By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-  Legendary baseball star Hillis Layne has died at the age of 91.  Layne, a Whitwell native, played in the major and minor pro baseball leagues.  For much of his career, Layne played for the Seattle Mariners of the Pacific Coast League.  His play on the field earned him the nickname "Mandrake" after the magician in the comics and the league's batting championship in 1947.

Other playing stops for Layne included the Chattanooga Lookouts and the major league Washington Senators. Layne was a scout for many years for the Texas Rangers. Altogether, Mr. Layne spent almost 40 years playing, managing and as a scout for professional baseball teams.

Layne played third base for Washington in 1941, 1944-45, batting .264 in 107 games. He led the Pacific Coast League in hitting in 1947, batting .367 for Seattle.  Layne had a .335 minor league career average in 1,796 games as a player and manager.

Layne lived near Boyd Buchanan School in recent years.  In a 2008 interview with the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, Layne said, "When I played baseball, it was a great time to play.  We just played with plain old balls and bats. We didn't know anything about bonuses. We played for the love of the game."
He told the newspaper that he signed a contract with Lookouts owner Joe Engel in 1940 for $85 a month.  He said one of the highlights of his career was hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium in front of 68,000 people.  After his 20-year career as a player, Layne was a scout for 18 more years, and was a familiar presence at Chattanooga Lookouts games.
Here is the obituary from Chattanooga Funeral Home:
Hillis Layne, 91, died at his daughter's home on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.  Born on February 23, 1918 in Whitwell, Tn., he was a resident of Chattanooga for most of his life.

He was a longtime member of the East Ridge Church of Christ, where he served as a deacon for many years.

Mr. Layne enjoyed a 37-year career in professional baseball. He was signed by Joe Engel to play in the Washington Senators organization, and played for the Chattanooga Lookouts before being called up to the Washington Senators in the 1941 season.

After his major league career, he led the Pacific Coast league in batting in 1947. He played in nearly 2,000 professional games, with a lifetime batting average of .335.

After his playing days, he was a minor league manager, a minor league director for the Senators, and a baseball scout for the A's, Mets, Senators, and Rangers. He was recognized by the Society for American Baseball Research as one of the top 100 minor league players of all time. He was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.

Following his baseball career, Mr. Layne managed the downtown Chattanooga Ira Trivers clothing store for 15 years.

Mr. Layne was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy Graham Layne; parents, Elijah and Dolly Hudson Layne; and brothers Harrell, Meredith, Seth, and Jewell Layne.

Survivors include a sister, Leona Graham, Whitwell; a son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Pennie Layne, Kingsport; a daughter and son-in-law, Beth and Brian Dowling, Signal Mountain; and four grandchildren, Lori Layne, Clemson, South Carolina; Andrew Layne of Johnson City; and Maggie and Jack Dowling, Signal Mountain.

Funeral services will be held at noon on Friday, Jan. 15, at East Ridge Church of Christ with Minister Charles Cochran officiating. Interment will follow in the National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the benevolent room at East Ridge Church of Christ.