display | more...

Walt Dropo is one of the most interesting cases in baseball lore: after his dominant rookie season, he showed merely flashes of his young brilliant self on his way to becoming one of the biggest could-have-beens in Major League history.

Before Baseball

Walter Dropo was born January 30, 1923 in Moosup, Connecticut to Savo and Mary Dropo, Serbian immigrants and owners of a fireworks company. By the time he was 18, he was a giant at 6'5" and 220 pounds. He went to the University of Connectictut and excelled at baseball, basketball (he is third in all-time scoring at the school), and football, so much so that he was signed by the Boston Red Sox, the New York Knicks, and the Chicago Bears! He asked his father which one he should do, and his dad told him to play baseball - he'd live longer.

The Man Who Almost Was

Dropo came up quickly through the minor leagues, and joined the Red Sox team in the heart of their celebrated 1949 pennant race against the New York Yankees. He struggled, batting only .146, but it was only a matter of time before he would hit the big time.

1950 proved to be "Moose"'s (his nickname, both for his birthplace and his size) banner year. He batted .322, clubbing 34 home runs and leading the league with 144 RBIs. He was named to the All-Star team as a starter and was named the American League Rookie of the Year. A white-hot start to a Hall of Fame career! Sadly, Walt was beaned on August 15, putting him out for almost 8 games. He never seemed to recover from this bad luck - three days before Opening Day 1951, Walt broke his wrist, and his injuries bogged him down the rest of the season. In early 1952, still struggling to hit for power, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers. The move must've given Walt some perspective - he hit 23 home runs for the Tigers, batting .279 in the process. His average was helped by a spectacular feat in July of that year. Leading off against the Yankees on the fourteenth, Walt proceeded to go 5-for-5, all singles. The next day during a doubleheader with the Washington Senators, Dropo opens the series by going 3-for-3 with a home run. Several hours later, he punched out four more hits, giving him 12 in a row, still the modern-day major league record for consecutive hits (tied with Pinky Higgins).

Perhaps as a summary of Walt Dropo's sympathetic career, one fine spring day in 1953, the Tigers held an exhibition in Hartford, Connecticut, where the name Dropo was king. The town immediately declared the game day Walt Dropo Day, even giving Walt a brand new car. Walt promptly went out and went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. At least they let him keep the car.

Walt continued to be a reliable player for the Tigers (though he was something of an alcoholic), until he was traded in the 1954 offseason to the Chicago White Sox. By now, Walt's lack of speed and wrist problems had severely limited him as a player. After his 1955 season where he hit 19 home runs, he only topped ten one more time in his career. He was sold to the Cincinnati Reds in 1958 - possibly due to an on-the-field scuffle with Enos Slaughter - and later traded to the Baltimore Orioles, where at the age of 37, he batted .268 in 79 games. After a lackluster 1961 start, Moose retired.

After Baseball

Upon retiring, Walt made the rounds working for his father and later his brother Milt at the million-dollar pyrotechnics company. Tragedy struck Dropo in 1994 when his younger brother George, another former star athlete at UConn and successful high school coach, committed suicide. Today, Walt goes around Connecticut raising funds to help fight Parkinson's disease and depression, both of which his brother suffered through.

Odds and Ends

  • While in the minors in 1948 with the Birmingham Barons, Dropo committed three errors in one day. While that's pretty much a blooper reel right there, I mention this because the next day, he repeated his goof-a-thon!
  • Dropo's single All-Star season makes him part of a select dozen who also share the feat. They are featured in the book One Shining Season, by Michael Fredo.
  • On June 8, 1950, Dropo had a heavy hand in what was at the time the largest margin of victory in major league history. He and the Red Sox pummeled the st. Louis Browns 29-4. Dropo had two home runs and 7 RBIs - which placed him tied with Ted Williams for second for the day, behind Bobby Doerr.

Career Statistics

 YEAR  TEAM    G   AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA
 1949 BOS AL  11   41   3    6   2  0   0   1  0  0   3   7 .146
 1950 BOS AL 136  559 101  180  28  8  34 144  0  0  45  75 .322
 1951 BOS AL  99  360  37   86  14  0  11  57  0  0  38  52 .239
 1952 BOS AL  37  132  13   35   7  1   6  27  0  0  11  22 .265
      DET AL 115  459  56  128  17  3  23  70  2  2  26  63 .279
 1953 DET AL 152  606  61  150  30  3  13  96  2  0  29  69 .248
 1954 DET AL 107  320  27   90  14  2   4  44  0  1  24  41 .281
 1955 CHW AL 141  453  55  127  15  2  19  79  0  1  42  71 .280
 1956 CHW AL 125  361  42   96  13  1   8  52  1  0  37  51 .266
 1957 CHW AL  93  223  24   57   2  0  13  49  0  1  16  40 .256
 1958 CHW AL  28   52   3   10   1  0   2   8  0  0   5  11 .192
      CIN NL  63  162  18   47   7  2   7  31  0  0  12  31 .290
 1959 CIN NL  26   39   4    4   1  0   1   2  0  0   4   7 .103
      BAL AL  62  151  17   42   9  0   6  21  0  0  12  20 .278
 1960 BAL AL  79  179  16   48   8  0   4  21  0  1  20  19 .268
 1961 BAL AL  14   27   1    7   0  0   1   2  0  0   4   3 .259
 CAREER     1288 4124 478 1113 168 22 152 704  5  6 328 582 .270

Sources

  • http://www.baseball-reference.com/d/dropowa01.shtml
  • http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/D/Dropo_Walt.stm
  • http://apse.dallasnews.com/contest1999/writing/100-250.hartford8.html
  • http://members.tripod.com/~cmt97/bloopers/unbreak.html

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.