Fred Hatfield and I did not become friends until later in his life. I had the “Coffee Break” TV show and he was a scout for Gene Autry and the Los Angeles Angels.
Autry being my cowboy idol, I asked Fred if he had met Gene and when he said he had, I knew he would be my friend. On many occasions we would meet at Hardee's in Tallassee; Bobby Ellis, Bobby Stalnaker and others always met each day in our corner of Hardee's, where we ruled the roost.
One day I received a phone call and it was Fred Hatfield.
“I need a favor,” he said.
“Sure,” was my answer.
“My mother passed away sometimes back and I want to sell her house,” Fred said. “W0ould you fix me up a couple of signs and also tell the people it's for sale on your show?”
I did what he asked and it sold quickly. He came to see me and offered to pay and I answered anybody that's a friend of mine and a friend of Gene Autry's doesn't owe me anything.
When I was a boy growing up here in Tallassee, my daddy took The Birmingham News. We could have gotten The Montgomery Advertiser but we always took The News. We went all the way back to John, Billy and Pete Bowles delivering the paper. Fred Hatfield was a star infielder for the Birmingham Barons at that time and also from Tallassee, so that kind of made him a hero to all the boys around my age. We kept up with him through The Birmingham News.
Let me go back and give you a little history on a poor boy who made good. Fred's daddy was a cotton mill worker and so was his mother. His daddy claimed he was from West Virginia and his kinfolks were part of the Hatfields of Hatfields and McCoys feuding fame. Fred's daddy left his mama some months before he was born. She continued to work in the mill and raise Fred. They moved to Reeltown and then to Carrville-Tallassee.
Fred had a great ability for playing third base and this caught the eye of a lot of people. Fred decided to go to Troy and there he not only played baseball but also football and basketball. Before he could get going good he joined the Army; World War II was raging and he went in and stayed until the end of the war.
He married Dot Meyer and they had a son, Fred Hatfield Jr., in 1946. Fred was playing minor league ball and also trying to make a living refereeing basketball and football. He continued to do this after his career got better because of his love for sports. He was a tall, lanky fellow and he wasn't afraid to step into a pitched ball. He got the name “Scrap Iron Hatfield” for his antics. In 1950 he got called up to the Red Sox and was one of the best third basemen in the majors.
Fred could never get his batting average up to the level that was expected of him and he was finally sent back to the minors where he was a manager-player for six or seven years. He even coached at Florida State University for a couple of years. He left there for a scouting job with Autry and the Los Angeles Angels where he stayed from 1987 through 1995. This is during the time period I got to know him.
In 1996 he went with the New York Yankees and stayed a scout until his death in 1998. In later years Fred's first wife died and he married again. I read an article by William Akin and he said although Fred and his second wife Shirley devoted a lot of time searching for his father, Fred never got to meet him and it was presumed he changed his name and was dead.
Fred Hatfield died in 1998 in Tallahassee, Florida, and is buried there. I liked him as a man, I liked him as a baseball player and I liked him because he was a friend of my boyhood idol, Gene Autry.