(A/N: this essay is over a year old, so it is not as good as my other ones, but enjoy! I also took out the titles of the paragraphs because people said they were confusing on the last essay.)
Dizzy Dean: The Baseball Legacy
When someone hears the phrase “baseball player”, they think of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, or Joe Dimaggio, but little do they know that the best fastball of the 1930s came from a boy from Arkansas, named Dizzy Dean. Throughout Dean’s seven year baseball career, he played in two World Series and was voted MVP in the 1934 series. Dizzy Dean was one of the best baseball players of the 1930s, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series victory in 1934.
Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean was born on January 16, 1911 in Lucas, a sleepy, small town in southwestern Arkansas. Dean’s parents were cotton farmers, and spent their winters in Lucas between picking seasons. At age 3, Dean changed his name to Jerome Herman, in honor of a childhood friend who had recently died. Dean’s mother died when he was young, leaving his father to take care of the family. Hard-working Albert Dean married a widow with a large family of her own, and they struggled to feed the blended family. Dizzy claimed that he developed his throwing skills by tossing rocks at prairie dogs and squirrels. He was a skinny, sinewy boy that was soon able to take his place among the men in the fields. On Sundays, men and boys played baseball in the cotton fields. From the start, Dizzy shined as a pitcher. Dizzy’s brother Paul played shortstop, and his eldest brother, Elmer, played catcher.
At age 16, Dizzy discovered a way to escape being a farmhand. He convinced an Army enlistment officer that he was 18, not 16. It was in the army where the name “Dizzy” originated. Dizzy was a pitcher for their regiment’s baseball team. The players commented that Dean’s blazing fastball made batters “dizzy”. In 1929, Dizzy, whose body had become filled out by three meals a day, decided to leave the army. At that time, an enlisted man could buy his way out of the army for $200. Dizzy’s brother, Paul, paid the $200 to buy Dizzy’s ticket to freedom. For the rest of 1929, Dizzy worked for several different utility companies in Texas. His employer had Dizzy play for their Industrial League baseball teams. He soon caught the eye of Don Curtis, a St. Louis Cardinals scout. Impressed with Dizzy’s amazing pitching skills, Curtis signed Dizzy to play in the Cardinals’ farm system.
In 1930, the St. Louis Cardinals sent Dizzy Dean to St. Joseph, Missouri to play in their Western League. The St. Louis Cardinals were the first major league baseball team to develop a farm system and have them train players for the parent club. On April 20, 1930, Dean won his first start, 4-3, in extra innings. Despite pitching for the worst team in the farm system, he was an instant star. He was the league’s most talked about player, and boasted a 17-8 record when he was promoted to the Cardinal’s Texas League. The 1930 Texas League Season ended on Labor Day, with Dizzy winning his eighth game in his four weeks with Houston. Then the St. Louis Cardinals, who were in a hot pennant race, called him up. Having already won 25 games, he was expected to nail down the pennant for the Cardinals. On September 28, 1930, Dizzy made his Major League debut. Manager Gabby Street benched Dean until the game was in its final innings. At that point, Dizzy appeared and allowed only three singles, thus clenching his first major-league victory. Because he had joined the Cardinals so late in the season, he was not eligible to play in the World Series, a huge factor in the Cardinals’ loss to the Philadelphia Athletics.
After the 1930 Cardinals Season, Dean went back to St. Joseph and lived at the home of Oliver French, the business manager of the Cardinal’s farm system. French promised to keep Dizzy out of trouble and in shape, and he kept his word. When Dean arrived at spring training, he was full of confidence and as talkative as ever. Once again, Manager Street kept Dean on the bench until the last innings of games, when he knew the best players would bat. Spectators expected Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, and Al Simmons, all future Hall of Famers, to crush Dizzy. Instead, Dizzy struck them out on consecutive strikes. Despite his performance, Cardinal management decided to sentence their rookie to another year in the farm system. Dizzy led the Texas League with 28 wins and 303 strikeouts in 1931. Around this time, Dizzy met Patricia Nash, who hailed from Bond, Mississippi. Dizzy failed to talk her into marrying him at home plate, but he did persuade her to become Mrs. Dean. (Baseball Legends, pp. 22)
Dizzy’s first full Major League Season was in 1932, a season that had all the elements that would keep his name in the headlines throughout his career. Overall, Dizzy won 18 games for a seventh-place team. Dean’s rookie season established him as a successor to Babe Ruth as America’s favorite player. In 1933, Dean had his first 20-game winning season. Before the season was over, the Cardinals fired Manager Gabby Street and hired fiery second baseman Frank Frisch as his replacement. Dizzy would have many future arguments with the hot-headed Frisch.
With Dizzy on the mound, the 1934 Cardinals were shaping up to be the best team in baseball. The Cardinals’ roster included Joe “Ducky” Medwick, Leo Durocher, Pepper Martin, Bill DeLancey and also Dizzy’s kid brother, Paul Dean. At first, sports writers tried to turn Paul into another Dizzy by nicknaming him Daffy. It did not work; Paul was was the opposite of his talkative brother. Dizzy did all the talking, with Paul nodding in agreement. During spring training, Dizzy campaigned for Paul to get a pay raise. It was a sore point between the Deans that Paul was paid $3,000, when Dizzy was paid $7,500. Neither of the Deans performed well during the first few months of the 1934 season. The team also got off to a slow start and stayed in the second division until the middle of May. Eventually, the Deans’ arms started to fire up, especially against the New York Giants. Paul did not lose a game from mid-May until June 20th, and Dizzy won ten straight games during June and July. The 1934 pennant race settled into a three-way race, with the Cubs and Giants ahead of the third-place Cards. The Cardinals ended up surpassing both teams and faced the Detroit Tigers in the 1934 World Series. Dean pitched three games of the 7-game World Series. Dean would have pitched more of the Series’ games but he was hit in the head with a baseball in Game 4, sidelining him for part of the Series. With Dean on the mound, the Cardinals clinched the Series with a 11-0 thrashing of the Tigers in Game 7. Dean was declared the MVP of the 1934 World Series.
Dizzy played for three more seasons with the Cardinals. The 1937 season proved to be the beginning of the end for Dizzy. Arguments with Frankie Frisch and his rival, New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell, were common. Fist fights would break out on the baseball mound and in hotel lobbies. Dean agreed to pitch in the 1937 All-Star Game, but it would have been far better if he had declined. In the third inning, Earl Averill, smashed a line drive at Dizzy, hitting his foot. Dean limped off the field with a fractured big toe. Doctors told Dean to stay on the sidelines until his injury healed. Always a competitor, Dean insisted on pitching before the toe was completely healed. Unable to put full pressure on his toe, he pitched from an unnatural position, and developed a sore arm. When he tried to pitch, he could not throw without agonizing pain. In 1938, the Cardinals traded Dizzy to the Cubs for $185,000, nearly $3.3 million in today’s money. It was not like the old Dizzy Dean Seasons, but he brought fans out to Wrigley Field and helped the Cubs win the 1938 pennant. Dean’s last honor during his playing career came after the 1938 season, when baseball writers voted him “the most courageous athlete of the year”.
During Dean’s pitching career, he had a win-loss record of 150-83, an ERA of 3.02, and 1,163 strikeouts. Dean pitched 1,736 innings, pitched 141 complete games, and had 30 saves. He is in third place for the Cardinals’ all-time winning percentage at .641. Historians consider Dean one of the greatest pitchers of the 1930s, with the best fastball of the 1930s. He is one of four players to win 30 or more games in one season, under modern regulations.
Dizzy did not surrender to fate willingly. He would rest a few days, or even a week between pitching appearances. But, his fastball was gone, and he had to retire after the 1941 season. Paul also retired around this time due to arm problems. Dizzy went on to become the coach for the Chicago Cubs for a season, but then the talkative pitcher decided to launch a new career. Dizzy became a radio broadcaster for the St. Louis teams, the Cardinals and the Browns. He was soon a star in his new career. Just by being himself, Dizzy Dean made the broadcasts more captivating then the games themselves. Unlike other announcers, he was not afraid to speak his mind. His frankness got him into trouble sometimes, and even back to a big league uniform. He had been critical of the Browns’ pitchers, and when he said he could do better himself, owner Bill DeWitt gave him a chance. The last place Browns closed out the 1947 Season with Dizzy Dean on the mound. The overweight veteran huffed and bluffed his way through four scoreless innings. He lined a hit into left field, and just as he had in the 1934 World Series, stretched it into a double.
Dizzy later teamed with ex-big leaguer Buddy Blatner on radio and pioneered early television broadcasts of baseball. For 10 years, he was the announcer for the CBS-TV “Game of the Week”, with Pee Wee Reese. A whole new public learned to love Dizzy. He wore a white cowboy hat, and he sang his favorite country song, “The Wabash Cannonball”, when there was a lull in the action. In 1952, the film biography “The Pride of St. Louis”, was made about Dizzy Dean. Baseball paid Dean its highest honor in 1953 when it elected him into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dizzy topped the voting with 79.17%. Joe DiMaggio, on the ballot for the first time, came in eighth. The Cardinals also retired Number 17, Dizzy’s jersey number, in 1974. Dean was in Reno, Nevada, amusing himself at the blackjack tables on July 15, 1974 when he had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. The 63 year old former pitcher tried to convince the nurses to let him go home, but his condition worsened. Two days later, on July 17, 1974, with his wife and brother Paul at his bedside, Dizzy Dean died. Jay Hanna Dean was buried in Bond, Mississippi, just across the state from where he started pitching as a kid.
Dizzy Dean was a larger than life baseball player who played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs from 1930 to 1941. Dizzy’s blazing fastballs helped propel the St. Louis Cardinals to a 1934 World Series win against the Detroit Tigers. Dizzy is considered one of the best pitchers of the 1930s, and one of the best Cardinals of all time.