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When Lou Gehrig joined the Yankees in 1923, one of the established catchers was Fred Hofmann. The son of German immigrants and a Navy veteran of the World War, Hofmann joined the Yankees in 1919 and played with them until sent down to the minors in 1925, only to resurface with the Boston Red Sox in 1927 and 1928. Fred’s nickname was a little unorthodox. Following a collision between a sliding runner’s knee and his snout, Hofmann would thereafter be called “Bootnose” or simply “Boot.” A foul ball had also broken his right forefinger so that he always seemed to be pointing around a corner. Early in his career, Hofmann made the mistake of challenging the irascible Ty Cobb. When Cobb came to the plate one afternoon, Hofmann said sarcastically, “So this is the great Georgia Peach?” Cobb snarled, “Listen, busher, I’m going to get on and when I do, I’m coming around.” True to his word, Ty singled, stole second, and raced to score on an infield grounder. Bootnose took the throw to tag Cobb who suddenly became airborne and came in feet first. Hofmann remembered, “One spike caught my chest protector and ripped it to one side, another cut my thigh and tore one shin guard away. We went down. I went one way, the ball another.” Cobb jumped up, brushed dust onto the prone Bootnose, touched home plate, and growled, “Yes, you fresh bush bastard, that WAS the great Georgia Peach!” Following his playing days, Bootnose managed in the minors and coached and scouted for the St. Louis Browns before the team moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Fred was instrumental in signing such stars as Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell and was still scouting for talent when he died in California on November 19, 1964.

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