January 23, 1968: Joe Medwick is elected to the Hall of Fame

In his final year on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, Joe Medwick finally got the call he had been waiting 20 years to receive.

On January 23, 1968, Medwick woke with a swollen jaw from a toothache that would require a trip to the dentist in the afternoon. Before that, however, he went to his office at General Insurors, where he served as an insurance broker.[1]

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Neal Russo described the scene:

It was 10:47 this morning when the telephone rang in Joe Medwick’s insurance office on Lindell Boulevard. The former Cardinal star had been calm as he awaited the call on what he referred to as “my hotline.” But when Medwick was getting word from New York that he had been voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, his voice began to shake. Now the nervousness that he had experienced in two successive almost sleepless nights had returned.[2]

With the news of his election, Medwick received congratulations from his coworkers then provided interviews to television, radio, and newspaper reporters who had gathered at the insurance building. Medwick, who recently had accepted a full-time position as a minor-league hitting instructor for the Cardinals,[3] admitted that he wasn’t a particularly motivated insurance salesman.

“I just showed up at the office occasionally,” he said. “But this is not my first love. Let’s face it. It’s baseball.”[4]

To be eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot, players were required to have retired at least five years earlier and no more than 20. With Medwick’s final season coming in 1948, he was in his final year of eligibility. If he hadn’t been elected, he would have had to wait for the Veterans Committee to consider his candidacy.

“It was the longest slump I ever had,” he said. “I’d gone 0-for-20 but not 0-for-20 years.”[5]

Medwick was named on 240 of the 283 ballots submitted for 84.8%. To clear the 75% threshold required for election, he needed just 213.

Medwick was the only eligible candidate to earn election in 1968. Roy Campanella, who would be inducted alongside Stan Musial the following year, received 205 votes, falling eight short of election. Lou Boudreau received 146, former Cardinal Enos Slaughter received 129, Ralph Kiner received 118, and another former Cardinal, Johnny Mize, received 103. All would eventually earn induction. Former Cardinals shortstop Marty Marion received 89 votes for 31.4% of the vote.

“It’s a good thing I have a good heart,” Medwick said. “The waiting was worse than waiting for the birth of my son.”[6]

Later, referring to the possibility that waiting for the Veterans Committee may have resulted in a posthumous induction, he said, “I didn’t want them to have to give it to my wife.”[7]

The Cardinals originally signed Medwick from the sandlots of New Jersey and sent the 18-year-old to Scottsdale, Pennsylvania, to play in the Mid-Atlantic League before playing in Houston the next year. In Houston, Medwick received the nickname “Ducky” when a female fan wrote to the Houston Post-Dispatch, saying, “Please tell me about Medwick. I have heard he was an Italian and can hardly speak English. Was this true? Joe Medwick was my favorite player, and I have nicknamed him ‘Duckie’ because he walks just like a duck.”

Medwick made his major-league debut as a 20-year-old in 1932, batting .349 in 106 at-bats. In 1934, his third year in the league, Medwick led the league with 18 triples while batting .319 with 18 homers and 106 RBIs, the first of six consecutive triple-digit RBI seasons for Medwick.

Medwick was well-known to be a bad-ball hitter. As Doug Feldmann wrote in Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, “At times, in fact, it seemed his favorite pitch was a running fastball inside, a pitch seemingly headed for his front shoulder. With a quick, tomahawk action from his short frame, he would ‘chop’ the ball into the left-field gap.”[8]

“I’d rather pitch to any other hitter in the league,” Dodgers pitcher Van Lingle Mungo said.[9]

“Forbid Medwick to carry a bat to the plate—make him hit with his fists,” fellow Dodgers pitcher Dutch Leonard suggested. “Then he’d only get singles.”[10]

With Medwick batting cleanup, the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant by two games over the defending champion Giants and face the Tigers in the World Series. There, Medwick had already collected 10 hits when he tripled in the sixth inning of Game 7 to score Pepper Martin and give the Cardinals an 8-0 lead.

As Medwick slid into third, he spiked Tigers third baseman Marv Owens and the two nearly came to blows. After Medwick scored and returned to the outfield in the bottom of the sixth, the Detroit faithful expressed their displeasure by hurling fruit, bottles, newspapers, and garbage at Medwick.

“I don’t know where they were getting all that stuff from,” Tigers second baseman Charlie Gehringer said. “It was like they were backing produce trucks up to the gate and supplying everyone.”[11]

“If somebody had an old Ford, they would have thrown that at him,” Tigers shortstop Billy Rogell said.[12]

Nonplussed, Medwick and his fellow outfielders Ernie Orsatti and Jack Rothrock picked up some of the fruit and began to play catch, which only enraged the crowd further.[13] Tigers manager Mickey Cochrane called for order three times, but the assault continued. After a 17-minute delay, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis called Medwick, Owen, and both managers to his box seat. After a brief conversation with all the interested parties, he ejected Medwick from the game.

With a 9-0 lead already in hand, the Cardinals cruised to an 11-0 final score and won the second World Series championship in franchise history.

Over the course of his career, Medwick proved willing to fight opponents and teammates alike. Among Cardinals, his opponents included Rip Collins, Tex Carleton, Dizzy Dean, Paul Dean, and even former pro boxer Ed Heusser.[14]

“He’s the durndest man I ever seen,” Dizzy Dean said. “Before you even get to do enough talking to get really mad enough to fight, Joe whops you and the fight’s over. That ain’t no way to fight.”[15]

Medwick’s best season came in 1937 when he won the Triple Crown and the National League MVP Award. In addition to leading the league with a .374 batting average, 31 homers, and 154 RBIs, Medwick led the league in runs scored (111), doubles (56), and hits (237).

Medwick famously told J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I have two good friends in this world: buckerinoes and base hits. If I get base hits, I will get buckerinoes.”[16] However, his salary never exceeded the $22,000 he made in a season in Brooklyn. In 1938, the Cardinals paid him a high of either $19,000 (as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)[17] or $20,000 (per Charles F. Faber’s The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals).[18]

In 1940, Medwick’s desire for a higher salary led Branch Rickey to trade Medwick along with pitcher Curt Davis to Brooklyn for four players and at least $125,000. He went on to play with the Giants, Braves, and Browns before returning to St. Louis for his final big-league seasons in 1947 and 1948. Afterward, he served as a minor-league player/manager in the Redbirds’ farm system.

Medwick retired with a career .324 batting average, 205 home runs, and 1,383 RBIs in 17 major-league seasons.

“I was never a home run hitter,” Medwick said. “I concentrated on driving in runs with singles and doubles, and I stretched a lot of triples into doubles.”[19]

The evening of his election, Medwick spent more than two hours at Stan & Biggie’s restaurant, eating dinner in between shaking hands and signing autographs.[20]

“For the first time in my life, I’m speechless,” Medwick said. “I’m all hopped up, just like a June bride.”[21]

“Getting into the Hall of Fame really rounds out my career,” he added. “I’ve had just about everything else, playing in World Series and all-star games, winning the Triple Crown and being named Most Valuable Player in the National League. Baseball has been kind to me.”[22]

In July, Medwick was officially inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Veterans Committee selections Goose Goslin and Kiki Cuyler. Medwick and Cuyler each accepted their awards from Eckert, while Cuyler was recognized posthumously and was represented by his family.

“My life is now complete,” Medwick said.[23]

Stan Musial, who would be elected to the Hall of Fame the following year, represented the Cardinals at the ceremony.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m very proud,” Medwick said in his acceptance speech. “It’s a happy day. I have been fortunate all my life to be associated with the gentlemen in the great game of baseball, but I never realized when I started out in 1932 that I would wind up here.”[24]


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[1] Neal Russo, “Medwick Makes Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[2] Neal Russo, “Joe Was Calm – Until the Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[3] Neal Russo, “Medwick Makes Hall of Fame,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[4] Neal Russo, “Joe Was Calm – Until the Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[5] Neal Russo, “Joe Was Calm – Until the Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[6] Neal Russo, “Joe Was Calm – Until the Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[7] Neal Russo, “Joe Was Calm – Until the Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[8] Doug Feldmann (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, Kindle Android version, Page 41.

[9] Doug Feldmann (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, Kindle Android version, Page 42.

[10] Doug Feldmann (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, Kindle Android version, Page 42.

[11] John Heidenry (2007), The Gashouse Gang, PublicAffairs, Kindle Android version, Page 272.

[12] Charles F. Faber (2014), The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, Kindle Android version, Location 2128.

[13] Charles F. Faber (2014), The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, Kindle Android version, Location 6869.

[14] Bob Broeg, “Stormy Days of Muscles Joe Now Just a Memory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 24, 1968.

[15] Bob Broeg, “Stormy Days of Muscles Joe Now Just a Memory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 24, 1968.

[16] Doug Feldmann (2015), Dizzy and the Gas House Gang, Kindle Android version, Page 41.

[17] Bob Broeg, “Stormy Days of Muscles Joe Now Just a Memory,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 24, 1968.

[18] Charles F. Faber (2014), The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, Kindle Android version, Location 6919.

[19] Neal Russo, “Extra Inning for Medwick Career,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 24, 1968.

[20] Neal Russo, “Extra Inning for Medwick Career,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 24, 1968.

[21] Neal Russo, “Joe Was Calm – Until the Call,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 23, 1968.

[22] Neal Russo, “Extra Inning for Medwick Career,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 24, 1968.

[23] “Medwick: ‘Life Now Complete,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1968.

[24] “Medwick: ‘Life Now Complete,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1968.

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