(Editor: RN’s Bill Lack reviewed this book recently. Steve read it, as well; his thoughts are below.)
In baseball, where seas of statistics seem to remove the emotional aspect of the game, a new book by writer Doug Wilson removes all doubt that America’s pastime is played with the human element.
“Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds” tells the emotionally gripping story of Cincinnati Reds manager Fred Hutchinson’s battle with terminal cancer while his team battles for the National League pennant.
Wilson’s book is a story of emotional contrast played out on a national stage. Manager Hutchinson, one of the more beloved figures in Reds history, was known as “The Bear” for his imposing physical stature as well as his explosive temper. However, with cancer ravaging his body and causing him great pain and discomfort, he spent his final year doing what he loved most; that is, managing a baseball team while calming the emotions of all those around him.
“Hutch,” the son of a Seattle doctor and the brother of a surgeon, was a family man with a loving wife and four children. His oldest son was making his professional minor league baseball debut in 1964 while his youngest, a nine-year-old-son, would follow his father around the Reds’ clubhouse, mimicking each painful step as he walked with his dad in one of the more touching moments in the book.
The Reds were led by a future Hall of Famer, outfield slugger Frank Robinson, whose emotional contrasts are also displayed in the book. A fierce competitor who viewed every game as a war against the other team is portrayed as the voice and protector of a Reds team attempting to win every game for their ailing manager. Robinson gracefully defended his team’s honor and the players’ right to privacy as forcefully as he played each game versus the opposition.
“Courage” is the word most often used to describe Hutchinson and his approach to battling the awful disease that eventually took his life while inspiring his team to compete for the National League championship. Hutch was a man bigger than life it seemed, yet he tried to not stand in the way of Dick Sisler who was directing the team in his stead. Hutch did all he could to take the focus off him and his disease yet addressed his situation directly when asked by the media. Hutchinson would take these opportunities to educate the public as his brother worked to successfully fight for funding a comprehensive cancer center to battle what may have been the most feared disease of the 1960’s.
As a Reds fan, you’ll enjoy the book just to learn the Reds history, especially about the 1964 pennant race for which the Reds unsuccessfully fought to win for Hutch. As a leader, you’ll enjoy the ways that Hutch reached out to his players and treated them individually, not collectively, to develop their careers. As a family member, you’ll admire Hutch for inspiring his children and his extended family and taking the time to make each moment count.
The book is set for a January, 2011, release date and is published by McFarland Publications.