Paul Dean

May 11, 1934: Paul Dean turns his rookie season around

Two months after signing his first major-league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, Paul Dean’s burgeoning career was at a crossroads.

His big brother, Dizzy Dean, had taken it upon himself to serve as Paul’s spokesperson, telling anyone who would listen that his little brother was an even better pitcher than he was, and predicting that together the Dean brothers would win 45 games that season.[1]

The early results, however, weren’t promising. Making his debut in the Cardinals’ second game of the season against the powerful Pirates lineup, Paul lasted just two innings, as Pie Traynor and Gus Suhr each homered and Lloyd Waner added an RBI single to give Pittsburgh an early 4-0 lead.

Seeking to lessen the pressure on his rookie pitcher, manager Frankie Frisch used Paul in relief in each of his next two appearances. In a 15-2 loss to the Cubs, Paul pitched the fourth and fifth innings, allowing two runs. Six days later, he pitched two more innings and allowed two more runs in a 7-1 loss vs. Chicago.

On May 3, Paul earned his first major-league victory, throwing five innings of relief as the Cardinals beat the Phillies 8-7. He didn’t pitch particularly well, allowing five runs on seven hits and two walks. Nonetheless, Frisch selected the younger Dean for a May 11 start against the defending world champion New York Giants and their ace pitcher – Carl Hubbell.

The 31-year-old Hubbell had won the National League MVP Award the previous year. With his left-handed delivery and baffling screwball, he had won 23 games and posted a 1.66 ERA over 308 2/3 innings.

Why did Frisch have confidence in Paul against arguably the best pitcher in the game? In The Gashouse Gang, John Heidenry writes that the Cardinals’ manager believed Paul “was trying to imitate his brother instead of developing his own style. The younger Dean also lacked Dizzy’s enormous self-confidence, which no number of defeats, no criticism from colleagues, no taunting from opponents could erode.”[2]

To boost that confidence, Frisch invited Paul to his dining car as the team traveled by train between cities.

“We open with the Giants in about a week and you’re going to start the third game,” Frisch said. “Those Giants will be tough, but smart pitching can beat them. Let’s analyze their batting form.”[3]

Together, the Cardinals’ 36-year-old player/manager and the 21-year-old rookie pitcher spent the next two hours discussing the Giants lineup, with Frisch standing into the aisle to imitate the Giants’ batting stances. Through the entire conversation, Frisch never once mentioned Paul’s brother; instead, he emphasized his primary message: that Paul had the talent to beat the Giants.[4]

The Cardinals put that message to the test in front of 6,500 fans at Sportsman’s Park on May 11.

Paul worked himself out of trouble in the first inning. Jo-Jo Moore drew a leadoff walk before Paul struck out Lefty O’Doul and Bill Terry. Mell Ott hit a two-out single to advance Moore to third base, but Paul got Travis Jackson to fly out to center field for the final out.

The Cardinals gave Paul some early run support when Pepper Martin led off the bottom of the first with a double and Frisch tripled to drive him in. Ripper Collins singled to score Frisch and gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

The Giants got on the scoreboard with three more hits in the second inning. Blondy Ryan led off with a single to center, then scored with a two-out double by Moore. From there, both pitchers settled down for the long haul.

Paul retired the side in order in the third and worked around a two-out walk to Paul Richards in the fourth. In the fifth, O’Doul singled and stole second, but Dean retired Ott on a fly ball to right field to end the inning.

In the sixth, the Giants loaded the bases with one out before Hubbell drove Ryan home with a sacrifice fly to right field.

With the score tied 2-2, Paul worked out of trouble again in the seventh. O’Doul led off the inning with a single and Terry reached base on an error by Martin at third base. After Ott laid down a bunt to advance O’Doul to third, Travis Jackson hit a ground ball to third and Martin made up for his earlier misplay, throwing O’Doul out at the plate. Paul then retired Ryan on a ground ball force out.

Paul retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, then worked around a leadoff single by Moore in the ninth. Hubbell matched Paul pitch for pitch, retiring Joe Medwick, Collins, and Spud Davis in order in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

In the 10th, Paul retired the side in order. In the Cardinals’ half of the inning, Leo Durocher hit a one-out double, then advanced to third when Ryan misplayed a pop fly off Paul’s bat. Hubbell chose to intentionally walk Martin to face right fielder Jack Rothrock, who was 0-for-4 on the day.

It proved a poor decision for the Giants. Rothrock singled to left, and Ernie Orsatti, in the game as a pinch runner for Durocher, scored the game-winning run. With the victory, the Cardinals continued a streak that included five consecutive wins and victories in 12 of their last 13 games.

Hubbell fell to 4-2 on the season after allowing three earned runs in 9 1/3 innings.

Dean, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 with two earned runs allowed over 10 innings. As Doug Feldmann wrote in Dizzy Dean and the Gas House Gang, “Paul Dean had proven that he was here to stay, and gained some more respect from the rest of the Cardinals for his performance.”[5]

Paul’s performance certainly caught the attention of New York Daily News sports reporter Jimmy Powers.

“When you hand either Paul or Jerome (Dizzy) a baseball and tell them they are to pitch a nine-inning contest they more or less mechanically turn in an excellent job,” Powers wrote after Paul and Dizzy each defeated the Giants during a three-game series later that month. “If you tell them they are to pitch against the New York Giants their eyes glow fanatically, they snatch the horsehide away from you and they stride out to the mound with nostrils breathing fire.

“Until the world champs appeared in St. Louis the younger Dean was just another performer. Most of the western clubs had knocked him out of the box. Now, he is made. He has beaten us twice and so has his bigger brother. Both are Texans, both are tank towners and both look upon themselves as consecrated Saint Georges turning back the Metropolitan dragons. If the Giants do not win the pennant this summer and the Cardinals do, you can credit the remarkable Deans.”[6]

Powers’ words proved prophetic. Trailing the Giants by as many as seven games on Sept. 6, the Cardinals made a furious rally in the season’s final weeks. On Sept. 28, Dizzy Dean shut out the Reds to move the Cardinals into a tie with the Giants. The following day, Paul Dean earned the win in a 6-1 victory to give St. Louis the lead, and in the season finale, Dizzy threw another shutout to clinch the pennant and secure his 30th win of the season.

The Cardinals went on to defeat the Detroit Tigers in a seven-game World Series, and the legend of the Gas House Gang was born.

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[1] John Heidenry (2007), The Gashouse Gang, PublicAffairs, Kindle file, Page 68.

[2] John Heidenry (2007), The Gashouse Gang, PublicAffairs, Kindle file, Page 114.

[3] John Heidenry (2007), The Gashouse Gang, PublicAffairs, Kindle file, Page 114.

[4] John Heidenry (2007), The Gashouse Gang, PublicAffairs, Kindle file, Page 114.

[5] Doug Feldman (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, McFarland, Kindle file, Page 73.

[6] Jimmy Powers, “The Deans Are Mad!” New York Daily News, May 24, 1934.

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