Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, May 01, 2015

THE RETURN OF THE GAS HOUSE GANG

THE RETURN OF THE GAS HOUSE GANG


It was unanimous.  The Lions Club voted to sponsor a return visit to the Dublin Homecoming Day.  The 1935, held eighty years ago this month, would feature as the  opponent, the University of Georgia.  Dubliners were thrilled when it was announced that Dean would pitch in Dublin.  Dizzy Dean had become one of the most popular players in baseball.   The tall, amiable, and talented righthander drew a crowd everywhere he went.  During this period, his popularity was only equaled by Babe Ruth, although he was not very popular with opposing players because of his taunting and high self esteem.    His career  spanned 12 years from 1930 to 1941.  He had to retire because of arm problems.  He pitched only four innings during a comeback attempt in 1947.  In 1934 and 1935, he won 58 games and lost only 19. Despite his short career, he had 150 wins and a .644 winning percentage, one of the highest in history.   "Ole Diz" regained his popularity in the 1960's when he was the color man on the Yankees and Braves games.  Diz always had a funny story to tell.  He coined expressions such has "He slud into second" and "Powder River".  Dizzy's trademark was his bellowing rendition of "The Wabash Cannonball" in the late innings of the game. Dizzy was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953.  From 1932 to 1937, Diz was as good as anypitcher in baseball history. 

The Cardinals  fielded a team with Hall of Famers; Joe Medwick, Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, and Jesse Haines. Joe Medwick,  .324 lifetime batting average (34th all time) and 540 doubles (12th all time), was one of the best outfielders of 1930s.  He was the NL MVP in 1937 and the last National Leaguer to win the Triple Crown.  Frankie Frisch was one of the better all around players in the 20s and 30s.  He was a member of eight NL World Series teams - more than any other player, a .300 hitter thirteen times, a scorer of 100 runs seven times, 1931 NL MVP, a lifetime .316 hitter, and 25th on the all time hiT list with 2880. Jesse "Pop" Haines, the elder member of the team at 42,  threw his knuckleball for 210 wins and 209 complete games.  In the days before the Cy Young Award, he might have won the Best Pitcher Award in 1927, leading the league in complete games and shutouts and second in wins and winning percentage.   Leo Durocher (LEFT) was one of the most famous and colorful managers in baseball history.  Pepper Martin was one of the most speedy, colorful and hustling players in the thirties.  They joined Jimmy "Ripper" Collins, a .300+ hitter four times and NL Homerun Champ in 1934, Paul "Daffy" Dean, 1934 Rookie of the Year,  and Spud Davis, a steady .308 hitter who has the 3rd highest lifetime batting average for a catcher, to round out the team. 


   The Cardinals arrived in town on April 2, 1935, at 9:00 a.m. in three Pullman cars from Bradenton, Florida.  Paul Dean had lost a close game to Yankee great, Lefty Gomez, the day before.  They went to the Fred Roberts Hotel on Academy Avenue to check into their rooms. Dizzy (LEFT), Paul, and Player/Mgr. Frisch were whisked off to the school auditorium up on the hill where the City Hall now stands. Dizzy, speaking first, told the house  packed with youngsters and fans, "If you want to be a baseball star like some of the Cardinals, don't smoke or drink."   Daffy shyly rose to speak.  He grabbed the attention of the admiring kids when he told them, " I want to say that you should get all the education you can.  I never had the chance to get an education myself, but if you ever want to become anything, to get somewhere, you better get all the education you can." Paul had said this many times before.  As Paul returned to his seat, he looked to Dizzy for approval.  The crowd signaled its approval with a tremendous roar. 

     As the Deans were walking back to the hotel they were followed by hundreds of kids, Frankie Frisch (LEFT), and Bobby Norris of the Macon Telegraph.  Paul said, "You know, I've had to do that fifty times I guess.  Sometimes I think it gets monotonous, but every time I get up before a bunch of kids like that, and they applaud, it gives me goose pimples."  Dizzy nodded in approval.  Dizzy and Paul signed well over a thousand autographs that day.  The popular Frankie Frisch only signed a few dozen, mostly when the Deans weren't around. 





     Dizzy and Paul (LEFT) slipped off into the lounge to get a rest before lunch.  They sat down with Jesse Haines and Burgess Whitehead for a game of Bridge.  The upcoming year was the topic of conversation.  Dizzy was worried about the Giants while shuffling the cards.  The old veteran Haines asked Dizzy, "Diz, are you going to rub the spots off those cards?"  Diz stared at Haines and dealt the next hand.   After a few hands, Dizzy walked around town and finally admitted he would be happy to win 23 games this year. 





 
   The weather was perfect!  By noon, the 3000 seats were crammed. Another 3000 fans walled the outfield fences.  The Cardinals took the field with Dizzy Dean on the mound.  The Bulldogs were coached by former Lanier High School and University of Georgia Football Star, Vernon "Catfish" Smith.   His assistant actually coached the team that day.  Dean struck out Jimmy Moore. Ennis singled through Pepper Martin's legs.  E.J. Moore flied out to center and Andy Anderson struck out to end the inning.  Pepper Martin (LEFT) led off with a 373 foot double off the left field fence.  Frankie Frisch singled, scoring Martin.  Rip Collins then followed with a ground rule double into the crowd, scoring Frisch.  Martin doubled off the wall again but failed to score in the 2nd inning.  Five singles by Frisch, Medwick (BELOW), Collins, Durocher, and Dean led to three runs in the third inning. Three successive doubles by Frisch, Medwick, and Collins accounted for four more runs in the 4th inning.



   Dizzy lasted until the 5th inning when he gave up three runs and ran his hit total to seven.  Dizzy was probably drained from all the pre-game excitement.  Ed Heusser came in and finished the game.  Bishop relieved the Bulldog pitcher, Nichols in the 5th.  The Cardinals picked up two runs in the 8th when Wilson and Worthington doubled and scored. The Bulldogs picked up one run in the 8th and 9th innings.  The final score was Cardinals 11, Bulldogs 5.  


     The game also had its humorous moments.  The base umpire Bill Delancey, a Cardinal back up catcher,  swung at Dizzy.  A couple of the Cardinals ran to his defense pretending to knock the umpire flat on his back.  One of Dizzy's teammates threw a cup of water on him after he got "dizzy" over a bad play. One fan, dressed in a hunter's green suit, hat, and suede shoes stood out even more with his lavender shirt.  Some men could hardly keep their eyes on the game for the hundreds of pretty girls.  Former Dublin dignitaries such as Tom Linder, Agricultural Commissioner; Hal Stanley, Prison Commissioner; Vivian Stanley, Secretary of Commerce; and Peter Twitty, Game and Fish Commissioner were in attendance. 



     The excitement didn't end after the game.  Kids by the hundreds followed the teams back to the Fred Roberts Hotel  to wait on the Cardinals to come down and autograph balls, cards, and other items.  A local man, Tom Pritchett, was asked if he was a ball player.  He nodded yes and signed over a dozen times in the presence of an amused Clarence Carroll and Cicero Walker.  The Boy Scouts served as "Gophers" for the players.  Jule Greene ran errands for Dizzy Dean.  One little boy asked a man, "Are you Dizzy or Daffy?"  The man sent the boy away by saying, "I may be a little dizzy and daffy, but I'm not of the Dean variety." 

     The teams were entertained that night with an informal dance at the Country Club.  After a good night's rest, the Bulldogs returned to Athens and the Cardinals headed west for another season.  Well, most of the Cardinals had a good night's rest.  Ole Diz really enjoyed himself at the dance.  Diz slipped off with some locals to Frank's Place, which was located on the site of the Oaks Shopping center, for some stronger refreshments.   According to "Time" Magazine, Dizzy missed the train the next morning drawing a $100.00 fine.  Not to be outdone, Dizzy announced his retirement after the season.  The Cardinals finished second that year, four games  behind the Chicago Cubs.  Dizzy won 28 games and led the league in strikeouts while Daffy gathered 19 wins.  Joe Medwick finished near the top of the league with a batting average of .353.   Ripper Collins had one of his best seasons, batting .313, with 23 homeruns, and 122 runs batted in.





1934 St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers
World Series




Dizzy Dean




The Gas House Gang

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