When baseball great and hometown hero Fred Hutchinson found a lump in his neck in 1963, he turned to his brother, Seattle surgeon Dr. Bill Hutchinson. Bill made the unhappy diagnosis: cancer. Fred died of the disease the following year, cutting short his Major League Baseball career at age 45.
By then, Bill had already established the Pacific Northwest Research Foundation to study heart surgery, cancer and endocrine diseases. Upon Fred’s death, he channeled his brotherly devotion into creating a living memorial — a center dedicated to studying cancer. With critical help from U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson and the Seattle community, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center opened its doors in 1975.
Initially located on Seattle’s First Hill, Fred Hutch hired as its first director of medical oncology Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who had spent decades developing an innovative treatment for leukemia and other blood cancers. Thomas and his colleagues were working to cure cancer by transplanting human bone marrow after near-lethal doses of chemotherapy and radiation. At Fred Hutch, Thomas improved this treatment and readied it for widespread use. The pioneering procedure has since saved hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.
Later, Dr. Rainier Storb and colleagues developed a radically different approach to bone marrow transplantation. It offered hope for older or otherwise medically unfit blood cancer patients whose bodies could not withstand the rigors of a conventional transplant. This treatment, called the non-myeloablative stem cell transplant, or “mini-transplant,” does not wipe out bone marrow and involves minimal radiation. Studies have shown that patients are as likely to survive following a reduced-intensity transplant as the conventional transplant.
Thomas received the 1990 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his breakthrough research, establishing a legacy of innovation and excellence that all Fred Hutch researchers strive to follow.
There was a time when the mention of “Hutch,” as Fred Hutchinson was known, conjured instant images of winning baseball. He was a top-flight major league pitcher and manager whose career was cut short by cancer.
In the golden era of Pacific Coast League baseball, Fred’s performance for the Seattle Rainiers in 1938 assumed legendary status. He amassed a sterling 25-7 record, winning his 19th game on his 19th birthday in front of a record crowd that lined the outfield fences three rows deep at Sick's Stadium in Seattle.
Fred then earned national fame with the Detroit Tigers, winning 95 games over 11 years and notching 18- and 17-win seasons in 1947 and 1950. He later managed the Seattle Rainiers and the major league Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, which he piloted to the World Series in 1961.
Tragically, the man known for his tenacity, winning determination and courage died of cancer in 1964.
Emmett Watson, Fred’s friend and a former high school catcher who became Seattle's preeminent newspaper columnist, once quoted Hutch as saying: “The ones who work the hardest are the ones who make it, the ones who win. Sometimes that's the only difference. If you don’t work hard at this game, you might as well hang them up. Sweat is your only salvation.”
Baseball’s Hutch Award
The Hutch Award was created in 1965 in honor of Fred Hutchinson. The award is given each year to a major league player who best exemplifies Hutch’s honor, courage and dedication. Read more about the Hutch Award.