Dizzy Dean

July 27, 1953: Dizzy Dean is inducted into the Hall of Fame

On July 27, 1953, the Baseball Hall of Fame celebrated Dizzy Dean’s remarkable career with an induction ceremony that formally recognized Dean as one of the game’s elite.

“It’s the greatest honor I ever received,” Dean said. “I want to thank the good Lord for giving me a good right arm, a strong back, and a weak mind.”[1]

Dean was inducted alongside Al Simmons, a three-time all-star and two-time batting champion who played most of his career with the Philadelphia Athletics. During the ceremony, Dean was joined on the platform by some of the 62 previous Hall inductees, including Ty Cobb, Connie Mack, Cy Young, Ed Walsh, and Rogers Hornsby.

“Them’s the kind of ballplayers I’d like to have had behind me all the time,” Dean said, before complimenting the former teammates who “stopped them line drives and got some runs for me.”[2]

Joseph Cashman, head of the Baseball Writers of America, served as toastmaster and George M. Trautman, head of the National Association of Baseball Leagues, unveiled both honorees’ plaques. Dean’s Hall of Fame plaque read:

One of four N.L. pitchers to win 30 or more games under modern regulations. Pitched in 1934 (St. L.) 1938 (Chicago) World Series. Let league in strikeouts 1932-33-34-35. Single game record with 17, July 30, 1933. First pitcher to make two hits in one inning in World Series. Most valuable N.L. player in 1934.

Dean and his brothers grew up picking cotton. With little in the way of formal education, Dean enlisted at Fort Sam Houston and developed a reputation as “a hard-pitching mountain boy who wanted to throw barefoot, though his sergeant insisted that he wear spikes.”[3] Dean’s pitching at Fort Sam Houston attracted the attention of a semipro team in San Antonio, and it was there that Cardinals scout Don Curtis discovered Dean and signed him.

On September 28, 1930, Dean made his major-league debut, holding the Pirates to one run on three hits in a complete-game victory. Prior to the game, St. Louis mayor Victor Miller, seated in a box seat near the field, called Cardinals manager Gabby Street over to ask him about the new pitcher.

“Mr. Mayor, I think he’s going to be a great pitcher, but I’m afraid we’ll never know from one minute to the next what he’s going to do,” Street said.[4]

Despite Dean’s successful outing, the Cardinals kept him in the minor leagues in 1931, perhaps as punishment for his tendency to charge items totaling thousands of dollars to the team. He was even known to register at several hotels for the same night, then sleep at whichever one was closest when he was ready to conclude the evening.[5]

By 1932, however, Dean was simply too good to keep in the minors. The 23-year-old won 18 games with a 3.30 ERA and led the league in innings pitched (286) and strikeouts (191) in his rookie campaign. In 1933, Dean won 20 games and led the league in strikeouts for the second consecutive year, including a 17-strikeout performance against the Cubs.

Dean made baseball history with his 30-win 1934 season. In September, with the Cardinals chasing the Giants for the National League pennant, Dean pitched in 10 games between September 10 and September 30. He won six of those games and earned the save in two others, lowering his ERA from 2.98 to 2.66 during that span. With Dean and his brother Paul Dean leading the way, the Cardinals caught the Giants on September 28, then won their final two games of the regular season to win the National League pennant by two games.

In the seven-game 1934 World Series, Dean pitched 26 innings, allowing just five earned runs for a 1.73 ERA. He pitched all nine innings of the Cardinals’ 8-3 Game 1 win, then took a tough-luck loss in Game 5 after allowing two earned runs over eight innings. With just one day of rest, Dean pitched the decisive Game 7, holding the Tigers to just six hits in a complete-game shutout.

Following Dean’s historic season, he was named National League MVP ahead of Pittsburgh’s Paul Waner, who placed second, and the Giants’ Jo-Jo Moore, Travis Jackson, and Mel Ott, who finished third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.

Dean went on to place second in the MVP voting in 1935 and 1936, pitching a combined 640 innings while leading the league in innings pitched both years. Prior to the start of the 1938 season, the Cardinals traded Dean to the Cubs for Curt Davis, Clyde Shoun, Tuck Stainback, and $185,000.

Dean battled arm troubles throughout his career in Chicago, compiling a 16-8 record before retiring to take a coaching job with the Cubs in 1941. Dean went on to become a radio and TV broadcaster, providing commentary for Cardinals, Browns, Yankees, and Braves games. He was part of CBS’s national game of the week broadcast team from 1955 through 1965, and became a memorable part of ballgames for younger fans who had never seen him pitch.

After Dean’s broadcasting career concluded, he retired to Bond, Mississippi. He passed away on July 17, 1974, on the same day that Bob Gibson threw the 3,000th strikeout of his career.

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[1] Jack Hand, “Dean, Simmons Acclaimed,” St. Joseph News-Press, July 28, 1953.

[2] Jack Hand, “Dean, Simmons Acclaimed,” St. Joseph News-Press, July 28, 1953.

[3] John Heidenry (2007), “The Gashouse Gang,” PublicAffairs, Page 35.

[4] Doug Feldmann (2000), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, McFarland, Kindle File, 34.

[5] John Heidenry (2007), “The Gashouse Gang,” PublicAffairs, Page 44.

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