1947
FRED HATFIELD   3B

Fred Hatfield was born in Lanett, Alabama, on March 18, 1925. When he reached high school age, the high-school baseball coach in Troy, North Carolina, who had heard of Fredís athletic ability and the familyís economic struggles, recruited him. His single mom allowed him to move to North Carolina, where he lived with the coach. After playing football, basketball, and baseball at Troy, he was signed to a professional contract in 1942 by Boston Red Sox.

Fred was sent to Canton, Ohio, of the fast Class C Mid-Atlantic League, where he struggled and hit only .167. He was then shipped to Danville, Virginia in the Class D Bi-State League, where he improved his average to .260.

Baseball now had to wait until after World War II. After the 1942 season, Fred entered Troy (Alabama) State Teachers College, but after one term he enlisted in the Army and served throughout the war as a paratrooper. When he was discharged, Fred returned to Troy State as a physical-education major and somehow managed to play football and basketball at Troy even though he had played professional baseball. 

In the late 1940s, he also began refereeing basketball games, a practice he continued for a decade. He eventually worked his way up to officiating Southeastern Conference games. 

He returned to baseball in 1946 and spent the next five seasons in the minors. The Red Sox jumped him to Triple-A Louisville in 1948, but he quickly developed a reputation for drinking and carousing, so the Sox demoted him all the way down to Class B, Lynn, Mass, in the New England League. That demotion served as a wake-up call for him.

The Red Sox promoted him to Birmingham of the Double-A Southern Association, where in 1949 and 1950 he posted the two best seasons of his career. He smashed 25 home runs in 1949 and in 1950 he homered 27 times. His Birmingham performance earned him a late season call-up by the Red Sox in 1950. In his first full season in the majors, 1951, he batted a meager .172.

When the Red Sox retooled in 1952, Fred did not fit into their plans. Batting .320 for the first month of the season gave him trade value however, and iIn June 1952, the Red Sox packaged him in a nine-player trade that sent him to Detroit.

The trade to Detroit gave him the opportunity to play on a regular basis. He established himself as the American Leagueís slickest fielding third baseman, leading the circuit in fielding average and assists, but he batted only .236 for the Tigers.  In June, the Tigers traded for Ray Boone, a third baseman with power, and Boone became the regular third baseman, relegating Fred to a utility role for the remainder of 1953 and for 1954. 

In 1955, he won the second-base job, but in 1956, he lost the second-base job to Frank Bolling. Fred then expected to be traded and went to the White Sox. By 1957 it had become clear that he was just hanging on. In a part-time role again, he hit a weak .202. After the season, Hatfield went to Cleveland, but he Indians in turn traded him to Cincinnati and then reacquired him for cash less than a month later. After just three games, Cleveland sent him to San Diego of the Pacific Coast League. His major-league playing career over, Fred played six more years in the minors. After two seasons in the Pacific Coast League split between San Diego and Spokane, he got the opportunity to manage. 

His 1960 and 1961 seasons as player-manager at Little Rock in the Southern Association was his most gratifying. In 1961 he batted .315 for a third-place team and earned his first Manager of the Year award. When the Southern Association folded after the 1961 season, he caught on as player-manager of the expansion Houston Colt 45s farm team in Modesto of the Class C California League. 

In 1963 he started the season as a player-coach with the Triple-A Denver Bears, a Milwaukee Braves farm club, but in nine games he hit a weak .188 with no extra-base hits. In June Detroit signed him to manage its team at Jamestown of the Class A New York-Pennsylvania League. He played in three games, batting .364, but it was obvious his playing days were over.

After Jamestown, Fred landed the job as baseball coach at Florida State University in Tallahassee. It proved to be a good match and he made his home in Tallahassee until his death. In five years at the helm of the Seminoles, his team won 161 games while losing only 57. His teams made the NCAA tournament every year and the College World Series once. The Florida State University Hall of Fame inducted him in 1999.

Concerned about money in his retirement, he returned to professional baseball in 1968. St. Louis hired him as a minor-league instructor and later as manager of its short-season team in Lewiston, Idaho, where he won the Northwest League pennant in 1970.

He returned to the Detroit organization, where he worked for eight years. At the helm of the Tigersí Double-A franchise in Montgomery, Alabama, of the Southern League, Hatfield guided his club to two consecutive championships, winning both regular-season division and playoff titles in 1972 and 1973. Detroit promoted him to Triple-A Evansville of the American Association. After placing third in the East Division in 1974, his club jumped to the top of the East in 1975.

After three championships in four years, he hoped for a major-league managing post. He was passed over, but Detroit manager Ralph Houk brought him to the Tigers as third-base coach, for the 1977 and 1978 seasons.

The Tigers gave him another chance to manage in the organization, managing a bad 1979 Lakeland team in the Florida State League. He had a losing season in 1980 at Richmond of the International League, and in 1981, he was reduced to managing a rag-tag co-op team at San Jose in the California League.

Fred then scouted for Oakland for three years, 1982-1984. For the remainder of his life Fred scouted, first for California (1987-1995) and then for the Yankees (1996-1998).

Fred Hatfield died on May 22, 1998, after a struggle with cancer, at 73 years old, in Tallahassee, Florida.