A native of Toronto, Ohio, a small city on the state’s border with West Virginia, Gordie Hinkle was a right-handed-hitting catcher who played 10 seasons of minor-league ball and saw 27 games in the major leagues, all in 1934 for the Boston Red Sox. Catchers of the day weren’t expected to hit particularly well, and he didn’t, batting .173 for Boston and achieving only a .244 on-base percentage. In the minor leagues, he hit a combined .247.
Hink (the nickname he preferred) was born Daniel Gordon Hinkle, named after his grandfather, a foreman in a clay mine. He was born on April 3, 1905, to Charles and Lillian Hinkle. Charles was working as a policeman at the time of the 1910 US Census. He was a stationary engineer in 1920, and a forger in a steel mill in 1930. In the offseasons Gordie typically worked in the steel mills. He was the eldest of three boys. He self-described his ancestry as German and Irish. Hinkle grew up in Toronto and attended the public schools for 12 years, then spent two years at Bellefonte Academy in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
Gordie played some football at prep school, but made his mark in baseball, beginning with some semipro ball in Toronto in 1926, followed by a year with Syracuse in 1927 and stints with Danville (Three-I League), Topeka (Western League), Scottdale (Mid-Atlantic League), and Columbus (American Association). In 1930 he’s found playing in 10 games early in the year with the St. Louis Cardinals affiliate Rochester Red Wings in the Double-A International League. He hit safely nine times in 29 at-bats, a .321 average, but for most of the year, he worked for the Greensboro Patriots in the Class C Piedmont League (.254, with 11 homers but with 26 errors in 92 games he caught, a .952 fielding percentage).
In 1931 he played in 100 games for the Columbus Red Birds, in the American Association, hitting .221. His younger brother William Clarke Hinkle led the Bucknell football team to an undefeated season that year.
The next year, 1932, Clarke began a 10-year gridiron career primarily as fullback with the Green Bay Packers that eventually saw him enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame. Gordie played 10 games for Columbus (.308) but most of the year (79 games) optioned out to the Baltimore Orioles, where he hit.300. Gordie spent the whole 1933 season in a reprise with Rochester, batting .324. In December, working with Tom Yawkey’s money to try to build a strong ballclub, Red Sox general manager Eddie Collins bought Hinkle’s contract from the Cardinals, foreseeing him as the backup to catcher Rick Ferrell.
Hinkle’s debut came on April 19, which was the Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts, a day on which the Red Sox in those days played a morning-afternoon doubleheader. Hinkle started behind the plate in the first game as the Red Sox swept the Washington Senators. He hit seventh, catching Rube Walberg, and collected a single in three at-bats. His last game was the first of a doubleheader, too, at Fenway Park on September 30 against the Philadelphia Athletics. He caught George Hockette, who threw a 5-0 shutout. Hinkle was 2-for-3 with a single and a double, a sacrifice, and one RBI. Clarke Hinkle played at Fenway Park a few weeks later, kicking a 42-yard field goal on November 4 to help the Packers to a 10-0 win over the Boston Redskins, who had Fenway for their home field.
Hinkle trained with the Red Sox during the spring of 1935, but was optioned out to Syracuse on the cutdown day, April 15. A month later, on May 16, his contract was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He hit .230 in a season combining the two teams. There were two teams in 1936, too, Little Rock (Southern Association) and Portsmouth (Piedmont League), with a .233 combined average. He was purchased by the Chicago Cubs from Portsmouth on August 14, but then released outright to Moline on January 29, 1937. The year 1938 found Hinkle back in the American Association, playing for Toledo, a Tigers farm team, and Indianapolis, in the Cincinnati system (.204 in 62 games). In 1939 he found work as a coach for the Tigers, mainly working in the bullpen, but then returned to play for two more years, both with the Beaumont Exporters in the Texas League, also a Tigers affiliate.
Hinkle stayed involved with baseball until 1948, managing in the New York Yankees system, the Quincy Gems (Three-I League) in 1947 and then the Grand Forks Chiefs (Northern League) in 1948, winning the pennant and the playoffs in the latter year, after which he took up work as a field operator of a gas and oil well compressor station for the Mobil Oil Co. He had married Mabel Almokary in February 1946. Hinkle was the head meter man of Mobil Oil, and the Hinkles had just returned to live in Houston when he was felled by a fatal heart attack on March 19, 1972. It was in Houston, 10 years earlier, that he had had an artificial mitral valve inserted in his heart by the noted surgeon Michael DeBakey. Hinkle was survived by his wife.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Hinkle’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.