


February 19, 1917 at Los Angeles, CA (US)


February 10, 2004 at Yakima, WA (US)

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