Grave Story: Fred Hancock (1920-1986)

Here lies Fred Hancock, whose 14-year professional baseball career included one season with the Chicago White Sox in 1949 as a backup infielder.

Fred Hancock was born in Allenport, Pa., on March 28, 1920. He attended Charleroi High School and made his pro baseball debut in 1939 for the Lake Charles Skippers of the Louisiana-based Evangeline League. Appearing mostly as a third baseman, the youngster played well enough to make the league’s All-Star team. He hit .248 with 25 doubles and 4 home runs, and one of his teammates was Ty Cobb. No, not that Ty Cobb. This one was a reliever who had a brief playing and managing career in the minors before dying relatively young in 1953.

Hancock showed some flashes of brilliance early on in the minors. He hit 11 homers for Lake Charles in 1940, to go with a .287 batting average. He hit .291 for Little Rock in 1943, when he was 23 years old. Just when he showed signs of success, he was drafted into the military. He served in the Air Corps and was a star shortstop for the Langley Flyers in Virginia. He also teamed with a couple of GIs as a vocal trio; their version of “Frankie and Johnny” was said to be one of the best. Hancock missed two seasons due to his military service and returned to Little Rock in 1946.

Source: The Tennessean, July 23, 1948.

Hancock spent the next three seasons in the Southern League, playing for the Little Rock Travelers and the Memphis Chicks. He struggled with a .242 average in 1946 and underwent offseason knee surgery with the hopes of getting back to his pre-war stride. He also dropped some weight and responded with a .296 average in 1947, splitting the season with Arkansas and Memphis. Now playing shortstop, Hancock was a bit old for a prospect but was one of the better middle infielders in the League. He was an All-Star once again in 1948 for Memphis. During the offseason, he worked as a promotion manager for a Memphis brewery.

After 10 years in the minors and the military, Hancock finally got his chance in the majors in 1949. The White Sox new manager, Jack Onslow, managed Hancock in Memphis in 1948 and brought him to Spring Training. He wasn’t going to make it as the starting shortstop, as the White Sox had Luke Appling, who was still effective at the age of 42. He was set to serve as a backup infielder, and the veteran shortstop praised the rookie.

“That Hancock lad is the best understudy I’ve ever seen in a Sox camp,” Appling said.

Hancock lived up to his reputation as a slick-fielding shortstop. He committed one error in 46 chances at shortstop for a .978 fielding percentage, above league average. Unfortunately, he did not have much of an opportunity to play as the backup of a future Hall of Famer. He played 27 games at shortstop but started just 6 of them. The rest came as a late-inning replacement to Appling. Hancock also gained a little playing time at third base and briefly in right field.

Hancock had 52 at-bats in 39 games, accumulating 7 hits for a .135 batting average. He had 2 doubles and 1 triple to go with 8 walks and 9 RBIs. That one triple came in the 10th inning of a game against the Yankees on July 18. Hancock, as a pinch-hitter, drove in a run with the triple and came around to score on a George Metkovich single, giving the White Sox a rare win over the Yankees 6-5.

Source: The Lincoln Journal Star, June 27, 1954.

Appling finally transitioned to a part-time player in 1950, but his replacement would be Chico Carrasquel. Carrasquel was brought to the White Sox from the Montreal Royals in exchange for Hancock and pitcher Charles Eisenmann in September 1949. When Montreal sent Hancock back to the Sox, he was sold outright to the Buffalo Bisons of the International League days later. He spent 1950 and 1951 with Buffalo before stints with San Antonio and Lincoln. He quit the Lincoln Chiefs in mid-season 1954 to join a semipro team in Rochester, Minn. Hancock spent a total of 13 seasons in the minor leagues and had 1,423 hits, good for a .255 batting average. He also hit 272 doubles and 70 home runs.

Hancock was named player-manager of the Rochester Royals in 1956 and spent the next two seasons with them. He agreed to coach and play part-time with the Rochester Red Caps in 1959. He lived in Rochester until 1985, working for the Rochester Public Utilities after his playing/managing days were over. He moved to Clearwater, Fla., in 1985, and he died at his home there on March 12, 1986, at the age of 65. He is buried in Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis.

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