Hitchcock, Orioles manager in 1962 and '63, dies at 89

Baseball

April 11, 2006|By MIKE KLINGAMAN | MIKE KLINGAMAN,SUN REPORTER

Billy Hitchcock, a quiet, pipe-smoking Southerner who managed the Orioles in 1962 and 1963, died Sunday in Opelika, Ala. He was 89.

A one-time journeyman infielder, Hitchcock took over a competitive Orioles team that had finished third in 1961. The next season, however, the Orioles fell to seventh in the 10-team American League. But Hitchcock kept his job and, in 1963, the Orioles bounced back to finish fourth at 86-76.

In 1964, he was replaced by Hank Bauer, a gruff ex-Marine who would lead the club to its first World Series title in 1966.

"Billy didn't have a whole lot to work with here," said Boog Powell, the longtime Orioles first baseman who was then a young outfielder for Hitchcock.

"He was one of the nicest men I ever met. `Dadburnit' was Billy's favorite expression. But he wasn't a pushover by any means," Powell said. "I saw him come down on guys pretty good."

Mostly, though, Hitchcock was "a quiet, even-keeled gentleman" who shunned the spotlight, said Dick Hall, then one of the Orioles' top relief pitchers.

His staff knew how to work the manager, Hall said. When Hitchcock visited the mound, he'd ask the pitcher how he felt.

"If you were gung-ho and said, `I know I can get these guys out,' then Billy would leave you in the game," Hall said. "If you said, `Well, I think I can get them out,' Billy would probably replace you.

"He could be controlled by the tone of your voice."

In 1966, Hitchcock returned to manage the Atlanta Braves for two years. His career record - including a one-game stint as Detroit Tigers manager in 1960 - was 274-261 (.512).

He hit .243 in a nine-year big league career for five AL clubs. In 1951, he hit .306 in 77 games for the Philadelphia Athletics. Hitchcock retired two years later.

Hitchcock was a lieutenant in the Army reserve, earning the Bronze Star for service in the Pacific and three battle stars during World War II.

He was the president of the Southern League during the 1970s before retiring in 1980.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

The Associated Press and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.

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