Ed Hobaugh — Here’s to You!
This weekend I saw one of my oldest friends for the first time since January. While he is not a baseball fan like me, he’s the kind of guy who still goes to the occasional comic book/baseball card convention, and he had gone to one at Stonestown recently.
He bought some sports cards, all but one baseball (49er receiver Gene Washington). He offered to give me one, and looking through them, mostly early 1970’s cards, there was a good chance I had most of them in my childhood collection, now buried away in a closet somewhere.
One card I’m sure I didn’t have was a 1962 topps Ed Hobaugh card. I don’t think I’d ever heard of him before, but he went 7-9 with a 4.42 ERA for the expansion 1961 Washington Senators and pitched 126 innings that year.
I love players (and baseball cards) like this. 1961 was Hobaugh’s one great MLB hurrah. He pitched pretty well in 26 games, mostly in relief, for the Senators in 1962, pitched ineffectively in nine MLB games in 1963, and that was the end of his major league career, although he continued to pitch in AAA until the 1969 season.
Hobauch was a college pitcher at Michigan State who didn’t pitch professionally until his age 22 season after finishing school and being signed by the White Sox organization. He went 11-4 in the Three-I League in 1956 and threw a no-hitter, but he missed all of the 1957 and 1958 seasons, most likely because of military service.
Hobaugh was a good, but by no means great, AAA pitcher in the American Association in 1959 and the Pacific Coast League in 1960, going a combined 24-18. Hobaugh appears to have been a pitcher without major league stuff who knew how to pitch, maybe comparable to some of the pitchers who find success in the East Asian leagues after failing to make it in MLB today. Pat Misch springs to mind.
At the time of the 1960 American League expansion draft, Hobaugh was still reasonably young, had pitched reasonably well in AAA and hadn’t been protected by the team that originally signed him. But for expansion, Hobaugh probably would have received one or two major league cups of coffee at most. However, the new Senators needed players, and Hobaugh turned out to be probably the team’s fifth best pitcher in their expansion year.
Hobaugh is pretty typical of the players who fill expansion team rosters and who prevent said expansion team from losing 120 games their first season in the Show, but who aren’t good enough to prevent the team from losing 100. For every Jeff Conine that an expansion team finds among the available 27+ year olds, there are probably ten Ed Hobaughs who got their one real chance to be a major leaguer in that first expansion year and then quickly receded as the expansion teams tried to develop younger, potentially more talented players.
At the end of the day, Hobaugh proved he was a real major league, even if was only for a couple of seasons with an expansion team. Ed Hobaugh — here’s to you!