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Johnny Mize

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Johnny Mize

A photo of Johnny Mize.

Johnny Mize (January 7, 1913June 2, 1993) was a baseball player who was a first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, and New York Yankees. He played in the Major Leagues from 1936 through 1953 and was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Mize was born in Demorest, Georgia, where he later played baseball for Piedmont College.[1][2] Mize was known as both "Big Jawn" and "The Big Cat" for his smooth fielding around the bag at first base. He had a fine batting eye, and in his early career hit for high averages, leading the National League with a .349 batting average in 1939. In 1938 he batted .363, but Cardinals teammate Joe Medwick took the title with a .374 average. Mize then changed targets and went for power instead of batting average. He led the National League in home runs in 1939 with 28, and in 1940 with 43, also leading the league in runs batted in twice, in 1940 and 1942. At the end of the 1941 season, however, he was traded to the New York Giants by Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey, who famously believed in trading players before they reached their declining years.

Mize spent 1943 through 1945 in military service during World War II. Returning to the Giants in 1946, a broken hand and broken toe caused him to fall one short of the home run title, won by rookie Ralph Kiner of the Pittsburgh Pirates (23-22). In 1947 he rebounded to hit 51 home runs and tie Kiner for the league lead. He also led in runs and RBI, and became the only player to strike out fewer than fifty times while hitting fifty home runs. (This combination of power and control was a mark of Mize's style; he also had seasons of 43 home runs and 49 strikeouts, and of 40 home runs and 37 strikeouts.)

In 1948, Mize and Kiner again tied for the league home run championship with 40 each. Mize was traded to the New York Yankees late in the 1949 season after expressing discontent with the amount of his playing time.

Mize spent the last 5 years of his career with the Yankees, mostly as a part-time player, ending in 1953. He was, however, considered a valuable contributor to their winning an unprecedented 5 consecutive American League pennants and World Series titles. He hit 25 home runs in 1950 (despite spending part of the season on minor league rehab) to become the 2nd player, joining Hank Greenberg 3 years earlier, to have a 25-home run season in both leagues. In the 1952 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, he hit 3 home runs, 1 as a pinch-hitter, and was robbed of a 4th by Dodger right fielder Carl Furillo, who made a leaping catch above the fence in the 11th inning to preserve a win for the Dodgers.

Mize shares the Major League record for the most times hitting 3 homers in one game, a feat he performed 6 times (Mize's last time was 1950; Sammy Sosa of the Cubs tied the record in 2003). He also was one of a handful of players (also including Babe Ruth) to do it in both leagues — 5 times in the National League and once in the American. He was the first player to hit 3 home runs in a game twice in one season in 1938 and did it twice again in 1940. He finished his career with 359 home runs. Like DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and Hank Greenberg, all of whom spent at least 3 years in the military at the peak of their power, Mize undoubtedly lost a large number of home runs because of his service. His 43 home runs in 1940 broke the Cardinal record of 42 set by Rogers Hornsby in 1922 -and remained the record until Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998. He and Carl Yastrzemski are the only 2 players to have 3 seasons of 40 or more home runs, without a season of 30-39 home runs. Since Joe Medwick became the last National League player to win the triple crown in 1937, Mize is one of only 3 NL players to lead the league at one time of another in each of the 3 categories - batting average, home runs, and runs-batted-in. The other 2 NL players are Hank Aaron and Andres Galarraga.

He was chosen by the Veteran's Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. During his playing years, Mize did not enjoy particularly good relations with the baseball sportswriters; members of this community vote on candidates for the Hall of Fame. Mize's fine batting statistics were overshadowed by those of bigger stars Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial, and later Jackie Robinson. And his good on-base percentage is valued more highly today, in the light of sabermetric analysis, as well as his being one of the more difficult sluggers to strike out.

In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. Maury Allen, in 1981, also included Mize in his "top 100" book. Mize spent the last few years of his life at his home in Demorest, GA.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Phelps, Myron. "Johnny Mize Collection", The Navigator, 2008-02-11. Retrieved on 2008-06-10.
  2. Suda, Tim. "History of Sports", The Navigator, 2008-01-28. Retrieved on 2008-06-10.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Preceded by:
Ernie Lombardi
National League Batting Champion
1939
Succeeded by:
Debs Garms
Preceded by:
Mel Ott
Ralph Kiner
National League Home Run Champion
1939-1940
1947-1948 with Ralph Kiner
Succeeded by:
Dolph Camilli
Ralph Kiner
Preceded by:
Frank McCormick
Dolph Camilli
Enos Slaughter
National League RBI Champion
1940
1942
1947
Succeeded by:
Dolph Camilli
Bill Nicholson
Stan Musial
Preceded by:
Phil Rizzuto
Babe Ruth Award
1952
Succeeded by:
Billy Martin

Template:1949 New York Yankees Template:1950 New York Yankees Template:1951 New York Yankees Template:1952 New York Yankees Template:1953 New York Yankees Template:Babe Ruth Award Template:1981 Baseball HOF Template:Baseball Hall of Fame first basemen

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