The Hutch Award was created in 1965 in honor of the late Fred Hutchinson, the courageous and inspirational former Major League Baseball player and manager, who died of cancer one year earlier at the age of 45.
Born August 12, 1919, in Seattle, Washington, "Hutch," as he was known, leaped into baseball at an early age. With him as catcher, Emerson School won city Grade School League titles in 1931 and 1933.
Hutch was a pitcher, catcher, first baseman, outfielder and fill-in coach for the champion Franklin High School teams of 1934 – 1937. As a pitcher and outfielder, he spurred the American Legion's Palace Fish teams to national playoffs in 1934 and 1936. In 1937, he narrowed his sights to the pitching mound, hurling for the Northwest League Yakima Indians.
In 1938, in what became Hutch's only season pitching for the Pacific Coast League (PCL) Seattle Rainiers, the public first witnessed the legendary strength that Hutch would display for the rest of his career. He amassed a 25-7 record, winning his 19th game on his 19th birthday before a record Sick's Stadium crowd of 16,354 that lined the outfield fences three rows deep.
The Detroit Tigers quickly picked up Hutch, and he went 95-71 during 11 of the next 15 years (serving in the U.S. Navy from 1942 – 1946), notching major-league career-best 18- and 17-win seasons in 1947 and 1950.
With his tough countenance and competitive demeanor, Hutch became a fan favorite and a leader among his peers (he was American League player representative from 1947 through 1952). It came as no surprise when Hutch was named manager for the Detroit Tigers from 1952 through 1954. He made his final 15 big-league pitching appearances during that stint.
In 1955, Hutch returned to Seattle to manage the Rainiers to the PCL title. Then, in 1956, he bounced back to the majors, switching to the National League, serving as skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals for the next three years and boosting the Redbirds to second place in 1957.
Again, Hutch answered the call of his hometown in 1959, agreeing to manage the Seattle Rainiers. Midway through the season, however, he was called up to the parent club, the Cincinnati Reds, to take over as manager, the position he held until his death.
With Cincinnati, Hutch achieved his greatest feat, pulling the Reds from sixth place in the 1960 National League standings to first place and into the World Series in 1961.
In December 1963, Hutch detected small lumps in his throat and upper chest. He sought help from his brother, Dr. Bill Hutchinson, a Seattle surgeon and cancer researcher. Hutch was told he had no more than a year to live.
Hutch returned to Cincinnati determined to manage the Reds. He received treatment on a regular basis but decided to conceal the true nature of his illness. He told his team and the media that he had been given a clean bill of health.
By mid-season, however, Hutch's illness had overcome him. He was forced to stop traveling, and the team finished under the direction of Coach Dick Sisler. After the season ended, Hutch returned to Florida where he died November 12, 1964, leaving behind his wife and four children.
Over the years, Hutch racked up many awards, including Seattle Sports Star of the Year and the PCL's Most Valuable Player in 1938, and Manager of the Year in 1957 and 1961. Fittingly, following his final season, Sport magazine named him Man of the Year for 1964.
One year after his death, the Hutch Award was created by Hutch's longtime friends Bob Prince, broadcaster of the Pittsburgh Pirates; Jim Enright, Chicago sportswriter; and Ritter Collett, sports editor of the Dayton Journal Herald. They also created a scholarship fund for medical students engaged in cancer research to honor Hutch's memory.
Ranked as one of the top annual awards given to a Major League Baseball player, the Hutch Award has honored greats like Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax. MLB teams have the opportunity to nominate one player from their team that exemplifies the fighting spirit of the legendary leader Fred Hutchinson. Former winners then vote on the nominees to select the next Hutch Award winner. The award is hosted by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and is bestowed annually.