LaMarr Hoyt, pitcher whose star appears bright but briefly, dies at 66

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LaMarr Hoyt, the Chicago White Sox righthander who paired excellent control with a fine sinker to win the 1983 Cy Young Award as the American League’s leading pitcher, died Monday in Columbia, SC. He was 66.

The cause was cancer, his son Matthew said in a statement on the team’s website.

Hoyt was a pitching student.

“What I learned to do, and it took me seven years in the minors, was to make the most of the limited talent I had,” he told The New York Times in 1988. “I could never blow hitters away, but I could put a ball where I wanted, a quarter inch, a sixteenth 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 with a shoulder injury and started taking drugs, including painkillers. He was arrested several times, spent time in prison, and retired from baseball in 1987.

Hoyt led the American League in victories with 19 in 1982, his third full Major League season. The following year, his Cy Young season, he set a 24-10 record with an average of 3.66 runs earned and 11 complete games, while walking only 31 in 260 ⅔ innings.

He pitched a complete game in Chicago’s 2-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of the 1983 American League Championship Series. After that game, New York Times sports columnist Dave Anderson wrote that although Hoyt was listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds, he admitted he weighed more than 240 and looked “up on the hill, with his beard and his belly.” as “a Sunday softball pitcher who belongs in a beer commercial, rather than a Cy Young Award nominee in the American League Championship Series.”

The Orioles won the next three ALCS games to reach the World Series, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

After the 1984 season, in which the White Sox finished in fifth place in the American League West and Hoyt’s record fell to 13-18, he was traded to the San Diego Padres. He recovered in 1985 and was the starting pitcher and most valuable player for the National League in the 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 record of 16-8, but he continued to throw with pain. He became addicted to drugs and entered a rehabilitation program in early 1986. He missed most of the Padres’ spring training and went 8-11 that season.

His drug problems continued. After several arrests for drug possession, the Padres released 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 in December and did not pitch for them.

In eight Major League-seasons, Hoyt had a record of 98-68 with an average of 3.99 points earned.

Dewey LaMarr Hoyt Jr. was born on January 1, 1955 in Columbia. His parents divorced when he was one year old. He was an all-around athlete in high school, but, as he told The Chicago Sun-Times in 2001, he started using marijuana as a teenager and drinking “beers with the boys.”

The Yankees selected him in the Major League amateur draft in 1973 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 home appliances.

“I’m not happy with 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 have to right the mistakes I’ve caused. Anyone who knew me will understand when I say I’ll never give up.”

Tony LaRussa, who led the White Sox during Hoyt’s years with them and is now in his second stint with the team, said in a statement after Hoyt’s death: “My first impression of LaMarr was, ‘Here’s a pitcher.’ He had average things, but great command and tremendous confidence, and he never showed fear. What a great competitor.”

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