Dizzy Dean is among the candidates for the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award presented annually for excellence in baseball broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 9 and will be honored next July. Other finalists for the award are Don Drysdale, Joe Buck, Dan Shulman, Al Michaels, Dave Campbell, Ernesto Jerez, and Buddy Blattner.
Born in Lucas, Arkansas in 1910, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean made his professional debut in 1930 with the St. Louis Cardinals. According to the Hall of Fame, he became a regular starter in 1932, leading the league in shutouts and innings pitched. It was also the first of four straight seasons he led the league in strikeouts.
In 1934, Dean led the league in wins and won the National League MVP Award. His brother Paul (known as Daffy Dean) was also a pitcher on the team.
In 1937 Dean suffered an injury to his arm and largely lost his pitching effectiveness. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1938 and spent four seasons there. Dean was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953.
After his retirement from the game, Dean turned to broadcasting starting in 1941 announcing both St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns games on the radio. His broadcast career lasted 24 years, including announcing games for The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. He joined CBS television and became the star of their Game of the Week telecast starting in the 1950s through 1965.
Dizzy passed away in 1974 at age 64. He and his wife of 43 years, Patricia, lived in Bond, Mississippi, her hometown. He has not been forgotten down there. Congress designated the U.S. Post Office in Wiggins, Mississippi as the “Jay Hanna ‘Dizzy’ Dean Post Office” in 2000, and in 2007, a rest area in Wiggins, which is near Bond, was named the ”Dizzy Dean Rest Area.”
Paul died in 1981 at age 67 in Springdale, Arkansas where he lived.
A couple of things make Dizzy Dean’s nomination for this award especially neat.
Reason One: It is named for Ford C. Frick who was president of the National League from 1934-1951, and was commissioner of baseball from 1951-1965.
Frick and Dean had a pretty famous feud back in 1937. It all started when Dean was called for a balk in a game against the New York Giants. A 2012 article from Scott Wuerz, published in the Belleville (Illinois) News Democrat, recounts that the Cardinals lost their 1-0 lead in the sixth inning as practically all of Dizzy’s pitches after the call came in “high and tight” for the last three innings of the game. And a brawl broke out when he finally hit a Giants batter in the ninth.
The Cards lost 4-1, and according to Wuerz, Dean threw a fit in front of the Sportsmans Park crowd, “causing a riot before storming off the field and later giving reporters an earful about how little he thought about the National League, it’s umpires and league president Ford Frick.”
Over the next two weeks Dean apparently bad-mouthed Frick and the league every chance he got, and at a youth sports dinner in Belleville a few days after the Giants game, Wuerz writes that Dean called Frick and George Barr, the umpire that called the balk, “the two greatest crooks in baseball” in front of a shocked audience.
Frick insisted Dean apologize in writing or else he would be suspended. Dean called a press conference (of sorts) in a room on the 20th floor of a hotel and told reporters he would rather jump out the window than apologize. Somehow Cardinals management smoothed things over with Frick. Dean made no more remarks publicly, and was allowed to play.
Reason Two: The award is for excellence in baseball broadcasting, something for which Dean was highly criticized.
In 1946 a group of Missouri teachers complained to the Federal Communications Commission that Dean’s broadcasts had a negative affect on America’s youth.
They wrote that his broadcasts were “replete with errors in grammar and syntax.” He was defended by the Saturday Review of Literature and other publications and groups, but he couldn’t resist responding to one teacher on the air who had written to him and complained about his saying “ain’t” during his broadcasts.
“A lot of folks who ain’t sayin’ ‘ain’t,’ ain’t eatin,’” Dean said. “So, Teach, you learn ’em English, and I’ll learn ’em baseball.”
He invented the word slud, as in ‘Rizzuto slud into second.’ After getting complaints about it, Dean explained that slud is something more than slid. “It means sliding with great effort,” he said, according to Baseball Almanac.
Dean only had a second grade education. He stopped going to school after his mother died when he was just 8 years old. He liked to say he didn’t do so well in first grade, either.
The Hall of Fame states that Dizzy Dean became a national sensation in broadcasting for his combination of lively descriptions, candid opinions and at times, incorrect English and trouble with names. “His pairing with Pee Wee Reese in the early 1960s is credited with bringing many new fans to baseball.”
And who else, besides Dizzy Dean, could get away with saying this on the air while working for CBS: “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.”
That sounds like a Ford C. Frick Award winning broadcaster to me.