A former Astros manager in the team's early years passed away earlier this morning. Grady Hatton, who managed the team from 1966 through the middle of 1968, died from complications due to cancer.
Hatton was born in Beaumont, Texas and attended the University of Texas at Austin. He played 12 seasons in the majors primarily as a third baseman for the Reds, White Sox, Red Sox, Cardinals, Orioles and Cubs. He compiled a .254 career average with 91 home runs and 1068 hits, and was named to the 1952 NL All Star team. Hatton got his start in Houston managing the Houston Buffs, a Cubs minor league team before joining the expansion Houston Colt .45s in 1962 as their director of player personnel. He took over as managed in 1996 while also serving as the team's vice president, an interesting multitask that you could only find at that particular time in baseball.
Hatton had a rough go with the new Astros in his time as manager on a team of familiar names such as Dierker, Wynn, Staub and Morgan. The talented but young Astros went 72-90 in '66, 69-93 in '67 and 72-90 again in his last season. He was replaced by Harry Walker in the middle of the 1968 season, ending his tenure as Astros manager.
That didn't end Hatton's time with the team, however. He stayed on as a scout after he was fired, then served as first base coach in 1973 and third base coach in '74, years where the Astros saw drastic improvement as they became a .500 team. Hatton remained active in the game until the late 1980s, when he served as a scout for the San Francisco Giants.
Though Grady Hatton only served as manager for a few short years without great results, he's considered a baseball lifer for the Astros, as he served in many different roles with the club. His ties to Beaumont, UT and the Astros are special to me as well, as I have personal experiences with all three places and teams. He fostered the early development of many talented ballplayers in Houston and the rest of the league, and is remembered as a pioneer of baseball in Houston.