Friday, October 9, 2009

Quote of the Day (Jim Murray, on Baseball Pitcher Dizzy Dean)

"Well we're all ten years older today. Dizzy Dean is dead and 1934 is gone forever. Another part of our youth fled. You look in the mirror and the small boy no longer smiles back at you. Just that sad old man. The Gashouse Gang is now a duet. Dizzy died the other day at the age of 11 or 12. The little boy in all of us died with him. But, for one brief shining afternoon in 1934, he brought joy to that dreary time when most needed it. Dizzy Dean. It's impossible to say without a smile, but then who wants to try? If I know Diz he'll be calling God 'podner' someplace today. I hope there's golf courses or a card game or a slugger who's a sucker for a low outside fastball for Diz. He might have been what baseball's all about." —Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 1974

“One brief shining afternoon,” 75 years ago today, Jerome Hanna “Dizzy” Dean capped a season for the ages by blanking the Detroit Tigers 11-0 on one day of rest, helping the St. Louis Cardinals take the seventh and deciding game of the World Series.

At one point, player-manager Frankie Frisch came over from second to deliver a stern lecture to his clown prince.

Nearly two months earlier, Frisch had won a battle of wills with the star of his rowdy, brawling “Gas House Gang.” Dizzy and brother Paul (nicknamed “Daffy” by the sportswriters) had lost both ends of a doubleheader, and they loathed showing up the next day for a meaningless exhibition game. Go ahead and fine us, they had dared. After Frisch suspended them, Dizzy tore up his uniform, then went on strike for two days with Paul before yielding.

So much had changed in the two months since then, however. Dizzy had finished the season with 30 victories, the last time to date any pitcher has done so in the National League. Twenty-six of these wins came as a starter, with another four as a reliever—and every one of them was needed to overtake the New York Giants in the pennant race.

In the final three weeks, the cheerful 24-year-old phenom from Arkansas had:

* beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2, two days after relieving in both ends of a doubleheader;
* shut out the Cincinnati Reds, 4-0, on two days rest (by turning down an invitation to rope a calf at a rodeo the night before the big game, Dizzy spared Frisch a coronary incident—at least this once);

* blanked the Reds again, 9-0—on one game of rest—to clinch the pennant.

So now, according to Charles Einstein’s The Fireside Book of Baseball, Frisch had come to the mound with an ultimatum for his ace. “If you don’t stop clowning around, I’ll take you out of the game,” the manager threatened.

Imagine that you’re Dizzy Dean, prone to asking hitters, “So what kind of pitch would you like to miss?” Is there any doubt that you’re going to tell Frisch, “No, I won’t”—or that the fiery manager (the anti-Torre, if you will) would slink away? Or that deeds like the one you performed today would send you to Cooperstown?

I wish Alex Rodriguez would commit to memory the following defiant quote from Dean: “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”

No comments: