Alex Hoyle

This article was written by Paul Browne

Alexander S. Hoyle Jr. was the youngest of nine brothers in a baseball-playing family. He was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, on January 8, 1928, to Alexander S. Hoyle Sr. and Alice (Hazen) Hoyle. Because of the way his father filled out the paperwork, his legal name was actually Junior. His father was of English and Welsh descent and his mother German.

The elder Hoyle was born in 1878 and was a baseball fan. As his sons grew up he played baseball with them, and the family frequently fielded its own team in games against other amateur aggregations in and around Carbondale. The sons were Art, Harold (Devil), Donald, Ralph, John, Bob, Rollie (Tex), Charles (Dinkie), and Alex. The family was completed by sisters Margaret, the oldest child, and Audrey. A third daughter, Emily, died at birth.

Five of the brothers became pitchers. Ralph played semipro ball. John and Bob played for town teams. Bob, a knuckleballer, pitched a no-hitter against the Mayfield (Pennsylvania) team. Tex pitched in Organized Baseball from 1940 to 1952, except for three years (1943-1945) during World War II. From 1940 through 1949 he pitched in the Yankees farm system. Released in 1950, Tex re-emerged in the Philadelphia Athletics organization in 1951, and pitched in three games for the Athletics in 1952.

Alex played baseball and basketball at Carbondale’s Benjamin Franklin High School, and was named to the Scranton Times/Scranton Tribune First Team All-Scholastic teams in 1945 and 1946. When not pitching, he often played center field.

After graduating in 1946, Alex was drafted into the Army, and served in post-World War II Korea. He was an MP and was also in charge of athletics for the 31st Field Artillery Regiment. He pitched with a service team while in Korea. Returning to Carbondale in 1948, Hoyle caught on with the Simpson Miners in a local industrial league. Carbondale had a Philadelphia Phillies farm team in the Class D North Atlantic League, and in July manager Danny Carnevale, seeking to strengthen his pitching staff, signed Hoyle to a contract with a small bonus. On July 12 Hoyle made his professional baseball debut with a 7-4 victory for the Carbondale Blues over the Mahanoy City Brewers. Described in the local daily as a “bespectacled righthander,”1 Hoyle struck out three while allowing nine hits, relying on a curveball to supplement his fastball.

The game was the start of an impressive rookie season for Hoyle, who was breaking into Organized Baseball in his hometown. He won his first six decisions. (He was relieved in a losing game, but the loss was charged to another pitcher.) Hoyle wound up with a 9-2 won-lost record and a 2.91 earned-run average. The team made the playoffs and Hoyle won two games in the semifinals, including the game that propelled the Blues into the finals. Carbondale swept the Peekskill (New York) Highlanders in four games for the league championship. Hoyle was the winning pitcher in the third game of this series.

Hoyle was a minor-league bonus baby. He had received a bonus upon signing in 1948 and he was also a bonus player in 1949 and again in 1950. The bonus rule instituted by major-league owners in an effort to curb spending for players also applied to the minor leagues. In Class D, free agents paid more than $800 in salary or other money for signing a contract could not be optioned at any time, or assigned without waivers, and were subject to draft without restriction.2

In 1949 Carnevale was reassigned as manager of another Class D Phillies farm team, the Bradford (Pennsylvania) Blue Wings of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York (PONY) League. Bradford and Carbondale had taken spring training together in Seaford, Delaware. Hoyle expected to return to the Carbondale Blues, but he was also reassigned to Bradford. Before the season he shut out Carbondale, 7-0, in an exhibition game at Seaford. Hoyle was Carnevale’s starter in Bradford’s opening game but lost 6-3 when the visiting team scored four runs in the ninth inning. Sparked by ElRoy Face (14-2, 3.32 ERA), Bradford finished in first place and won the PONY League playoffs. Hoyle was 12-11 with an elevated 5.03 earned-run average.

In 1950 Hoyle spent most of spring training with Bradford but then was assigned to Americus (Georgia) of the Class D Georgia-Florida League. His won-lost record, 12-13, was similar to his record the season before, but he brought his ERA down to 2.68.

By the time the 1951 season began, Hoyle was back in the Army, recalled for duty in the Korean War. He served as a machine gunner in Korea, during the period when Chinese forces crossed the border and pushed United Nations troops all the way back to the southern end of the Korean peninsula. Hoyle was awarded the Silver Star for pulling a wounded comrade back to the safety of allied lines.

On March 8, 1952, Hoyle married Nancy Crow. Under Pennsylvania law, Nancy, 19 at the time of the marriage, required parental consent, which her father gave. Alex and Nancy had five girls and three boys.

Released from active duty in time for the 1952 baseball season, Hoyle was moved up to Class B. He pitched for the Wilmington Blue Rocks of the Inter-State League, making the transition from starter to relief pitcher. In 27 games, all but 8 out of the bullpen, Hoyle was 7-8 with a 3.91 ERA.

By that time the minor leagues were beginning to feel the full impact of television, and many leagues folded as major-league teams reduced the number of their farm teams. The number of minor-league teams in Pennsylvania dropped from 26 in 1950 to nine at the start of the ’53 season. Alex Hoyle, realizing that opportunities to move up to the majors were shrinking, hung up his spikes after the ’52 season. His brother Tex also called it a career that year.

Alex became a truck driver for the Armstrong Feed Company and then started the Hoyle Delivery Service trucking company. He later became an x-ray technician in Kearny, New Jersey, and worked in that job until he retired. Hoyle died on September 16, 2013, at the age of 85.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted the following:

Carbondale (Pennsylvania) Daily News, 1946-1952.

The Sporting News, 1949-1953.

Pioneer Blues Booster, September 2, 1948.

Johnson, Lloyd, and Miles Wolff, eds., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Third Edition (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., 2007).

Hoyle family scrapbook.

Alex and Nancy Crow Hoyle marriage license.

Montgomery, Wynn. "Georgia’s 1948 Phenoms and the Bonus Rule," The National Pastime: Baseball in the Peach State (SABR, 2010),  sabr.org/research/georgia-s-1948-phenoms-and-bonus-rule.

gravelocator.cem.va.gov/index.

Interviews with Donald Hoyle Jr. and Ralph Hoyle.

Alex Hoyle file with questionnaire maintained at the Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York.

 

Notes

1 Carbondale News, July 13, 1948.

2 The Sporting News, January 12, 1949.