The Obit For Buddy Hancken

Hancken moves on to Field of Dreams

Published February 18, 2007 01:03 am -

By Jason Rollinson

Southeast Texas News Group

Baseball is America’s national pasttime, with a history dating back to the late 19th century. Few players and coaches have been able to tell stories that span six decades, but Morris Medlock “Buddy” Hancken had no problem talking about the game for hours.

Hancken, born in Birmingham, Ala., but a resident of Orange since retiring in 1991, died Thursday at The Meadows in Orange at the age of 92.

However, the tales he told to many will live on for generations. Because his body was donated to science at the Parker Chiropractic School in Dallas, a memorial service will not be held until a later date.

“He told me that maybe someone can learn something,” Kay Kline, his oldest daughter, said. “Maybe there was something they could discover that would help others live longer.”

The family-man, father of two, grandfather of two and great-grandfather of two began his baseball career in the minor leagues in the late 1930s with the Toledo Mud Hens and Seattle Rainiers. He later grabbed the chance of a lifetime when the “man in the suit,” Hall-of-Fame manager Connie Mack, purchased his contract and knew he could catch knuckleballs and wanted him as the fourth catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics.

Several days passed and Hancken was privileged enough to meet the baseball greats, most notably Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.

“Most of the players didn’t like Cobb, but Buddy was a young guy and decided to go over and introduce himself when they played the Tigers,” said Dr. Bill McCurdy, Houston baseball historian and acting president of the Board of Directors for the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. “It was a cordial conversation and Buddy was always glad he did that.

“He also had the same experience and shook hands with Babe Ruth days later,” McCurdy said.

Then on May 14, 1940, Hancken finally got his chance.

“One day I got word down in the bullpen that Mr. Mack wanted to see me right away,” Hancken told McCurdy in an earlier conversation. “We were beating up on Cleveland at Shibe Park and I guess Mr. Mack wanted to give the regular guy a little rest. He told me to put my equipment on and go catch the top of the 9th.”

Hancken got his one big-league putout on a strike out, but failed to get an at-bat.

“Getting a chance to play gave me the confidence to speak up to Mr. Mack about playing more. I said, ‘Mr. Mack, please either play me more or get rid of me,’” Hancken said. “Mr. Mack didn’t say much, but I got my answer. The next day he sent me down to their farm club at Williamsport and I spent the rest of the season there.”

Hancken, who also served as a Master Mason for 65 years, went on to fight in World War II for the Marine Corps stationed as a BARI (Browning automatic rifle instructor) but would not leave baseball behind forever. He managed 10 different minor league teams and also spent time as a professional scout for several clubs.

In 1950, Hancken rented his Beaumont home to Hall-of-Famer Rogers Hornsby, who was the manager of the Texas League Beaumont Exporters for the season.

Hancken went on to accept the manager’s job for the Waco Pirates of the Class B Big State League, where he would manage current Cincinnati Reds manager Jack McKeon and Joe Brown, son of the late comedian, Joe E. Brown.

MORRIS M. "BUDDY" HANCKEN passed away on February 15, 2007 at The Meadows in Orange, Tx. Beloved father of Kaaren Hancken Kline of Bridge City, Tx. and Candace Hancken Begnaud of New Orleans, LA, companion of Maurelle McDonald of Orange, TX, brother of Eva Hancken Dorrance of Birmingham, AL, grandfather of Thomas Matthew Kline of Lafayette, LA and Gretchen Kline Phillips of Bridge City, TX, great-grandfather of Katrina Dawn Phillips of Bridge City, TX and Jack Fletcher Kline of Lafayette, LA. Buddy was born in Birmingham, AL. August 30, 1914 to Charles Hancken and Mary Iris Crowder Hancken. He married Hazel Geraldine Lovell in Beaumont, TX, on December 24, 1938. He was predeceased by parents, wife Hazel, brothers Osband Hancken and Jack Hancken, sisters Etta Mae Hancken Trotter and Mollye Hancken Gamble. His professional baseball career spanned six decades, including one game with the Philadelphia Athletics under Connie Mack, managing various minor league teams, and as a professional baseball scout. He coached five years with the Houston Astros, worked in the Season Ticket office and headed the Astros Speakers Bureau for 20 years. Buddy always said he was a lucky guy because he never had a job he didn't love. Several achievements in his life include serving in the US Marine Corps during World War II, being a 65 year Master Mason with El Mina Temple, and being inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994. He retired to Orange, TX 16 years ago to be near family. In keeping with his philosophy of life, he has donated his body to Parker Chiropractic School in Dallas, TX. Donations in his memory may be made to First United Methodist Church in Orange, TX or the charity of your choice.