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We have a lot in common. I also used to be a Cardinal.
Joe Medwick, to Pope Pius XII

Joe "Ducky" Medwick is remembered in the annals of baseball for many reasons: the power hitter of the legendary Gashouse Gang 1930s St. Louis Cardinals; his infamous beaning at the hands of Bob Bowman; his curious removal during the 1934 World Series; and, of course, his 1937 season, one of the finest ever by a single hitter.

Beginnings

Joseph Michael Medwick was born November 24, 1911 in Carteret, New Jersey. A high school multi-sport standout, he was offered a football scholarship to the hallowed Notre Dame, but instead signed a minor league contract with St. Louis. He began playing for the Cardinals in September of 1932, batting .349 in the final 20 games of the season and earning a permanent place in left field.

Playing Hardball

Nicknamed "Ducky" for his unusual waddle, Medwick batted .300 consistently over the next 10 seasons. He was also a prodigious doubles hitter, hitting 40 or more 7 times (a feat only equaled by Wade Boggs) and setting the Major League record with 64 in a single season. In 1934, he and the Cardinals made it to the World Series, where they faced the dominant Detroit Tigers. However, the Cardinals tied the series at 3 games apiece, and the teams headed into the decisive Game Seven, held in Detroit. However, it proved anticlimactic as the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Medwick came up to bat and slapped a hit into the gap. He raced around the bases, and as he came into third, he slid hard, all but spiking Marv Owen. When the inning was over and Medwick went to take his place in the field, the enraged crowd began throwing food, coins, and trash at him. The scene was so out of control that Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ordered Medwick to leave the game, for his own safety.

Medwick continued to dominate, getting 224 hits in 1935 and 223 more in 1936, when he led the league in RBIs and doubles. But these were only mild foreshadowings of Ducky's 1937 season to come.

A Shining Moment

Medwick's excellence during the 1937 season is a feat that has not been repeated since in the National League. Besides leading the league in games, at bats, hits, runs, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, and slugging average, he was named National League MVP in a unanimous vote, the first person to receive such an honor in the league.

Mean Streak

However, despite this prestige, Medwick was known in most circles as a selfish and surly player: he once knocked out teammate Tex Carlton for walking in front of his photo sessions. One teammate of his said, "When he dies, half the National League will go to his wake just to make sure that son of a bitch is dead." Yet Medwick's off the field demeanor apparently had little effect on his playing abilities.

The Big Deal

A 10-time All-Star, Medwick put up impressive numbers in both 1938 and 1939. In 1940, he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for a few minor leaguers and $125,000 - an astronomical sum at the time. The investment paid off - in 1941, he led the Dodgers to their first pennant in twenty years. Yet he himself seems to have paid the most for the deal.

Coming Home To Roost

On June 18, 1940, 6 days after his trade, Medwick faced his old teammates, the St. Louis Cardinals, in a doubleheader. During the 1st inning of the second game, Bob Bowman beaned Medwick. Bowman was ejected and had to be escorted from the stadium by police; Medwick was hospitalized for 2 days with a concussion.

Dodgers general manager Larry MacPhail demanded unsuccessfully that Bob Bowman be banned from baseball; it is rumored Bowman and Medwick had a falling out the night before the game at Medwick's hotel. After the beaning, Medwick never returned to full form; despite a few flashes of his original hitting prowess, he was never good for more than a dedicated bench hitter and utility outfielder. He returned to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947 and retired in 1948 after an injury-logged season.

After Baseball

After his retirement, Medwick traveled around with USO, meeting and encouraging members of the Armed Forces. In 1966, he became a minor league hitting coach with the Cardinals. Medwick was inducted by the Veterans Committee to the Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1968.

Joe "Ducky" Medwick passed away March 21, 1975 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Lifetime Statistics

 YEAR TEAM     G   AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI SB CS  BB   K    BA
 1932 STL NL  26  106   13   37  12   1   2   12  3  0   2  10  .349
 1933 STL NL 148  595   92  182  40  10  18   98  5  0  26  56  .306
 1934 STL NL 149  620  110  198  40  18  18  106  3  0  21  83  .319
 1935 STL NL 154  634  132  224  46  13  23  126  4  0  30  59  .353
 1936 STL NL 155  636  115  223  64  13  18  138  3  0  34  33  .351
 1937 STL NL 156  633  111  237  56  10  31  154  4  0  41  50  .374
 1938 STL NL 146  590  100  190  47   8  21  122  0  0  42  41  .322
 1939 STL NL 150  606   98  201  48   8  14  117  6  0  45  44  .332
 1940 STL NL  37  158   21   48  12   0   3   20  0  0   6   8  .304
      BRO NL 106  423   62  127  18  12  14   66  2  0  26  28  .300
      TOT NL 143  581   83  175  30  12  17   86  2  0  32  36  .301
 1941 BRO NL 133  538  100  171  33  10  18   88  2  0  38  35  .318
 1942 BRO NL 142  553   69  166  37   4   4   96  2  0  32  25  .300
 1943 BRO NL  48  173   13   47  10   0   0   25  1  0  10   8  .272
      NYG NL  78  324   41   91  20   3   5   45  0  0   9  14  .281
      TOT NL 126  497   54  138  30   3   5   70  1  0  19  22  .278
 1944 NYG NL 128  490   64  165  24   3   7   85  2  0  38  24  .337
 1945 NYG NL  26   92   14   28   4   0   3   11  2  0   2   2  .304
      BSN NL  66  218   17   62  13   0   0   26  3  0  12  12  .284
      TOT NL  92  310   31   90  17   0   3   37  5  0  14  14  .290
 1946 BRO NL  41   77    7   24   4   0   2   18  0  0   6   5  .312
 1947 STL NL  75  150   19   46  12   0   4   28  0  0  16  12  .307
 1948 STL NL  20   19    0    4   0   0   0    2  0  0   1   2  .211
 CAREER     1984 7635 1198 2471 540 113 205 1383 42  0 437 551  .324
* Bold denotes led league. 

Sources

  • TheBaseballPage.com - http://www.thebaseballpage.com/past/pp/medwickjoe/default.htm
  • Baseball-Reference.com - http://www.baseball-reference.com/m/medwickjo01.shtml
  • BaseballLibrary.com - http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/M/Medwick_Joe.stm

Hall of Fame Index
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