LaMarr Hoyt, the Chicago White Sox right-hander who coupled outstanding control with a fine sinkerball to win the 1983 Cy Young Award as the American League’s leading pitcher, died on Monday in Columbia, S.C. He was 66.
The cause was cancer, his son Matthew said in a statement on the team’s website.
Hoyt was a student of pitching.
“What I learned to do, and it took all seven years in the minors, was to make the absolute most of the limited talent I had,” he told The New York Times in 1988. “I couldn’t ever blow hitters away, but I could put a ball where I wanted, a fourth of an inch, a sixteenth of an inch, and I could make the ball move. I knew how to attack the corners of the plate.”
But despite his success, Hoyt’s pitching career ended prematurely. He was plagued by a shoulder injury and began abusing drugs, including painkillers. He was arrested several times, spent time in jail and was out of baseball in 1987.
Hoyt led the American League in victories with 19 in 1982, his third full major league season. The next year, his Cy Young season, he posted a 24-10 record with a 3.66 earned run average and 11 complete games while walking only 31 batters over 260 ⅔ innings.
He pitched a complete game in Chicago’s 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of the 1983 American League Championship Series. Following that game, the Times sports columnist Dave Anderson wrote that while Hoyt was listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds, he acknowledged weighing more than 240 and “on the mound, with his beard and his belly,” looked like “a Sunday softball pitcher who belongs in a beer commercial, rather than a Cy Young Award candidate in the American League Championship Series.”
The Orioles won the next three A.L.C.S. games to reach the World Series, where they beat the Philadelphia Phillies.
After the 1984 season, in which the White Sox finished in a fifth-place tie in the American League West and Hoyt’s record fell to 13-18, he was traded to the San Diego Padres. He rebounded in 1985 and was the starting pitcher and most valuable player for the National League in its victory over the American League in the All-Star Game. But he felt pain in his shoulder and was later found to have a torn rotator cuff.
He finished the 1985 season with a 16-8 record, but he was continuing to pitch with pain. He became dependent on drugs and checked into a rehabilitation program early in 1986. He missed most of the Padres’ spring training and went 8-11 that season.
His drug troubles continued. After several arrests on drug-possession charges, the Padres waived him in January 1987. Major League Baseball then suspended him for 60 days. The White Sox later re-signed him, but he was arrested again that December and did not pitch for them.
In eight major league seasons, Hoyt had a 98-68 record with a 3.99 earned run average.
Dewey LaMarr Hoyt Jr. was born on Jan. 1, 1955, in Columbia. His parents divorced when he was a year old. He was an all-around athlete in high school but, as he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 2001, he began using marijuana and having “beers with the boys” while a teenager.
The Yankees selected him in the 1973 major league amateur draft and traded him to the White Sox system in April 1977, in a multiplayer deal that brought shortstop Bucky Dent to Yankee Stadium.
Hoyt and his second wife, Leslie, had two sons, Matthew and Josh, and a daughter, Alexandra. His first marriage ended in divorce. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
After Hoyt’s baseball career ended, he sold sporting goods and household appliances.
“I am not happy about the way I left things in baseball,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 2001, when he and his second wife were raising three children and life was good. “I need to right the wrongs I caused. Everybody who knew me will understand when I say I never will give up.”
Tony LaRussa, who managed the White Sox during Hoyt’s years with them and is now in his second stint with the team, said in a statement upon Hoyt’s death: “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. What a great competitor.”