Jack Buck Versus Harry Caray? Cardinals Pitcher Dick Hughes Sorts Out the Pair In Two Words!

Hughes maintained that tight signature!

He finished second to Tom Seaver in 1967 National League Rookie of the Year balloting. A rotator cuff injury snuffed out his rising stardom in just three seasons.

Nevertheless, pitcher Dick Hughes remains a control master. He says so much in so few words.

Hughes debuted in St. Louis in September, 1966. I asked if he recalled interviews with broadcasters Jack Buck and Harry Caray, and the resulting impressions of each.

“Jack Buck was REAL; Harry not so! EGO.”

Before Tim McCarver logged decades as a broadcaster, he served as a batterymate. As a catcher, did Hughes find him either wise or witty during conferences on the mound?

“A trip to the mound in a ticklish situation in Philly. What he said to do I did and we won the game.”

Hughes served as part of the inaugural class of Redbirds breaking in “new” Busch Stadium. Having pitched nine minor league seasons, did Hughes consider the new ballpark a luxury?

“Dimensions were fine, but playing got extremely hot. Grass is best.”

The what-if career of Dick Hughes is fully described in this fine profile by Bob Netherton, found on the http://www.i70baseball.com/ website.

Catching Cardinal ‘Cot’ Deal

Catch “Cot” in the
1994 Topps Archives.
His Sig Still Sparkles!

Am I waving the white flag as a collector?

Not quite. I still crave quality responses from former players. This month, I’ll be sharing those, too. However, I’m beginning 2011 by appreciating the letter I send, too.

I wrote to Ellis “Cot” Deal, nicknamed for his cotton-top hair. Including his signature, I received just 20 words back. No complete sentences. Nevertheless, I was so pleased that he responded over the holiday break. He’ll be 88 on Jan. 23.

Most of all, I wanted to send my thanks to Cot. He’s a World  War II veteran. Plus, he’s survived prostate cancer. Two inspirations.

“Thanks, Tom.”

I asked about his 1954 victory against the Cincinnati Reds. In that 14-12 slugfest, the pitcher collected two RBI to make the difference. What did he remember?

“The double I hit.”

In more than a decade as a major league pitching coach, I was sure Cot would have a favorite accomplishment. Sounding like a political candidate, he replied gently with his greatest pleasure of that tenure:

“Having so many proteges.”

He knew Fred Hutchison as a teammate and boss. If “Hutch” hadn’t been taken so early by cancer, what kind of managerial career could Cot have foreseen for his friend?

“The best.”

I enclosed a second piece of stationery as usual. This allows the former player not to try writing microscopically in the margins. When I noted that I’d like to know any of Cot’s thoughts about 48 years in pro ball, he responded:

“Too many, Tom.

Good luck, Tom —

Cot Deal”

What lessons did I learn from this letter? I believe that some retirees will always attempt to offer same-day responses to fan mail. When someone is facing an 88th birthday, their urge for speed might grow. No problem. I like to think of Mr. Deal sitting in his Oklahoma apartment, admiring that stationery I made for him, printing out his career in a one-paragraph series of headlines atop the page. I consider it his first birthday present. He can spend the winter pondering what memories he’d choose to fill that page. It can be a letter to himself.

One of my favorite sites, Baseball Almanac, relied on Pat Doyle to glean more answers from Cot Deal.

%d bloggers like this: