NO ONE EVER QUESTIONED HOW hard Butch Hobson played on the field during his major league career, but what most people didn't know was how hard he was "playing" off of it.
These days, the rejuvenated, 53-year-old, who manages the Nashua Pride of the independent Atlantic League, talks candidly about his drug use during his playing days and its impact on his career.
"I came up in an era when that (using drugs) was what you were supposed to do. As a good old boy from Alabama, I thought that was the way to fit in. It probably cost me three or four more years of baseball," he said.
Drawing from his own experiences, the former Red Sox third baseman now gives motivational speeches, taking his message about the dangers of substance abuse to young athletes. It's a talk that Hobson, himself, would've benefited from during his formative years.
Hobson manned the hot corner for his high school baseball team and played quarterback for the football team. He would later attend the University of Alabama where he played baseball and served as backup pivot for legendary coach Bear Bryant.
Going into his senior year, Hobson made the decision to concentrate exclusively on baseball. Breaking the news to his dad--who had been a quarterback himself--proved to be easy compared to telling coach Bryant.
"I told coach Bryant my decision and he told me, 'Well, Butch from what I've seen of you on the baseball field, you'll be back playing football for me next year,'" recalled Hobson. "I remember leaving that office in a cold sweat thinking, 'I'm going to show you.' Coach Bryant was always a great motivator."
Fortunately, the determined infielder's gamble paid off and he was selected by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 1973 amateur draft. After two and a half seasons in minors, Hobson made his big league debut on September 7, 1975.
It wasn't until June 1976, however, that he played his inaugural game at Fenway Park--a contest that saw him slug a double and an inside-the-park homer. Over the next four seasons, Hobson's all-out style of play made him a fan favorite. His grit also produced some impressive results: in 1977, he hit 30 homers and drove in 112 runs while batting in the seventh and eighth spot in the batting order for most of the season.
"The hitters we had on that team were amazing. That year proved to me that I belonged in the majors," he said.
After a solid start in 1978, Hobson was sidelined by hamstring and elbow injuries. He rebounded to belt 28 round-trippers and drive in 93 runs in 1979, but Hobson says his arm never felt the same after the previous season's woes. Following a sub-par 1980, he was dealt to the California Angels, where he struggled through another disappointing campaign.
Just prior to the 1982 season, Hobson was traded to the Yankees and played just 30 games with New York before being demoted. The veteran infielder would play three more years for the Yankees Triple-A club in Columbus before retiring as a player.
Soon after his playing days, Hobson started coaching in the Red Sox organization where he swiftly rose through the ranks to become the club's big league manager in 1992.
Unfortunately, the Bosox teams under his reign were hampered by injuries and failed to qualify for the post-season, and he was let go after the 1994 season.
The experienced skipper landed a job managing the Phillies Triple-A squad in Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre in 1996. It was during his tenure there that one of his darkest moments in baseball occurred when he was arrested on a cocaine possession charge. The incident marked a turning point in his life.
Rehired by the Red Sox to manage their single-A team in Sarasota in 1998, Hobson longed to be closer to his family in Vermont. So in 1999, he jumped at the opportunity to manage the Atlantic League's Nashua Pride.
The former big leaguer seems to have found peace in his new career, but he doesn't hide from past mistakes. His personal experiences form the foundation of the motivational speeches he gives to young ballplayers.
"They need to know that drugs are not the beautiful part of the game. Being able to play it is the beautiful part," he said.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Century Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group