Dizzy Dean: A Brash Ballplayer

“Dizzy” Dean was born Jay Hanna Dean in Lucas, Arkansas on January 16, 1910. He was best known in baseball for being a colorful member of the St Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang but he .also played for the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Browns. He made his major league debut on September 28, 1930.

“Dizzy” was a brash player and went into broadcasting after retiring from baseball. He asked for, and was granted a one day comeback as he was already broadcasting games but wanted the retirement on his debut date. At age 37, Dean pitched four innings, allowing no runs, and rapped a single in his only at-bat. Rounding first base, he pulled his hamstring. Returning to the broadcast booth at the end of the game, he said, “I said I can pitch better than nine of the ten guys on the staff, and I can. But I’m done. Talking’s my game now, and I’m just glad that muscle I pulled wasn’t in my throat.”

Three years earlier he was cocky and arrogant as he made a prediction about himself and his brother Paul Dean, “Me an’ Paul are gonna win 45 games.” On September 21,1934,Dizzy pitched a three-hit shutout in the first game of a doubleheader for this 27th win of the year and his brother went to the mound for game two and threw a no-hitter for his 18th win which matched his early-season prediction of winning 45 games. But Dizzy went on to say, “Gee, Paul, if I’d a-known you was gonna throw a no-hitter, I’d a-thrown one too!”

Dizzy Dean was always confident in his abilities to pitch. He bet some players that he could strike out Vince DiMaggio four times in one game. The first three at bat DiMaggio fanned. On the fourth at bat he popped one up to the catcher in foul territory and Dean screamed at the catcher, “Drop it, Drop it!” The catcher did as instructed and Dizzy Dean proceeds to win the bet by striking out DiMaggio a fourth time in the game.

Jay Hanna Dean lived up to his nickname of “Dizzy” in the 1934 World Series when they faced the Detroit Tigers. He was sent in to pinch run in Game 4. The next batter hit a potential double play ball and Dean wanted to break it up. “Dizzy” throws himself in front of the relay toss to first base and is struck on the head and knocked unconscious. It was reportedly written in the sports section the next day, “X-ray of Dean’s head reveals nothing.” Dean recovered to pitch the following day and also in Game 7 to propel the Cardinals to win the Series.

As mentioned earlier, Dean went to the broadcast booth after his playing days and his antics didn’t stop. He worked for several networks and teams from 1941 to 1965 in the booth. It was his crazy style and homespun demeanor that made him a success in this lifestyle. Dizzy knew he wasn’t the flashiest announcer as he would tell folks, “The Good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong right arm, a good body, and a weak mind.”

He was chided for his incorrect English by people that listened to his game many times. He once saw Browns’ outfielder Al Zarilla slide into a base, and said, “Zarilla slud into third!” “Slud” instead of “slid” became a frequently-used Dean expression or once, describing a player who had struck out, Dean said, “he nonchalantly walks back to the dugout in disgust.”

Once he had a broadcast for CBS and uttered over an open microphone, “I don’t know why they’re calling this the Game of the Week. There’s a much better game, Dodgers and Giants, over on NBC.” Many times he would sign-off the air by saying, “Don’t fail to miss tomorrow’s game!” Dean in the broadcast booth made it easier for other former players to work there after their playing days.

Finally an English teacher sent him a letter and complained he shouldn’t use the word “ain’t” while on the air as he was a bad example for people and particularly the children. When he got back on the air after this letter he was heard to say, “A lot of folks who ain’t sayin’ ‘ain’t,’ ain’t eatin’. So, Teach, you learn ’em English, and I’ll learn ’em baseball.”

“Dizzy” Dean is a Character of the Game.

Career statistics

  • Win–Loss record 150–83
  • Earned run average 3.02
  • Strikeouts 1,163

Career highlights and awards

  • 4× All-Star selection (1934, 1935, 1936, 1937)
  • World Series champion (1934)
  • 1934 NL MVP
  • St. Louis Cardinals #17 retired