Sid Hudson

This article was written by Steve Walker

This article was published in the The National Pastime: Monumental Baseball (Washington, DC, 2009)


Former Washington Senators pitcher and pitching coach Sidney Charles “Sid” Hudson dedicated 19 seasons as a player and coach to the national pastime in the nation’s capital. Unsung and scarcely remembered in the city in which he lived and worked all those years, Hudson nevertheless holds an exalted place in the hearts of the people he tutored and be-friended during his years in Washington, D.C.1

One former Washington Senator who played during Hudson’s tenure as pitching coach, Del Unser (center fielder, Washington Senators, 1968—71)2 explains the esteem Hudson earned in the capital city. “He’s a gentle- man,that what he is, a Texas gentleman,” Unser said.3 Hudson first took the mound for Washington on April 18, 1940.The tall, lanky, rawboned rookie, 6′ 4″ and 180 pounds4 of nerves, was the losing pitcher in Washington’s 7—0 defeat against the Boston Red Sox.5 Hudson finished his rookie season with a 17—16 record, 252 inningspitched, and a 4.57 ERA for the woeful 60—94 Senators. He led all major league rookies in starts (31) andcomplete games (19). He Hudson soon became the club’s top pitcher, earning berths on the 1941 and 1942 American League All-Star teams.6

Hudson played a major role in the 1941 Mid-Summer Classic. He surrendered Arky Vaughan’s first home run, launched to the right-field upper deck of Detroit’s Tiger Stadium (then Briggs Stadium) in the seventh inning. Hudson’s performance helped set the stage for Ted Williams’s legendary game-winning homer off of Claude Passeau with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.7

Hudson and Williams crossed paths again in Boston during the last week of the 1941 season. Hudson’s Senators hosted the Red Sox. Teddy Ballgame intercepted Hudson on his way out of the Washington clubhouse. According to Hudson, Williams asked, “You pitching today?”

Hudson replied, “Yeah, I am. I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll throw you nothing but fastballs unless I’m in a jam and then you’re on your own.”

Williams looked at him and said, “You wouldn’t do that.”

Honest to the core, Hudson kept his word. He recalled, “I got him out three out of four times. The center fielder had to take a couple off the wall, but he didn’t get a hit. Of course, he got six or seven hits the last day of the season [to hit above .400].”8 The two would face each other and work together many times in the future.

In October 1942, 27 years old and poised to enter his prime as a ballplayer, World War II intervened. Hudson served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Force for three years, serving at the Waco Army Air Base and in the Pacific theater.9 He came back an older and less effective pitcher. In his first three seasons, Hudson never pitched fewer than 239.3 innings and earned a 40—47 record for Washington teams that never won more than 70 games. On his return, he never pitched as frequently (237.7 innings in 1950 was closest) or as well (64—105) when he returned from war.10

In 1952, the Senators traded Hudson to Boston, reuniting him with Williams. The veteran pitcher enjoyed having baseball’s best left-handed hitter as a teammate. He described his favorite memory of their three seasons together, September 17, 1953:

“Ned Garver of the Tigers was pitching against me. In the eighth inning the score was 1—0 in favor of Detroit.We have one man on first and it’s Williams’s turn to hit. He patted me on the fanny and said, ‘Go on and get your shower. I’ll hit that little slider of Garver’s into the right field seats.’11

“And he did. He was something.”12

Hudson retired as a player in 1954, but soon returned as a scout for Boston. He joined the new Washington Senators organization in 1961, serving as the team’s pitching coach for manager, former teammate, and life-long friend Mickey Vernon, who died September 24, 2008.

The two remained close. In 1998, Hudson helped arrange a surprise party for Vernon’s eightieth birthday. “He sure was surprised, too,” Hudson remembered. Hudson coached Washington pitchers for nine seasons, 1961—65 and 1968—71.13

One season, he watched a right-hander in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system pitch with poise and pinpoint control. Hudson learned the impressive hurler’s name—Dick Bosman. He said, “He looked like a veteran. Itold our organization that if we had a chance to get this kid, why, don’t hesitate. That year (1964), the Giants left him off the roster and we got him.14

“He learned how to move [his pitches, how to pitch to different hitters, and became a good pitcher. He threw a sinking fastball, a slider, and he could really spot it.”

Bosman, the expansion era Senators’ (1961—71) most successful pitcher, with 49 wins,15 credits Hudson for refining his mechanics. He said, “Sid was really the first pitching coach I ever had. He taught me a lot of the physical parts of pitching. How you spin this curveball, how you make this ball sink, how you hold it.”16

When he became a pitching coach himself for the Baltimore Orioles (1992—94) and Texas Rangers (1995— 2000)17 Bosman often visited his mentor and friend for counsel and to catch up on old times. Bosman, who now instructs minor-league pitchers in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, explained, “Sid’s style, his modus operandi of coaching and teaching is a lot of what I do.”

Former Washington relief pitcher and SABR member Dave Baldwin, who threw with a sidearm motion, also praised Hudson. He said, “Sid was a side-armer. He knew how a side-armer should grip and release the various pitches. Sid also understood when I was slinging the ball. In order for my ball to move, I had to have an awful lot of arm action, a really flexible arm, and a real snap on the ball in order for the ball to sink or for the curve to curve or for the screwball to screwball. Sid watched me very carefully. He would tell me, ‘you’re beginning to sling the ball again, you’re beginning to sling.’”18

Baldwin also remembered a unique device Sid Hudson invented to teach pitchers the proper grip for a curve ball. The “Hudson Harness” included an elastic band that held the pitcher’s thumb behind the ball. Once a pitcher learned the proper grip the ball spun faster and had, according to Baldwin, “greater deflection,” making the pitch more difficult to hit. Ever generous, Hudson shared his unique device with other major-league and college pitching coaches. A photograph of the Hudson Harness appears in an article by Baldwin, Terry Bahill, and Alan Nathan entitled “Nickel and Dime Pitches” in Baseball Research Journal 35.19

In 1969, when Senators owner Bob Short persuaded Ted Williams to become the team’s manager, the Splendid Splinter decided to keep his old foe and teammate on the coaching staff. Twenty-eight years after their conversation outside the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park and 15 seasons after they played together in Boston, the two men joined forces again.

Hudson said Williams “just turned the pitchers over to me. He called me into his office and said, ‘Sid, I’ve known you for a long time. You have all this experience. I’ll just turn it over to you and if I don’t like what you’re doing, why, I’ll tell you so.’’’

Williams rarely needed to say a word to Hudson. In 1969, Senators pitchers turned in a 3.49 ERA, fifth-best in the American League.20

Hudson’s service to Williams included some unpleasant collateral duties, like weighing in massive slugger Frank Howard. Hudson recalled, “Frank got pretty heavy back then. I could never get him on the scale, so I begged him and begged him. Well, one day he finally got on and topped it at 300 right on the button.”

Howard said, “Sid could never get me on the scale because I was always overweight.”

Howard, known for his kindness to teammates and fans alike, gives Hudson high praise. “Sidney Hudson is an outstanding man,” Howard said.21

Hudson went out of his way to introduce new members of the Washington organization to the joys of living in the D.C. Metro area. Senators broadcaster Ron Menchine (1969—71) fondly recalls the kindness and generosity of the southern gentleman. Menchine recalled many instances when Hudson invited newcomers out for dinner or showed them the best place in the area to rent an apartment or get a tasty, affordable meal. The Senators pitching coach also helped a rookie broadcaster cope with baseball’s constant travel. Menchine said, “Sid introduced me to the top restaurants in major-league baseball.”

Menchine said that Hudson made him and countless others feel connected to the team, welcome and valuable.“Sid was a classy guy all the way. He was one of the greatest men I ever met in my life,” he said.22

Like most coaches, Hudson enjoyed the camaraderie that developed between members of Williams’ staff—Nellie Fox, Wayne Terwilliger, Joe Camacho, George Susce, and Doug Camilli.23 He especially enjoyed pitching batting practice to Fox and Williams in the morning hours before players and fans arrived at RFK Stadium. He tried to throw pitches between belly laughs as the two Hall of Famers exchanged good-natured debate over who hit better. Hudson said, “Boy, we had a lot of fun.”

When Short moved the Senators to Texas for the 1972 season, he retained Williams as manager. Hudson followed the Splendid Splinter to Texas to coach the Rangers pitchers. He remained with the Texas organization until 1986 After leaving the Rangers, Hudson coached Baylor University’s pitchers for seven seasons. In 1993, he retired with 56 years devoted to baseball. “I figured 56 was enough,” he said.

Of those five and a half decades, Hudson contributed more than a third to Washington baseball.

Other than the 1969 season, when the Senators thrilled the city with an 86—76 record, Hudson usually knew defeat on the ball field or watched it unfold from the dugout or bullpen.

He refused to let losing diminish his generosity or blunt his desire to play and teach the game. Hudson dedicated his life to baseball, sharing his craft, inventions, experience, knowledge, and oral history as a labor of love, day after day,season after season. His longevity and quiet dignity won him honor from peers, students, and friends. Though few Washington baseball fans remember him, Hudson made lasting contributions to the history of the game in this city. When baseball greatness is measured in kindness, faithfulness, creativity, and zeal to help others, Sid Hudson stands near the top of Washington’s all-time best. 

 

Notes

  1. Retrosheet, Sid Hudson: http://retrosheet.org/boxesetc/H/Phudss101.htm.
  2. Retrosheet, Del Unser:http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/U/Punsed101.htm.
  1. Author’s interview with Del Unser, 18 March On October 10, 2008, Sid Hudson, who had been living in Waco, Texas, died there at the age of 93.
  2. Pete Palmer and Gary Gillette, The Baseball Encyclopedia (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2004), 963.
  3. Retrosheet, 1940 Washington Senators regular-season game log: retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1940/VWS101940.htm.
  4. Palmer and Gillette, The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004), 963.
  5. Retrosheet, American League 7, National League 5: retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1941/B07080ALS1941.htm.
  6. Author’s interview with Sid Hudson, 29 May In the last week of the season, in the game (it was at Washington) in which the Red Sox faced Hudson, Williams got a double, going 1-for-3. Hudson may have conflated hismemory of that game with the game of August 17 (also at Washington), the first time the Red Sox faced Hudson since theAll-Star Game; on this earlier occasion, Williams did go hitless, 0-for-3, against Hudson.
  1. Gary Bedingfield, Baseball in Wartime, baseballinwartime.com/player_biographies/hudson_sid.htm.
  2. Palmer and Gillette, The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004), 963.
  3. SABR, Home Run Log, Ted Williams, 17 September 1953, http://members.sabr.org/.
  4. Author’s interview with Sid Hudson, 29 May 1998.
  5. Retrosheet, Sid Hudson.
  6. Retrosheet, Dick Bosman: http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B/Pbosmd101.htm.
  7. Palmer and Gillette, The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004), 784.
  8. Author’s interview with Dick Bosman, 6 January 1999.
  9. Retrosheet, Dick Bosman.
  10. Author’s interview with Dave Baldwin, 25 April 2007.
  11. Dave Baldwin, Terry Bahill, and Alan Nathan, “Nickel and Dime Pitches,” Baseball Research Journal 35 (2007): 26—27.
  12. Palmer and Gillette, The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004), 1539.
  13. Author’s interview with Frank Howard, 9 February 1999.
  14. Author’s interview with Ron Menchine, February 2005.
  15. Washington Senators 1969 Press-Radio Television Guide, 4—8.

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