CHICAGO – On one of the most celebrated teams in club history, he was one of the brightest stars.
The White Sox top pitcher in 1983 was the best in the American League that season, aiding their run to the playoffs for the first time in 24 years and also helping get that postseason off on the right foot.
That’s how former teammates and fans are remembering the late LaMarr Hoyt after his death at the age of 66 in Columbia, South Carolina due to cancer, which was announced by his son, Matthew, through a release from the White Sox.
“He genuinely loved being a part of the White Sox organization, and I can say without a doubt those were the best years of his life. All he talked about in his final days was baseball, the White Sox and all of his former teammates,” said Matthew Hoyt.
Debuting with the White Sox in 1979, Hoyt spent six of his eight major league seasons in Chicago, going 74-49 with a 3.92 ERA as he posted a winning record in four of his six seasons. After going 9-3 in 1980 and 1981, Hoyt led the American League in wins with 19 in 1982 while sporting a 3.53 ERA.
“My first impression of LaMarr was, ‘Here is a pitcher’. He had average stuff but amazing command and tremendous confidence, and he never showed fear,” said current White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who was the leader of the team during Hoyt’s tenure with the club. “We brought him up to the big leagues in 1979 and nothing bothered him. He had this impressive cool where he believed if he made his pitches, he would get hitters out.
“He faced teams multiple times in a season but could change up his looks and keep them off balance. What a great competitor.”
His finest and most memorable season in baseball came in 1983 when he went 24-10 with a 3.66 ERA, leading Major League Baseball in wins while striking out 148 batters compared to 31 walks. That effort earned him the American League’s Cy Young Award, becoming the second in the history of the White Sox to receive the honor at that time. Jack McDowell would win the Cy Young in 1993 when the club won their next West Division championship.
Hoyt’s efforts helped the White Sox to 99 wins and their first American League West division championship, which put them in the postseason for the first time since their pennant-winning 1959 season.
On October 5, 1983, Hoyt had the most memorable performance of his career in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Orioles at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. He pitched a complete game, allowing just one run on five hits without a walk and four strikeouts in a 2-1 win over the hosts to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
It was the White Sox first win since Game 5 of the 1959 World Series, but it was the only one they would get as the Orioles would win the next three games to take the series. Hoyt was scheduled to start Game 5 at Comiskey Park had the series gone that far.
“LaMarr was a great pitcher and a great teammate. We would sit around and talk pitching for hours,” said former White Sox teammate Richard Dotson, who won 22 games for the White Sox in 1983. “He really knew how to pitch. His stuff was never great, but he had a great sinker and exceptional command. LaMarr, Britt Burns, Harold Baines and I all came up to the big leagues around the same time and grew up together, which eventually led to that memorable 1983 season.
“We are all going to miss him.”
After going 13-18 with a 4.77 ERA in 1984, the White Sox traded him to the Padres in a major deal that brought young San Diego prospect Ozzie Guillen to the South Side. He would win Rookie of the Year for the White Sox in 1985 while Hoyt would make his first and only All-Star Game with the Padres as he went 16-8 with a 3.47 ERA.
After that season, Hoyt would only pitch one more in major league baseball with the Padres before having a rotator cuff problem in his pitching arm along with run-ins with law enforcement due to issues with drugs. Hoyt was arrested three times in 1986 for drug possession charges and even spent time in jail, then was arrested a fourth time in 1987 after the White Sox had resigned the pitcher in hopes of restarting his career.
Hoyt would return to Chicago on a few occasions for the anniversary of 1983 team, and even threw out the first pitch with his son Matthew at then US Cellular Field on July 6, 2014.