Well, today’s the day…Hall of Fame election day. Going in, no doubt, will be Braves greats Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. We’ll see who else ends up in there.
Speaking of Hall of Famers (and particularly Hall of Fame pitchers), let’s get to talking about one half of today’s funny-named tag team, Dizzy Dean. Jay Hanna Dean (1910-1974), was as entertaining off the field as he was exceptional on it.
Born in Logan County, Arkansas – a county with not one, but two county seats – the one and only Diz would quit school and join the Army at age 16. It is debatable as to where his nickname came from, but perhaps the most popular explanation is that it resulted from an incident during his Army days. According to the story, an Army sergeant found Dean throwing peeled potatoes against garbage can lids, prompting the sarge to shout “you dizzy son-of-a-bitch!”
A few years later, Diz would be in the big leagues, where he would have significant success in a career shortened by injury. Diz finished his career with a 150-83 won-loss record, to go along with a 3.02 ERA, four all-star selections, and an MVP award. His number 17 is retired by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Dizzy is famous for leading the 1934 “Gashouse Gang” Cardinals team to a World Series championship. This team, so named due to their shabby appearance and rough and tumble tactics, consisted of numerous awesomely-named players, such as Dazzy Vance, Ducky Medwick, Pepper Martin, and the other Dean brother, Daffy. Paul Dee “Daffy” Dean was the lesser pitcher of the two, but he still put up a respectable 50-34 record with a 3.72 ERA over his time in the big leagues.
However, Daffy’s nickname was more of a media creation than anything else, and the boisterous Dizzy Dean usually referred to his quiet, serious brother by his first name, Paul.
In later years, the grammatically-challenged Dizzy became one of baseball’s more popular, and quotable, broadcasters. Among some of Dizzy’s better quotes:
-“The doctors X-rayed my head and found nothing.”
-“The good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong body, a good right arm, and a weak mind.”
-“Well what’s wrong with ain’t? And as for saying (Phil) Rizzuto slud into second’ it just ain’t natural. Sounds silly to me. Slud is something more than slid. It means sliding with great effort.”
-“It puzzles me how they know what corners are good for filling stations. Just how did they know gas and oil was under there?”
-“Let the teachers teach English and I will teach baseball. There is a lot of people in the United States who say isn’t, and they ain’t eating.”
To close, here’s the great Ogden Nash on Jay Hanna Dean:
D is for Dean,
The grammatical Diz,
When they asked, Who’s the tops?
Said correctly, I is.
You go, Dizzy and Daffy Dean!