Hobie Landrith - Playing Career - Early Career

Early Career

From age ten to age fourteen, Landrith played for the "Firemen's Midgets" team in the Detroit Amateur Baseball Federation. From fifteen to eighteen, he played with a Class D advanced simon-pure group. Landrith played as a catcher for Northwestern High School in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 15, he would go to Briggs Stadium and help warmup starting pitchers for the Detroit Tigers and help to get Hank Greenberg into shape after Hank returned from military service. Landrith was discovered by the Cincinnati Reds after leading his Detroit team to a second place finish in the 1948 National Junior Amateur Federation Tournament. That year he also participated in the annual East-West all-star game in New York City, being voted the city's most outstanding amateur player by the Detroit Sports Guild.

On February 8, 1949, the Cincinnati Reds signed Michigan State Spartans star catcher Landrith. This angered Spartans coach John Kobs, saying that, "They ought to leave these young players alone and give them a chance to finish college." Reds general manager Warren Giles agreed with the coach's sentiment, but cited that he could not wait any longer to sign Landrith as eight other major league ball clubs were all interested in signing Landrith. The Big Ten Conference made a brief effort to stop the "raid" of the conference of their star players, but nonetheless, the 18-year-old catcher out of Detroit agreed to a four-year contract with the Reds.

At the Reds spring training camp in late March, murmurs started to surface that he was the "hottest thing" in camp. Landrith was a star in the sandlots of Detroit and at Michigan State University. He desperately wanted to play professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers, crying when his father convinced him to sign with Cincinnati. The Tigers offered Landrith a two-year minor league deal worth $8,000. However, Cincinnati offered him a four-year major league contract at $6,000 per year, totaling $24,000. Landrith learned that the Tigers had paid a $75,000 bonus to catcher Frank House, so he thought the Tigers had too much money tied up in House that he would never be given much of a chance. Landrith played in spring training games for the Reds before being assigned to the minor league baseball Class A Charleston Senators of the Central League. He had a .250 batting average with 111 total bases in 110 games played.

In January 1950, Landrith signed a new deal with the Cincinnati Reds. On March 10, he was assigned to the Tulsa Oilers of the Class AA Texas League. In the opening game for Tulsa against the Dallas Eagles on April 11 at the Cotton Bowl, Landrith went 1 for 2 with a double before breaking his left ankle as he slid into home plate.

While Landrith was still recovering from his ankle injury, the Cincinnati Reds brought him up the Major Leagues and placed him on the disabled list. Landrith joined the Reds squad when they played an exhibition game in Detroit, his home town, on June 12. He worked out with the team from there on out, traveling with the team on all road trips, catching in batting practice and pulling bullpen duty. On July 30, the top three catchers on the Reds' depth chart were all recovering from ailing injuries. Johnny Pramesa had a sprained ankle sustained the day before on July 29, Bob Scheffing was having problems with his left elbow, and Dixie Howell's throwing hand had been sore. Reds Manager Luke Sewell made the decision to finally give Landrith his first major league start that day at the Boston Braves, singling in his first at bat off Braves starter Vern Bickford and driving in a run. Landrith played in three more games through August 8 before he was no longer used in games and resumed his duty of working solely in practice roles.

Landrith signed his new contract to play with the Reds in late January 1951. He attended spring training with the Reds, but at the end of March became the first player cut from the roster, being optioned to the Buffalo Bisons of the Class AAA International League. Offensively, Hobie struggled at Buffalo, putting up a .191 average in 98 games. He suffered another injury in early August, but in mid-September he received another call up to the majors for the Reds. Landrith again only played in four games, but collected one or more hits in each game, including three runs scored.

Landrith again joined the Reds in the Grapefruit League for spring training in 1952, and again was optioned to the minor leagues in late March for more seasoning. This time he was sent back to Class AA Tulsa of the Texas League. This time, however, Landrith had the best season of his short professional career yet, hitting for a .300 batting average with 114 hits in 118 games played. His batting average was good enough for 13th in the Texas League. On September 4, Landrith was rewarded for his great play by being called upon once more to join the Reds squad. This time, however, he was given many more opportunities to show what he was made of. Landrith started the majority of the Reds' final 17 games, hitting .260 with 4 runs batted in over that span, including a four hit day against the Boston Braves on September 10 and a three hit day on the last game of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 28, both contributing to a Reds victory. Even though he played in only 16 games, Landrith was awarded the distinction of being one of only three catchers in the entire National League to not have been charged a passed ball.

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