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Dizzy Dean

A photo of Dizzy Dean.

Jerome Hanna "Dizzy" Dean (January 16, 1910July 17, 1974) was an American pitcher in Major League Baseball, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was born in Lucas, Arkansas, and was a lifelong resident of Bond, Mississippi. He was a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals (1930-1937), the Chicago Cubs (1938-1941), and briefly for the St. Louis Browns (1947).

Ace of the Gashouse GangEdit

Dean was best known for leading the 1934 "Gashouse Gang" team. He had a 30–7 record with a 2.66 ERA during the regular season. His brother, Paul, was also on the roster, and was nicknamed "Daffy," although this was usually only done for press consumption.

The Gashouse Gang, as the southernmost and westernmost team in the major leagues at the time, became a de-facto "America's Team," and members, particularly Southerners such as the Dean brothers and Pepper Martin, became folk heroes in Depression-ravaged America, who saw in these players, dirty and hustling rather than handsome and graceful, a spirit of hard work and perseverance, as opposed to the haughty, highly-paid New York Giants, whom the Cardinals were chasing for the National League pennant.

Much like later sports legends Joe Namath and Reggie Jackson, Dizzy liked to brag about his prowess and make public predictions. Dizzy predicted, "Me an' Paul are gonna win 45 games." On September 21, Diz pitched no-hit ball for eight innings against the Brooklyn Dodgers, finishing with a three-hit shutout in the first game of a doubleheader, his 27th win of the season. Paul then threw a no-hitter in the nightcap, to win his 18th, to match the 45 that Diz had predicted. "Gee, Paul," Diz was heard to say in the locker room afterward, "if I'd a-known you was gonna throw a no-hitter, I'd a-thrown one too!" He also bet he could strike out Vince DiMaggio four times in one game. He struck him out his first three at bats, but when he hit a popup behind the plate at his fourth, Dean screamed at his catcher, "Drop it!, Drop it!" The catcher did and Dean fanned DiMaggio, winning the bet. Few in the press now doubted Diz's boast, as he was also fond of saying, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Diz finished with 30 wins, the only NL pitcher to do so in the post-1920 live-ball era, and Paul finished with 19, for a total of 49. The Cards needed them all to edge the Giants for the pennant, setting up a matchup with the American League champion Detroit Tigers. After the season, Dizzy Dean was awarded with the National League's Most Valuable Player Award.

Knocked Dizzy!Edit

Managers like players who use their heads, but St. Louis Cardinal ace Dizzy Dean once took the idea literally. In Game 4 of the 1934 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Dean was sent to first base as a pinch runner. The next batter hit a ground ball that looked like a sure double play. Intent on avoiding the twin killing, Dean threw himself in front of the throw to first. The ball struck him on the head, and Dean was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital. The storied (and possibly apocryphal) sports-section headline the next day said, "X-ray of Dean's head shows nothing." (A variant on this story is "...reveals nothing.") Although the Tigers went on the win the game 10-4, Dean recovered, clearing out the cobwebs in time to pitch in Games 5 and 7 and put the Series away for the Cardinals.

Injury-shortened careerEdit

While pitching for the NL in the 1937 All-Star Game, Dean faced Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians, batting for the American League. Averill hit a line drive back at the mound, hitting Dean on the foot. Told that his big toe was "fractured," Dean said, "Fractured, hell, the damn thing's broken!" Dean came back too soon, and changed his pitching motion in a way that favored his sore toe. In so doing, he hurt his arm, losing his great fastball.

By 1938, Dean's arm was largely gone. Chicago Cubs scout Clarence "Pants" Rowland was tasked with the unenviable job of obeying owner P. K. Wrigley's direct order to buy a washed-up Dizzy Dean's contract at any cost. Rowland signed the ragged righty for $185,000, one of the most expensive loss-leader contracts in baseball history. Dean helped the Cubs win the 1938 National League pennant, and pitched gamely in Game 2 of the World Series before losing to the New York Yankees in what became known as "Ol' Diz's Last Stand." He limped along for the Cubs until 1941, when he retired. Between the ages of 23 and 27, he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball; by 28, he was just another pitcher, and at 31 he was done.

Dizzy Dean made a one-game comeback on September 28, 1947. After retiring as a player, the perennially cash-poor Browns hired the still-popular Dean as a broadcaster to drum up some badly needed publicity. After broadcasting several poor pitching performances in a row, he grew frustrated, saying on the air, "Doggone it, I can pitch better than nine out of the ten guys on this staff!" The wives of the Browns pitchers complained, and management, needing to sell tickets somehow, took him up on his offer and had him pitch the last game of the season. At age 37, Dean pitched four innings, allowing no runs, and rapped a single in his only at-bat. Rounding first base, he pulled his hamstring. Returning to the broadcast booth at the end of the game, he said, "I said I can pitch better than nine of the ten guys on the staff, and I can. But I'm done. Talking's my game now, and I'm just glad that muscle I pulled wasn't in my throat."

SportscasterEdit

He became a well-known sportscaster, famous for his wit and often-colorful butchering of the English language. Much like football star-turned-sportscaster Terry Bradshaw years later, he chose to build on, rather than counter, his image as a not-too-bright country boy, as a way of entertaining fans: "The Good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong right arm, a good body, and a weak mind." He once saw Browns outfielder Al Zarilla slide into base, and said, "Zarilla slud into third!" Later, doing a game on CBS, he said, over the open mike, "I don't know why they're calling this the Game of the Week. There's a much better game, Dodgers and Giants, over on NBC." Every so often, he would sign off by saying, "Don't fail to miss tomorrow's game!" These manglings of the language only endeared him to fans, precursing such beloved ballplayers-turned-broadcasters as Ralph Kiner, Herb Score and Jerry Coleman.

An English teacher once wrote to him, complaining that he shouldn't use the word "ain't" on the air, as it was a bad example to children. On the air, Dean said, "A lot of folks who ain't sayin' 'ain't,' ain't eatin'. So, Teach, you learn 'em English, and I'll learn 'em baseball."

Dean is often blamed for sportscasters' fond misuse of the word, "nonchalant". Once describing a player who had struck out, Dean reportedly said, "he nonchalantly walks back to the dugout in disgust."

The Pride of St. Louis, a motion picture based on Dean's career, was released in 1952. Dan Dailey portrayed Dean. Chet Huntley, who would later gain fame as an NBC News anchorman, played an uncredited role in the movie as Dean's radio announcing sidekick.

On December 5, 2007, Dean was nominated for the Ford C. Frick Award, which enshrines legendary announcers of the sport into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

AccomplishmentsEdit

  • Four consecutive strikeout titles
  • Led National League in complete games for four consecutive years
  • Won two games in the 1934 World Series
  • Three time 20-game winner; won 30 games in 1934
  • Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953
  • MVP in 1934
  • Inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame
  • Despite having what amounted to only half a career, in 1999, he ranked Number 85 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Death and continuing recognitionEdit

By the early 1970s, his weight had ballooned to approximately 300 pounds. Dean died at age 64 in Reno, Nevada of a massive heart attack. A Dizzy Dean Museum was established at 1152 Lakeland Drive in Jackson, Mississippi. The building was significantly expanded, and the Dean exhibit is now part of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, located adjacent to Smith-Wills Stadium, a former minor-league baseball park. On October 22, 2007, a rest area on U.S. Highway 49 South in Wiggins, Mississippi, five miles north of Dean's home in Bond, Mississippi, was named "Dizzy Dean Rest Area" after Dean.[1]

Dean was mentioned in the poem "Lineup for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

Lineup for Yesterday
D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who's the tops?
Said correctly, I is.
Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)[2]

Also, actor Ben Jones wrote and continues to perform a one-man play about Dean, entitled "Ol' Diz," as described in this interview.

Career statisticsEdit

WLERAGGSCGSHOSVIPHERHRBBSO
150833.02317230154263019671919661954531163

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Clarion-Ledger: U.S. 49 rest stop to be named after baseball legend
  2. Baseball Almanac. Retrieved on 2008-01-23.

External linksEdit

Preceded by:
Bill Hallahan
National League Strikeout Champion
1932-1935
Succeeded by:
Van Mungo
Preceded by:
Carl Hubbell
National League Wins Champion
1934-1935
Succeeded by:
Carl Hubbell
Preceded by:
Carl Hubbell
National League Most Valuable Player
1934
Succeeded by:
Gabby Hartnett
Preceded by:
Carl Hubbell
Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
1934
Succeeded by:
Joe Louis

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