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Bill Dickey

Bill Dickey

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William Malcolm Dickey was a Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

Catcher is a position for a baseball or softball player. When a batter takes his turn to hit, the catcher crouches behind home plate, in front of the umpire, and receives the ball from the pitcher. This is a catcher's primary duty, but he is also called upon to master many other skills in order to...

 and manager
Manager (baseball)
In baseball, the field manager is an individual who is responsible for matters of team strategy on the field and team leadership. Managers are typically assisted by between one and six assistant coaches, whose responsibilities are specialized...

He played his entire 19-year baseball career with the New York Yankees
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are a professional baseball team based in the The Bronx, New York. They compete in Major League Baseball in the American League's East Division...

 (1928–1946). During Dickey's playing career, the Yankees went to the World Series
World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball, played between the American League and National League champions since 1903. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff and awarded the Commissioner's Trophy...

 nine times, winning eight championships. Dickey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.

Playing career

Dickey, who was born in Bastrop, Louisiana
Bastrop, Louisiana
Bastrop is a city in and the parish seat of Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 12,988 at the 2000 census. It is the principal city of and is included in the Bastrop, Louisiana Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Monroe-Bastrop, Louisiana Combined...

, broke into the majors in and played his first full season in . It was his first of ten seasons out of eleven with a .300+ batting average
Batting average
Batting average is a statistic in both cricket and baseball that measures the performance of cricket batsmen and baseball hitters. The two statistics are related in that baseball averages are directly descended from the concept of cricket averages.- Cricket :...


Although his offensive production was overshadowed by Yankee greats Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth
George Herman Ruth, Jr. , best known as "Babe" Ruth and nicknamed "the Bambino" and "the Sultan of Swat", was an American Major League baseball player from 1914–1935...

, Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig
Henry Louis "Lou" Gehrig , nicknamed "The Iron Horse" for his durability, was an American Major League Baseball first baseman. He played his entire 17-year baseball career for the New York Yankees . Gehrig set several major league records. He holds the record for most career grand slams...

 and Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio
Joseph Paul "Joe" DiMaggio , nicknamed "Joltin' Joe" and "The Yankee Clipper," was an American Major League Baseball center fielder who played his entire 13-year career for the New York Yankees. He is perhaps best known for his 56-game hitting streak , a record that still stands...

, in the late 1930s Dickey posted some of the finest offensive seasons ever by a catcher, hitting over 20 home run
Home run
In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process...

s with 100 RBI
Run batted in
Runs batted in or RBIs is a statistic used in baseball and softball to credit a batter when the outcome of his at-bat results in a run being scored, except in certain situations such as when an error is made on the play. The first team to track RBI was the Buffalo Bisons.Common nicknames for an RBI...

 in four consecutive seasons ( - ). His 1936 batting average of .362 was the highest single-season average ever recorded by a catcher (tied by Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza
Michael Joseph "Mike" Piazza ; born September 4, 1968) is an American former Major League Baseball catcher. He played in his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and the Oakland Athletics....

 of the Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are a professional baseball team based in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers are members of Major League Baseball's National League West Division. Established in 1883, the team originated in Brooklyn, New York, where it was known by a number of nicknames before becoming...

 in 1997), until Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer
Joseph Patrick Mauer is a Major League Baseball catcher for the Minnesota Twins. He is the only catcher in Major League history to win three batting titles...

 of the Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins are a professional baseball team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They play in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. The team is named after the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. They played in Metropolitan Stadium from 1961 to 1981 and the...

 hit .365 in 2009.

Dickey was noted for his ability to handle pitcher
In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throwsthe baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the...

s, and his strong throwing arm. He was also known for his relentlessly competitive nature. In 1932, Dickey broke the jaw of Carl Reynolds
Carl Reynolds
Carl Nettles Reynolds was an American outfielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Chicago White Sox , Washington Senators , St. Louis Browns , Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs . He was born in LaRue, Texas...

 with one punch in a game after they collided at home plate, and received a 30-day suspension and $1,000 fine as punishment.

Friendship with Lou Gehrig

In 1942, while still an active player, Dickey appeared as himself in the film The Pride of the Yankees
The Pride of the Yankees
The Pride of the Yankees is a 1942 American film directed by Sam Wood and starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, and Walter Brennan. The film is a tribute to the legendary New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig, who died only one year before the film's release, at age 37, from amyotrophic lateral...

, which starred Gary Cooper
Gary Cooper
Frank James Cooper, known professionally as Gary Cooper, was an American film actor. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made...

 as the late Yankee captain and first baseman Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig
Henry Louis "Lou" Gehrig , nicknamed "The Iron Horse" for his durability, was an American Major League Baseball first baseman. He played his entire 17-year baseball career for the New York Yankees . Gehrig set several major league records. He holds the record for most career grand slams...

. Late in the movie, when Gehrig was fading due to the disease that would eventually take his life, a younger Yankee grumbled, in the locker room, "the old man on first needs crutches to get around!"--and Dickey, following the script, belted the younger player, after which he said the kid "talked out of turn."

Dickey also appeared as himself in the film The Stratton Story in 1949. He belted a pitch from James Stewart's title character, that the audience must assume was a homer based on the eyes of Stratton's pitching coach following the trajectory, sending Stratton back to the White Socks minor league team.

Dickey had been regarded as Gehrig's best friend on the team, and while the title of Yankee captain remained officially vacant until it was awarded to Thurman Munson
Thurman Munson
Thurman Lee Munson was an American Major League Baseball catcher. He played his entire 11-year career for the New York Yankees...

 in 1976, Dickey was seen by many as the Yankees' new leader on the field.

Manager and Coach

After several seasons of offensive stagnation and time off during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Dickey became the manager of the Yankees in the middle of the season and led the team to 3rd place in the American League
American League
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League , is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major...

. He retired after the season, having compiled 202 home runs, 1,209 RBI and a .313 batting average over his career.

In 1949, Dickey returned to the Yankees as first base coach
Coach (baseball)
In baseball, a number of coaches assist in the smooth functioning of a team. They are assistants to the manager, or head coach, who determines the lineup and decides how to substitute players during the game...

 and catching instructor to aid Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra is a former American Major League Baseball catcher, outfielder, and manager. He played almost his entire 19-year baseball career for the New York Yankees...

 in playing the position. In his trademark fractured English, Berra said, "Bill Dickey is learning me all of his experiences."

Already a good hitter, Berra became an excellent defensive catcher. With Berra having inherited his uniform number 8, Dickey wore number 33 until the 1960 season.

Later life

Dickey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in and Berra in 1972, the year the Yankees retired uniform number 8 for both men. On August 22, 1988, the Yankees honored both catchers with plaques to be hung in Monument Park
Monument Park (Yankee Stadium)
Monument Park is an open-air museum located at the new Yankee Stadium containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the New York Yankees....

 at Yankee Stadium. Dickey opined that Berra was "An elementary Yankee" who's "considered the greatest catcher of all time."

Dickey was named in 1999 to The Sporting News list of Baseball's Greatest Players, ranking number 57, trailing Bench (16), Josh Gibson
Josh Gibson
Joshua Gibson was an American catcher in baseball's Negro leagues. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1930 to 1931, moved to the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 to 1936, and returned to the Grays from 1937 to 1939 and 1942 to 1946...

 (18), Berra (40), and Campanella (50) among catchers. Also like those catchers, Dickey was a nominee for the Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 All-Century Team, but the fan balloting chose Berra and Bench as the two catchers on the team.

Dickey is currently the only Yankee with a retired number not yet featured on the YES Network
YES Network
The Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network is a New York City-based, regional cable television channel; it broadcasts a variety of sports events, with an emphasis on New York Yankees baseball games, and New Jersey Nets basketball games. YES made its debut on March 19, 2002...

 series Yankeeography
Yankeeography is a biography-style television program that chronicles the lives and careers of the players, coaches, and other notable personnel associated with the New York Yankees Major League Baseball team. The series is aired on the YES Network and is produced by MLB Productions . The series is...


Dickey spent part of his retirement in the 1970s and 80s residing in the Yarborough Landing community on the shore of Millwood Lake in Southwestern Arkansas. He died in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1993.

In 2007, Dickey-Stephens Park
Dickey-Stephens Park
Dickey-Stephens Park is a stadium in North Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. It is primarily used for baseball and serves as the home for the Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League. The fixed seat capacity of the ballpark is 5,800 people. It opened in 2007 as a replacement for Ray Winder Field...

 opened in North Little Rock, Arkansas
North Little Rock, Arkansas
the city was 62.55% White, 33.98% Black or African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.59% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.18% from other races, and 1.26% from two or more races...

. The ballpark was named after Bill; his brother, former baseball player, Skeeter Dickey; and two famous Arkansas businessmen, Jack and Witt Stephens.

See also

  • List of top 300 Major League Baseball home run hitters
  • List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI

External links