Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » January 2006 » Significant days in St. Louis Baseball History:

[« From Josh Marshall late yesterday....] [Speaking of baseball birthdays today.... »]

01/16/2006: Significant days in St. Louis Baseball History:

Today is the 96th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Hall of Famer, sparkplug of The Gashouse Gang (the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who were World Series Champions that year): Jerome Hanna "Dizzy" Dean (note: some sources give Dean's birth name as Jay Hanna Dean vice Jerome Hanna Dean).

Not only was Ol' Diz one of the greatest pitchers of all time, he was also one of the most memorable characters the National Pastime ever produced. Dizzy pitched one game for the Cardinals in 1930 (a complete game win, in which he allowed only three hits and one run), and then made the team for keeps in 1931. In 1934 his brother Paul, also a Cardinal farmhand in earlier years, made the team along with his brother (the Dean brothers both hailed from rural Lucas, Arkansas, then squarely in Cardinals territory, so it was unremarkable that both came up in that organization). Dizzy, never modest about his own ability, was not modest about his brother's ability, either. "Me and Paul will probably win forty games." People thought he was merely bragging, but the Deans made good on Dizzy's prediction; Dizzy went 30-7, and was voted National League Most Valuable Player (Dizzy is the last 30 game winner in the National League; since that campaign only Denny McLain of the American League's 1968 Detroit Tigers has won 30 or more games in a single season in the majors), while Paul went 19-11; together the brothers won 9 more games than Dizzy predicted. Not only that, but the Cardinals went 90-63 for the season to win the National League championship, and then beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, 4 games to 3. For that matter, the World Series was pretty much "The Dizzy and Paul Show" (some journalists dubbed Paul "Daffy", as apparently they liked the alliteration of "Dizzy and Daffy", but in truth poor Paul was hardly the character that Dizzy was, and never really lived up to that nickname), as Dizzy won two games and Paul won two games--all the Cardinals' World Series victories in 1934 were with one of the two Dean brothers on the mound.

After being hit on the foot by a line drive by Earl Averill of the Cleveland Indians during the 1937 All Star Game, and sustaining a fracture of his big toe as a result (Dizzy's comment on being informed of the injury: "Fractured? Hell, the damn thing's broken!!"), Dizzy tried to come back too soon, and his attempts to favor the foot injury caused him to injure his arm seriously, thus ending his career too early. The Cardinals traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 1938, where he finished out the last four years of his career as a mere shadow of his former dominating self (not counting a one game, 4 inning appearance pitching for the St. Louis Browns in 1947). Despite his shortened career, Dizzy was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America voters in 1953.

After his baseball career, Dizzy made a name for himself as a broadcaster. Some memorable stories deal with Dizzy's tenure as radio broadcaster for the St. Louis Browns. My favorite: one day, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, on a state visit to the United States, made a stop in St. Louis, and was a special guest at a Browns game that day. Unfortunately, because of delays at the other functions the Queen had to attend that day, she arrived at the game late. As is usual with such high level VIPs, her arrival caused a bit of commotion in the area of Sportsmans' Park where she was to sit, and the game was delayed while Her Highness took her seat. Dizzy, broadcasting the game that day, mentioned to his radio audience that the game was being delayed because of some fuss surrounding "some fat lady sitting in the first base side boxes". Horrified, a Browns team executive rushed up to the broadcast booth to tell Dizzy the cause of the interruption. Thus informed, Dizzy turned to his microphone and said, "Well, folks, I've just been told that the fat lady causing all the ruckus in the first base boxes is the Queen of Holland!"

Following his job broadcasting for the Browns, Dizzy broadcast national games. From 1960-65 he paired with fellow Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese to broadcast the national "Game of the Week" on CBS. In that capacity, Dizzy and Pee Wee paired to bring us one of the great dialogues in all of sports broadcasting:

REESE: Well, Diz, I have to say... We've been watching that young man pitch a pretty good game here, and I have to ask you something. You used to be a pitcher, and you've been watching that young man pitch. Perhaps you can tell the listening audience what that boy is throwing today.
DEAN: Yes, Pee Wee, I used to be a pitcher, and I've been watching him pitch all afternoon, and I think that makes me enough of an expert to tell you that this afternoon, what that boy has been throwing is a baseball.
Below the fold; a few choice "Deanisms" with which Dizzy, in his career, enriched the history and literature of baseball. But to close the main body of this post, I can think of no better summary than that voiced by Dean's long time Cardinals teammate (including the '34 World Series Champions), Pepper Martin:
When ole Diz was out there pitching it was more than just another ballgame. It was a regular three-ring circus and everybody was wide awake and enjoying being alive.

Some "Deanisms":

Son, what kind of pitch would you like to miss? [to a batter]

It ain't braggin' if you can back it up.
[Sometimes rendered as "It ain't braggin' if you can do it."]

I never keep a scorecard or the batting averages. I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.

Anybody who's ever had the privilege of seeing me play knows that I am the greatest pitcher in the world.

All ballplayers want to wind up their career with the Cubs, Giants or Yankees. They just can't help it.

I ain't what I used to be, but who the hell is?

I won twenty-eight games in 1935 and I couldn't believe my eyes when the Cards send me a contract with a cut in salary. Mr. Rickey said I deserved a cut because I didn't win thirty games.

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.

Mr. Rickey, I'll put more people in the park than anybody since Babe Ruth.
[Dizzy, making the case for a salary increase in the days before arbitration.]

Sure I eat what I advertise. Sure I eat Wheaties for breakfast. A good bowl of Wheaties with bourbon can't be beat.

The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing.
[In one game, Dizzy "broke up" a double play when, as the lead runner, his head "intercepted" the throw from second to first. Stunned by the play, Dizzy was taken to a hospital for an examination. The headline in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat the next morning read: X-RAYS OF DEAN'S HEAD REVEAL NOTHING. Dizzy probably borrowed the headline for his own self-deprecating wisecrack.]

The dumber a pitcher is, the better. When he gets smart and tries to experiment with a lot of different pitches, he's in trouble. All I ever had was a fastball, a curve and a change up and I did pretty good.

The good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong body, a good right arm and a weak mind.

Anybody who's ever had the privilege of seeing me play knows that I am the greatest pitcher in the world.

I can't tell you why there's a delay, but stick your head out of the window and you'll know why.
[Said by Dizzy during a rain delay. The background: Dizzy was broadcasting a St. Louis Browns home game during the World War II years. During that time broadcasters were not permitted to talk about the weather, for fear of providing the Axis with information that would be useful in planning air raids on U.S soil--at that time, there was a justifiable (though later unfounded) fear of such attack.]

The Cards had one pitcher who won fourteen straight games in a period of twenty-four days. Then when he lost his fifteenth game 1-0, his manager fined him fifty bucks.

Heck, if anybody told me I was setting a record I'd of got me some more strikeouts.
[Dizzy's comment on setting the then single game strikeout record (in a game on July 30, 1933)]

Heck, if I knew that Paul was going to throw a no-hitter, I'da throwed one too.
[Comment made to the press when Dizzy threw a two-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader. His brother Paul pitched the second game of the set, and threw a no-hitter.]

He must think I went to the Massachesetts Constitution of Technology.
[Dizzy (who was not well educated), complaining about the vocabulary used by the very well educated Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey]

Len on 01.16.06 @ 01:24 PM CST

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