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Jay Hanna: Dizzy Dean

Dizzy DeanJay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean (January 16, 1910 – July 17, 1974), also known as Jerome Herman Dean, was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball as a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Browns. A brash and colorful personality, Dean was the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in one season. After his playing career, he became a popular television sports commentator. Dean was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953. When the Cardinals reopened the team Hall of Fame in 2014, Dean was inducted among the inaugural class.

Following his playing career Dean became a well-known radio and television sportscaster, calling baseball for the Cardinals (1941–46), Browns (1941–48), Yankees (1950–51), and Atlanta Braves (1966–68) and nationally with Mutual (1952), ABC (1953–54), and CBS (1955–1965), where he teamed first with Buddy Blattner then with Pee Wee Reese. As a broadcaster, Dean was famous for his wit and his often-colorful butchering of the English language. Much like football star-turned-sportscaster Terry Bradshaw years later, he chose to build on, rather than counter, his image as a not-too-bright country boy, as a way of entertaining fans: “The Good Lord was good to me. He gave me a strong right arm, a good body, and a weak mind.” 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. Thanks to baseball fan Charles Schulz, another Dean expression found its way into a Peanuts strip, as Lucy commented on a batter who swung at a pitch outside the strike zone: “He shouldn’t hadn’t ought-a swang!” Once, describing a player who had struck out, Dean said, “he nonchalantly walks back to the dugout in disgust.”

While doing a game on CBS, Dean once said, over the open mike, “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.” Every so often, he would sign off by saying, “Don’t fail to miss tomorrow’s game!” During rain delays he was famous for off-key renditions of the Wabash Cannonball. These manglings of the language only endeared Dean to fans, being a precursor of such beloved ballplayers-turned-broadcasters as Ralph Kiner, Herb Score, and Jerry Coleman.

An English teacher once wrote to him, complaining that he shouldn’t use the word “ain’t” on the air, as it was a bad example to children. On the air, Dean said, “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.”

The Pride of St. Louis, a motion picture loosely based on Dean’s career, was released in 1952. Dan Dailey portrayed Dean. Chet Huntley, who would later gain fame as an NBC News anchorman, played an uncredited role in the movie as Dean’s radio announcing sidekick.

Click here to check out the Dizzy Dean Old Time Radio MP3 CD-R.

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