RIP to Dick Hyde, a relief pitcher whose best season earned him the AL Sophomore of the Year Award. He died on April 15, 2020 at Bickford of Champaign Memory Care in Champaign, Ill. He was 91 years old. Hyde pitched for the Washington Senators (1955, 1957-60) and Baltimore Orioles (1961).
Dick Hyde was born on August 3, 1928 in Hindsboro, Ill., the youngest of three sons. He attended Champaign High School, where he played basketball and baseball. He was living in Rising, Ill., at the time, and his athletic accomplishments earned him the nickname of “The Mayor of Rising,” according to his obituary. Once he graduated in 1948, the 19-year-old pitcher signed a contract with the Washington Senators, thanks to scout Jack Rossiter. He was assigned to the Concord Weavers of the North Carolina State League, where he would spend the next three years.
Hyde got into 10 games in 1948 and ended the year with a 1-2 record and 5.70 ERA in 30 innings. He made 39 appearances in 1949 and won 6 games, including a 9-0 shutout over Hickory on July 6. Hyde pitched with a sidearm delivery, and it was thought that his unconventional pitching style would go far in the majors.
Hyde struggled in 1950, with 13 losses and a 4.78 ERA. Before he could right the ship, he was drafted and missed a couple of seasons for military service. In 1951, he served in Camp Gordon, Ala., where he won 10 consecutive games pitching for the camp’s baseball team.
Hyde returned to professional ball in 1953 at the age of 24, and he finally moved beyond the D-League North Carolina League. Initially assigned to the AA Chattanooga Lookouts, he was blistered in a 3-inning start by the Milwaukee Brewers (an American Association team) and moved to the Class-B Charlotte Hornets. There, he threw the best game of his career to that point — a 1-hit, 5-0 win over the Rock Hill Chiefs on May 17.
“I felt normal out there, but the great factor was control. I put the ball where I wanted to,” he said. That win was one of 9 he would record with the Hornets that season.
Even though his first trip to Chattanooga lasted 3 innings, Hyde would become very familiar with the city, as be spent most of the next three seasons with the Lookouts. He won a total of 29 games there in that span, as he was converted from a starter into a reliever. He also reinvented his pitching style to throw underhanded, at the advice of Senators president Calvin Griffith.
“I didn’t start that submarine style until 1954, although I had been pitching since 1949,” Hyde explained. “After getting out of the service, Cal Griffith was watching me in spring training in 1954. He saw my sidearm and told me to get down lower. That’s how my submarine pitch developed.”
Hyde started pitching with a 3/4 delivery, and over the years his arm kept dropping down. The submarine style gave him his greatest success, but it didn’t come easy. “Every spring I’ve got to work at that sort of delivery again. As I get along in spring training I dip farther and farther down until I’m almost scraping the ground with my knuckles. It becomes natural after a while.”
He made his major league debut with the Senators in April of 1955, when teams were able to start the season with an expanded roster. Hyde appeared in 3 games and allowed a run in 2 innings before he was sent back to Chattanooga. He would not return to the majors until 1957.
The 1957 Washington Senators had a pretty awful starting rotation, so managers Chuck Dressen and Cookie Lavagetto found themselves making frequent calls to the bullpen. Hyde and teammate Tex Clevenger each made 52 appearances, which tied them for second in the AL behind Baltimore’s George Zuverink, who pitched in 56 games. All but two of Hyde’s appearances were relief outings, and he and Clevenger were the only Senators pitchers to have a win-loss record over .500. Hyde won 4 games and lost 3, and he picked up a save as well. His 4.12 ERA was third-best among the staff’s regular pitchers.
In 1958, Hyde transformed into the best reliever in the American League, and possibly the best in baseball. He appeared in 53 games, finished 44 of them (which led the majors) and ended with a 10-3 record, 1.75 ERA and 19 saves (tied with Ryne Duren of the Yankees for best in the AL). Only Pittsburgh’s Roy Face (20) saved more games, though saves wouldn’t become an official statistic until 1969. He also showed the best control of his career, with 35 walks in 103 innings. He struck out a career-best 49 batters as well.
The Senators finished 61-93 on the year. Hyde had a win or a save in 29 of those wins. Nine of the saves were in appearances that lasted at least 2 innings. He was worth 4.5 Wins Above Replacement on the year, which was tied with starter Camilio Pascual for the team’s best performance. The BBWAA named him the 1958 Sophomore of the Year; he beat out Norm Siebern, Tony Kubek, Russ Nixon, Jim Landis and Brooks Robinson for the honor. He also finished 12th in the AL MVP voting.
Hyde could not repeat his success in 1959, thanks to an arm that never felt right. A rough patch in late May raised his ERA past 7.00. The Senators, who rejected trade proposals for Hyde from the Yankees and Cleveland, traded him to Boston in June, but his portion of the deal was canceled when Hyde complained of a sore arm after reporting to the Red Sox. He settled down and at one point in August threw 7 hitless innings over four performances in August. After two seasons of 50+ games, Hyde made 37 appearances for Washington and had a 2-5 record, 5 saves and a 4.97 ERA.
Hyde promised a return to form in 1960. However, the Senators used him into 9 games in April and May before the team sold his contract to the Miami Marlins, an Orioles minor-league affiliate in the International League. Hyde had a 4.15 ERA in those games, but with 5 walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch in 8-2/3 innings.
Hyde pitched in 15 games for the Orioles in 1961, and 14 of them were acceptable. The one bad one game on July 20, when he gave up 6 runs, including a 2-run homer by Rocky Colavito, in one-third of an inning. That one game raised his fine ERA of 3.20 by more than two-and-a-half runs, and his last ballgame came on August 4, when he tossed a scoreless inning against the Angels, striking out two batters. He was sent to the minor leagues a couple of weeks later. After a final 6 games in the minors in 1962, Hyde stepped away from baseball.
In six seasons in the majors, Hyde had a 16-12 record with 25 saves over 169 games. Aside from the 2 starts in 1957, every other game was in relief. He had a 3.56 ERA and struck out 144 batters in 298-1/3 innings, along with 137 walks. For his career, Hyde was worth 5.8 Wins Above Replacement.
Hyde and his wife of 61 years, Karen, returned to Champaign after his playing days, and he worked for the Illinois Power Company. After he suffered a heart attack in the 1980s, they split their time between Champaign and Tucson, Ariz., before settling in Champaign three years ago. He was inducted into the Central High School Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
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