Hoak was an outspoken, brawling firebrand, the spiritual leader of the 1960 World Champion Pirates. A pro boxer as a teenager, he lost seven straight knockouts before giving it up. He carried his pugnacity to the ballfield. He broke in sharing third base in Brooklyn with Billy Cox and Jackie Robinson. As a Cub on May 2, 1956, he set a NL record by striking out six times in a game (17 innings). In 1957, he led the NL with 39 doubles for the Reds and earned an All-Star Game berth in the Cincinnati ballot-box-stuffing incident. Traded to Pittsburgh, he led the Pirates in walks in 1959-61, and paced the 1960 championship team with 97 runs scored.
In a Braves-Reds game on April 21, 1957, Hoak was on second and Gus Bell was on first when Wally Post grounded to shortstop. Hoak fielded the ball himself, flipping it to a stunned Johnny Logan at short. Hoak was out for getting hit by a batted ball, but the Reds still had two on and Post was credited with a single. The third such incident involving the Reds that season, it moved league presidents Warren Giles and Will Harridge to jointly announce a rule change that declared both the runner and the batter out if the runner intentionally interfered with a batted ball, with no runners allowed to advance.
Hoak later managed in the Pittsburgh system. He died of a heart attack chasing his brother-in-law’s stolen car on October 9, 1969, the day Danny Murtaugh was rehired as Pirates manager – a position Hoak had openly sought.