Where Are They Now: Gerald Hannahs was DeBriyn's first scholarship baseball player

By: Clay Henry
Published: Saturday, April 29, 2023
Arkansas basketball player Dusty Hannahs (center) stands with his parents Gerald (right) and Lynette before a 2017 game in Fayetteville.
( Arkansas Athletics )
Arkansas basketball player Dusty Hannahs (center) stands with his parents Gerald (right) and Lynette before a 2017 game in Fayetteville.

If you want to have fun, spend some time with Gerald Hannahs. He might have fun at your expense, but it was usually fun for you, too. He’s a giant of a man with a big heart.

The simple scouting report has always been big, gregarious and talented.

How talented emerged three years into his pro career when the Montreal Expos placed the undrafted free agent lefty from Arkansas at their Class AA farm in Quebec.

By the end of the summer, Hannahs was getting outs in Major League Baseball. He went 20-6 in that minor league season, then 2-0 for the Expos when they called him up in August.

It was a bittersweet time. Hannahs would get parts of four MLB seasons with the Expos and Los Angeles Dodgers, but he might have worn out his big arm in that grand summer of 1976.

The Little Rock native said it was all about pitching deep into games in those days. He said pitch counts were ignored.

“I know I threw 200 pitches in one day in college and I was pitching a lot of innings in that ’76 season, probably too much,” he said. “But I was having a blast. Everyone pitched more in those days.

“Heck, I won two games in a doubleheader in college. It was fun.”

Hannahs has some neat memories, like getting the first victory in Olympic Stadium for the Expos during that August call up.

“I got a hit,” he said. “I also gave up a home run to Mike Schmidt. That ball went so far it carried a stewardess.”

Those were the days when he found a best friend for life, the legendary Dusty Baker.

“I met him when I was at the Expos and when I got called up by the L.A. Dodgers, he was there and I didn’t have a place to live,” Hannahs said. “He asked me to move into his home. We became great friends and we still talk a lot.”

Baker got the big trophy last year as manager of the Houston Astros. Soon after the World Series was completed, a package arrived at the Hannahs home outside of Little Rock.

“It was the jersey he wore in the World Series, signed to my son,” Hannahs said.

That would be the rock star shooting guard son of Gerald and Lynette, former Razorback sharpshooter Dusty Hannahs. He scored 1,047 points in two seasons with the Hogs after starting his career at Texas Tech. Dusty Hannahs led the SEC in made three-point baskets with 81 in 2017.

He is still chasing his NBA dream. He has played parts of two seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, starred in the G League and represented Team USA in world competition in Uruguay.

“He’s good enough to play [in the NBA], just needs a place,” Gerald Hannahs said of his son, officially named Gerald III.

The nickname came about almost the same way Baker got his moniker.

“Dusty told me he got his nickname because he was always playing in the dirt and rough housing as a kid,” Hannahs said. “We named our son Gerald III, and because my father was also Gerald, we thought he needed a nickname. He played in the dirt, too. It just seemed right. So we named him after Dusty Baker.

“We were living in the country and teaching him how to slide in the dirt. It just stuck.”

Arkansas baseball coach Norm DeBriyn has confirmation from the other end that Hannahs and Baker are best friends.

“This was in the early 1980s and I had my staff, along with our wives, at the coaches convention,” DeBriyn said. “We were at a social event and Dusty ended up talking to our wives. They said, ‘Y’all are from Arkansas? My best friend Gerald Hannahs is from Arkansas.’ He meant it, too.”

DeBriyn claims Hannahs as his first scholarship offer at Arkansas, in the summer of 1970. He had just become head coach.

“I went to Little Rock and stayed in the east part of the city with the father of Borys Malczycki,” DeBryin said. “Borys had told me that Colonial Bread had two players I should take. We recruited Gerald and their shortstop, Bruce Mitchell.

“They got all we were offering then, books and tuition. So they were my first signees.”

Hannahs said he also had partial scholarship offers from Arkansas State and Ole Miss, but he felt a pull to be a Razorback.

“We didn’t play much of a schedule those first few years,” DeBriyn said. “We played only 41 games that 1971 season — our teams win 41 these days — and we were not in the SWC. We got in in 1974, Gerald’s last year.”

Hannahs had three strong seasons. He was hurt most of the 1973 season as a junior, pitching only about 20 innings.

Hannahs’ best numbers came as a senior when he went 5-5 with 83 strikeouts in 68 innings. He made eight starts and had a team-best 3.16 ERA.

Freshman records are sketchy, but the UA media guide lists Hannahs as the all-time best on the ERA list at 1.93. It’s listed as 1.79 in another area of the media guide.

Hannahs is listed eighth on the all-time UA strikeout list with 225, but he points out that everyone ahead of him pitched at least 100 more innings.

“We just didn’t play as many games as they play these days,” Hannahs said.

DeBriyn said Hannahs threw hard for his era, probably a little over 90 mph with his fastball. However, it wasn’t velocity that made him tough.

“Umpires would tell me that Gerald’s fastball just exploded with movement late in the zone,” DeBriyn said. “His curveball was just OK. It was that fastball that jumped at the end that made him tough.

“His senior year, he pitched really well at Baylor early in the year and that got some scouts talking about him. So after the season when he didn’t get drafted, I drove him to Tulsa and he threw for [scout] Red Murff.”

Hannahs was signed on the spot. He chuckles at the signing bonus.

“I got a ticket to Florida to the academy started by the Royals where six teams worked out in the summer,” Hannahs said. “That’s all I got, a ticket to Sarasota, Florida.”

It was plenty. Hannahs was living his dream.

“I got to be around a lot of great players,” he said. “When I got to the Dodgers, they had Don Sutton, Burt Hooten, Tommy John and a great list of pitchers. They had Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Steve Yeager. Dusty and Reggie Smith were in the outfield.”

He met Baker for the first time at a nightclub as a minor leaguer.

“I told him I’d talked to him once before,” Hannahs said. “Our legion team would sit in the bleachers in right field at Ray Winder Field [in Little Rock]. Dusty came to town and played right field. So we talked to him every inning. He was like that. I recall that Ralph Garr was playing center field. Right field at Ray Winder was a great place to watch baseball.”

Hannahs loved Baker so much that when the Chicago Cubs hired him as manager there was a pull to get a place near Wrigley Field and buy season tickets.

“During those years he managed the Cubs, I attended over 1,000 of his games at Wrigley,” Hannahs said. “We followed him at other stops, too. It was just so fun.

“I just always thought so much of Dusty Baker. He just carried himself different than other ball players. He was always the ultimate leader. I’m so happy for him over the title with the Astros.

“We talk about a lot of things, more than baseball. We check in with each other about the stock market. We just have stayed close friends.”

They probably were investing their meager baseball funds, but Gerald didn’t invest his check from baseball trading card company Topps.

“Yeah, when we did the deal for my rookie card, Topps sent me a $5 check,” he said. “I decided to just keep it. I still have the check.”

Most of the Topps cards have his first name wrong.

“I’ve never been anything but Gerald,” he said. “It says ‘Gerry.’ The people who know me call me Gerald, but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

Hannahs was a big talent. At 6-3, 215 pounds, he was a superb basketball player at Little Rock Hall, a power forward with slick lefty moves around the basket. He was a live wire on the court. He played with a swagger and a fun attitude. He recalls a great victory.

“My senior year we won at Little Rock Central,” he said, noting the win over the eventual state champ Tigers.

But it was clear baseball was his sport. He confesses that mostly he just played for fun.

“I’m not sure I really got with it much,” he said. “I do recall a game against Checker Cab, our best rival, with five or six scouts to see Johnny Peace and Johnny Johnson — both drafted — that I tried to impress. I had 16 strikeouts in seven innings.

“Except for that game and maybe a few others, I was just happy go lucky when I pitched. I thank Borys for convincing Norm to come look at me.”

Hannahs credits his years throwing the daily newspaper every morning for his big arm.

“No doubt,” he said. “I had a cannon. When I was 12 through about 15, I threw 150 papers every morning. That Sunday Gazette was pretty big. I’d turn sideways on my bike and fire it from the street to hit the front door.”

Pro baseball was fun.

“I had two great years in the L.A. farm system, but kind of got stuck there because of their good MLB roster,” he said. “I had three great years in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I went 13-0 and we won the Caribbean League with the Alou brothers.”

As for his days with the Razorbacks, it was all fun, too.

“I always had fun,” he said. “That was probably part of my problem. We played at a horrible field and we couldn’t get teams to come play us. So we took advantage of cheap gas. We hit the road.”


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