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William Malcolm Dickey was born June 6, 1907 in Bastrop, Louisiana. When he was only 7, Dickey's family moved to Kensett, Arkansas, where Bill made something of a name for himself as a good hunter. In 1925, he played his first professional game with the Little Rock team, which was owned by the Chicago White Sox. However, a Yankee scout spotted Dickey and bought his contract for $10,000 - a large sum at the time, but Bill was worth it.

Bill was called up to the Yankees in mid-August of 1928, playing 10 games for the pinstripes and batting a meager .200. Still, he had a decent left-handed bat and his throwing arm was one of the best in baseball. The team kept him on for the 1929 season, and they never regretted the decision.

I loved to make a great defensive play, I'd rather do that than hit a home run.

From 1929 to 1939, Bill hit .300 or better in 10 of the 11 seasons, including a career high of .362 in 1936. He also provided the team with a strong pop behind the plate, hitting 202 career home runs for the Yankees. What set Dickey apart from other catchers in the league, though, was his arm. They didn't award Gold Gloves during Dickey's day, but if they had, he would've won them all. He caught 100 games or more for 13 straight seasons, and never finished below a .976 fielding percentage. His arm nailed would-be stealers at a tremendous pace - he still holds the American League record for most putouts by a catcher. Dickey also claimed a unique spot in the record books of Major League Baseball in 1931 when he became the only catcher not to allow a single passed ball in a season.

A catcher must want to catch.

Bill wasn't just good, he was phenomenal. An 11 time All-Star (including 8 years in a row from 1936-1943), Bill also played in 8 World Series with the Bronx Bombers. Twice he led the team in October batting, and his teams went 7-1 in the Fall Classic, cementing his place as a Winner. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting five times, including a second place finish in 1938, behind 50 home run hitter Jimmie Foxx, but ahead of other such luminaries as Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, and Yankee ace Red Ruffing. Although his offensive stats were decent that year, everyone knew that his votes came because he was the consummate player.

Dickey's career was slightly tarnished by an incident on Independence Day, 1932. On a tight suicide squeeze, Washington Senators rightfielder Carl Reynolds careened into Dickey; Dickey, thinking the blow was unnecessarily rough, retaliated with a straight right cross to Reynolds's jaw, knocking him clean out. For it, he was fined $1,000 and suspended for 30 days. That didn't stop Dickey from coming back to the lineup in time to help the Yankees win yet another World Series.

Dickey was a great catcher and a clutch hitter, but he will perhaps best be remembered as a good teammate. He roomed with the legendary Lou Gehrig, and was the first Yankee privy to the Iron Man's fatal disease. Dickey also played himself in the Gehrig biopic The Pride Of The Yankees. Dickey was a joker and a prankster, and got himself into trouble with the Great Bambino Babe Ruth on more than one occasion with his antics. Still, everyone knew Dickey was the main reason their pitchers did as well as their feared lineup day in and day out.

He learned me all of his experiences.
Yogi Berra

In 1944, Dickey enlisted and was made a Navy lieutenant commander. He served two years, and returned to the Yankees for the 1946 season. Worn out by injuries, Bill retired 38 games in. That didn't mark the end of his career as a Yankee - instead, he took over as manager following the fallout with Joe McCarthy. Under Dickey's reign, the team went 56-48 and finished third in the league. Dickey resigned as manager but stayed on as first base coach and tutor to his protege, Yogi Berra. In 1954, Bill Dickey was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. He retired as coach in 1957, but continued to scout sporadically for the Yankees. He received perhaps his greatest tribute in 1958, when the Yankees retired his number 8 jersey.

Bill Dickey, the greatest catcher in Yankee history, passed away November 12, 1993 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 YEAR TEAM    G   AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR  RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA
 1928  NYY   10   15   1    3   1  1   0    2  0  0   0   2 .200
 1929  NYY  130  447  60  145  30  6  10   65  4  3  14  16 .324
 1930  NYY  109  366  55  124  25  7   5   65  7  1  21  14 .339
 1931  NYY  130  477  65  156  17 10   6   78  2  1  39  20 .327
 1932  NYY  108  423  66  131  20  4  15   84  2  4  34  13 .310
 1933  NYY  130  478  58  152  24  8  14   97  3  4  47  14 .318
 1934  NYY  104  395  56  127  24  4  12   72  0  3  38  18 .322
 1935  NYY  120  448  54  125  26  6  14   81  1  1  35  11 .279
 1936  NYY  112  423  99  153  26  8  22  107  0  2  46  16 .362
 1937  NYY  140  530  87  176  35  2  29  133  3  2  73  22 .332
 1938  NYY  132  454  84  142  27  4  27  115  3  0  75  22 .313
 1939  NYY  128  480  98  145  23  3  24  105  5  0  77  37 .302
 1940  NYY  106  372  45   92  11  1   9   54  0  3  48  32 .247
 1941  NYY  109  348  35   99  15  5   7   71  2  1  45  17 .284
 1942  NYY   82  268  28   79  13  1   2   37  2  2  26  11 .295
 1943  NYY   85  242  29   85  18  2   4   33  2  1  41  12 .351
 1946  NYY   54  134  10   35   8  0   2   10  0  1  19  12 .261
    CAREER 1789 6300 930 1969 343 72 202 1209 36 29 678 289 .313

Sources

  • http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/dickebi01.shtml
  • http://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/dickebi01.shtml
  • http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/D/Dickey_Bill.stm
  • http://www.baseball-almanac.com/quotes/quodicky.shtml
  • http://www.rootsweb.com/~arwhite/wchs/BillDickey.htm

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