Before the name “Fred Hutch” was synonymous with groundbreaking cancer research, it was the name of an MVP pitcher who built an auspicious career in Major League Baseball on the merits of both his talent and his tenacity.
Born in Seattle in 1919, Fred “Hutch” Hutchinson may well have celebrated his 100th birthday this year, had he not been felled early by the disease his namesake research center aims to cure. Fred was recognized as a talented ball player early on, bringing wins and titles to Seattle's Franklin High School. In 1938, at the age of 19, he was offered a spot on the Pacific Coast League team, the Rainiers, the only professional league in town at the time.
Within a year, Fred was picked up by the Detroit Tigers, where he celebrated 95 wins over 11 years. He went on to manage both of his former teams as well as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds, whom he led to the World Series in 1961. Named Manager of the Year twice, Fred was known for his fierce competitive streak and fiery determination, making him a fan and player favorite.
Fred was managing the Reds in 1963 when he found concerning lumps in his throat and chest. He traveled home to seek the help of his brother Bill, a surgeon and cancer researcher. Tragically, Bill had to deliver harrowing news: Fred had cancer and the grim prognosis of only one year to live. Determined to support his team, Fred kept his illness quiet and returned to Cincinnati—a decision that reflected the grit and determination he was known for. Despite his resolve, by mid-season, Fred was too sick to remain involved with the team and was forced to bow out.
Fred’s golden career was cut short in the winter of 1964, when he died at the young age of 45—a heartbreak for his fans, team, and family, including four children. Bill, reckoning with the fact that he hadn’t been able to save his brother, established the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center with critical support from the Seattle community and a vision of eliminating the disease. The research center came out swinging, pioneering bone marrow transplantation, which was the first proof of the power of the human immune system to cure cancer. More than 1.3 million people worldwide have now undergone this lifesaving procedure. Fred Hutch also opened the first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program.
A year after Fred's death, three of his friends, all sports journalists who had witnessed his career and character over the years, created the Hutch Award®. Now in its 54th year, the Hutch Award is granted annually to an MLB player who embodies Fred’s courage and commitment. Past winners like Sandy Koufax and Al Kaline vote annually to select the new Hutch Award recipient, who is celebrated at the annual luncheon, held on the field of T-Mobile Park. This year's winner is Stephen Piscotty of the Oakland A's, who was chosen for his remarkable comeback after the death of his mother from ALS.
While Piscotty will be on the road with the A's, sending his acceptance via video, attendees will hear in-person from keynote speaker Jim Abbott, an MLB player who particularly exemplifies Fred’s spirit. Born without a right hand, Abbott pitched for four MLB teams and played in the 1988 Olympics—and won the Hutch Award himself in 1995.
The luncheon provides an opportunity for Fred Hutch supporters and baseball lovers to gather and reflect on Fred’s spirit and how it is echoed in the critical work of Fred Hutchinson Research Center. Fierce determination and collaboration are key components of the center’s ethos and its success in driving forward revolutionary ideas and lifesaving treatments—all supported by generous donations.
On the 100th anniversary of Fred's birth, his namesake institute is leading the world in developing T-cell immunotherapies, which boost the immune system's ability to recognize and eliminate cancer. They're partnering with local tech leaders to apply cutting-edge data science to improve and tailor care. And Fred Hutch discoveries about causes of cancer have resulted in interventions, like the HPV vaccine, that has helped to prevent untold deaths.
Since 2000, the luncheon has raised a cumulative $6.5 million—funds that are accelerating progress toward a future where there are curative approaches for all cancers. Join in on Thursday, July 18, to honor the spirit of “Hutch” and support research that brings the world ever closer to cures.
To learn more about the Hutch Award and register for the event, visit fredhutch.org/hutchaward.