American baseball player
During the 1930s, baseball fans flocked to stadiums across the United States to get a peek of Dizzy Dean, the anchor of the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching staff. Dean was a dominant pitcher, to be sure—with his intimidating fastball, Dean hurled his way to four consecutive strikeout titles (1932-1935) and had four seasons with 20 or more wins. Over his career, Dean struck out 1,163 batters in 1,967 innings. Along with his fastball, Dean served up plenty of shenanigans, making him one of baseball's premier gate attractions. Once, he brought a black cat into the stadium and pretended to put a hex on the rival team. Other times, he joked around on the loudspeaker before the game. Dean was also a beloved braggart. Time and again, Dean predicted the impossible, then stepped to the mound and made it come true. To spectators suffering from the hardships of the Depression, the fun-loving, fastball-pitching Dean served as a beacon of hope. He was the uncultured country boy made good, a hero who had somehow escaped the hardships they could not.
Born to Sharecroppers
Dizzy Dean was born Jay Hanna Dean on January 16, 1910, in Lucas, Arkansas, to sharecroppers Alma and Albert Dean. In 1918, Dean's mother died of tuberculosis, leaving Albert Dean with three sons to raise. Dean had an older brother, Elmer, and a younger brother,
Paul. When they weren't picking cotton or working the fields, the Dean boys amused themselves playing baseball with their homespun ball—often a rock tightly wrapped with yarn from an old sock.
In 1925, the Deans moved to Spaulding, Oklahoma, where Dizzy and Paul Dean's baseball abilities became well-known. The boys didn't attend school regularly because their father kept them home to work. On Fridays, however, the town's baseball-fanatic farmers made sure the scruffy boys showed up at school so they could help deliver a win for the school baseball team.
Honed Pitching Skills in Army
In 1926, the lean and lanky 16-year-old Dean was looking for a better life. He persuaded the U.S. Army that he was 18 and enlisted. For Dean, Army life was good. He got paid, he got food, and his first pair of new shoes.
Dean, however, proved to be a dismal soldier at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The only place he stood out was as a pitcher for the base's baseball team. It was during his Army years that Dean earned the nickname "Dizzy." A sergeant called him Dizzy once after he'd done something stupid. Also, his fastballs made batters dizzy. The name was so perfect, it stuck, and Dean was more than happy to play the part.
In March 1929, Dean left the Army. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and spent 1930 in their farm system. In 1932, Dean experienced his first full major league season. The rookie led the league in strikeouts (191) and innings pitched (286), ending the season with 18 wins. In 1933, he won 20 games and set a new major league record with 17 strikeouts in one game.
Along with his fastball, Dean's personality stood out. He was a born actor, who used the baseball diamond as his stage. One sweltering July afternoon, Dean built a pretend fire in front of the dugout, then sat under a wool blanket, mocking the 105-degree heat. Perched at hotel windows, he and teammate Pepper Martin dropped bags of water on walkers below.
Pitched Way to World Series
In 1934, Dean's kid brother, Paul, joined the Cardinals' pitching staff. Dean bragged about his little brother's talent and predicted that they would win 45 games between them. Dizzy Dean won 30 that season, while his little brother won 19, for a total of 49. The Cardinals also won the pennant and ended up in the World Series playing the Detroit Tigers. Once again, the immodest Dizzy Dean spouted off, saying that he and his kid brother would win the series for the Cardinals. Again, he was right. The Dean brothers each won two games apiece in the series, giving the Cardinals the championship. It was a phenomenal season for Dizzy Dean, who led the National League in wins (30), complete games (24), shutouts (7), and strikeouts (195). He was named the National League Most Valuable Player (MVP), as well as World Series MVP.
|1910||Born Jay Hanna Dean on January 16 in Lucas, Arkansas|
|1926||Joins the U.S. Army|
|1930||Makes debut in baseball with St. Louis Cardinals farm team in St. Joseph, Missouri|
|1930||Makes major league debut for Cardinals, gets 3-1 win over Pittsburgh Pirates on September 28, but is sent back down to minor leagues|
|1931||Marries Patricia Nash on June 10|
|1932||Spends first full season in the major league|
|1934||Enjoys season with brother (Paul Dean) joining him on Cardinals pitching staff|
|1935||Stars in Warner Bros. movie Dizzy and Daffy, a comedy based on the pitching lives of Dizzy and Paul Dean|
|1937||Fractures toe pitching in All-Star Game|
|1938||Traded to Chicago Cubs|
|1941||Retires from baseball and embarks on radio career as broadcaster for the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals|
|1947||Makes last major league appearance pitching for the St. Louis Browns on September 28|
|1950||Becomes TV announcer for New York Yankees|
|1952||Film biography, The Pride of St. Louis, is released|
|1955-65||Works as announcer for CBS-TV's Game of the Week|
|1974||Dies on July 17, in Reno, Nevada, following a heart attack|
At the start of 1935, Dizzy Dean once again boasted that "me 'n Paul" would win 45 games—and they did. Dizzy Dean was a braggart, but a braggart people loved. As teammate Bill Hallahan told Curt Smith, author of America's Dizzy Dean, "When you have a person that says, 'I can do this or that. Just watch me,' that's being a braggart. But when you say that and keep doing what you say, that's something."
The allure of the baseball-throwing brothers, however, was short-lived. In 1936, Paul Dean developed a sore arm from overuse and in 1937, Dizzy Dean broke a toe, but refused to rest so it could heal. Dizzy Dean never recovered, and in 1938 was dealt to the Chicago Cubs. Dean kept trying to pitch, but his well of fastballs had run dry. Finally, in 1941, he retired.
Became Beloved Baseball Broadcaster
Dean soon took his act to the Cardinals' broadcast booth, where the ungrammatical, chatty farm boy was an instant success. For Dean, slide became "slid, slide, slud." Fielders "threwed" the ball, and runners returned to their "respectable" bases. English teachers cringed, but fans roared. Dean later did network telecasts and turned the CBS-TV Game of the Week into a household favorite. In 1953, Dean was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
|CHI: Chicago Cubs; STL: St. Louis Cardinals; STL-B: St. Louis Browns.|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1930||Won first major league start on September 28|
|1932||Led National League in strikeouts (191) and innings pitched (286)|
|1933||Struck out 17 batters in one game to set a new league record|
|1933||Led National League in strikeouts (199)|
|1934||Pitched to a record of 30-7; led National League in strikeouts (195), wins (30), and shutouts (7); named National League Most Valuable Player and Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year|
|1934||Won final game of the World Series with an 11-0 rout over Detroit on October 9|
|1934-37||Named to the All-Star team|
|1935||Led National League in strikeouts (190) and wins (28)|
|1953||Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Dean ended his career with a record of 150 wins to 83 losses.|
Dean retired from broadcasting in the late 1960s and settled with his wife, Patricia Nash, in Bond, Mississippi. The couple, who had no children, had wed in 1931, during Dean's minor league years. Dean died on July 17, 1974. During his funeral in Bond, Mississippi, the Rev. Bill Taylor summed up Dean's life this way, according to Vince Staten's book, Ol' Diz: "He has left us, but he has not left us empty. Few men will be remembered as he will be, a man of kindness and good will. He was an institution it would have been a tragedy to institutionalize.… His speech didn't always follow the rules, but he was better understood that our best grammarian."
Golenbock, Peter. The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. New York: Avon Books, 2000.
Kavanagh, Jack. Dizzy Dean. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.
Smith, Curt. America's Dizzy Dean. St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1978.
Staten, Vince. Ol'Diz: A Biography of Dizzy Dean. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.
"Dizzy Dean Statistics." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/deandi/01.shtml (November 18, 2002).
Sketch by Lisa Frick