Monday, June 6, 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Bill Dickey | Baseball Digest

It is very easy to get overlooked when you play on a team that has Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig on it’s roster. Such was the case for Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey. The 17-yr Major League veteran, who played every one of his games for the New York Yankees, was born on this date in Bastrop, LA in 1907.

The Yankees purchased Dickey after he finished high school in Arkansas and invited him to spring training in 1928. It was there that Dickey, who at a little over six feet was tall for the catchers of those days, made an impression on manager Miller Huggins. So much so that Dickey made his Major League debut on August 15 at just 21 years of age. The following season Dickey did more than just impress, he produced. The rookie hit .324, slugged 10 home runs, drove in 65 runs, and stroked 30 doubles. He was still learning to play the catcher position at the top level (he committed 12 errors), but he threw out 42% of would-be base stealers.

Dickey’s 1929 season would be the first of seven straight campaigns in which he hit better than .300 and produced a minimum .820 OPS. In 1932 Dickey reached the post-season for the first time, but you couldn’t tell from the way he handled the bat as the Yankees defeated the Chicago Cubs in four straight games to capture the World Series title. The 25-yr old catcher hit .438 (7-16) with four RBI and caught Hall of Fame pitchers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez. He had also developed into one of the best defensive catchers in the game.

Learn more about Bill Dickey from this 1994 Baseball Digest column edition written by Bill Broeg.

Dickey would go on to hit over .300 11 times and finished with a .313 career batting average. He missed the 1944-1945 seasons due to World War II, but came back in 1946 to play 54 games in his final year in pinstripes. He even spent part of the season as a player-manager. He led the Yankees to a 57-48 record as one of three managers used that season. He was an 11 time All-Star and finished in the top 20 in AL MVP voting nine times. During his time with the Yankees the team won eight AL pennants and captured seven World Series championships. While Ruth and Gehrig got the press, Dickey was the rock of the ball club, was considered a thinking man’s ball player and was highly respected in the clubhouse. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.

Dickey would later return to the Yankees as a coach to mentor a young catcher by the name of Yogi Berra, who had taken on Dickey’s #8. In a dual ceremony in 1972, the Yankees retired the number in honor of both Hall of Fame catchers. In 1999, the Yankees added plaques for both players in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

Bill Dickey passed away on November 12, 1993 as one of the greatest catchers of all time.

Also Born Today:

Matt Belisle (Austin, TX 1930): The pitcher wasn’t having much of a career with the Cincinnati Reds over the 2003-2008 timeframe and things didn’t get much better when he joined the Colorado Rockies in 2009. But since then Belisle has been one of the steadiest relievers in the National League. Over the last two seasons, the right-hander increased his strikeouts per nine innings from a little over 6 to better than 8.5. With free agency pending and relief pitching at a premium, Belisle could find a nice payday this winter.

1 comment:

  1. One of the greats and so terrible how his legend is so overshadowed in Yankee Modern Lore. Thanks, for the solid bio and review of his career. Wish more would celebrate Bill Dickey as one of 10 greatest catchers ever...