Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean (January 16, 1910, Lucas, Arkansas – July 17, 1974) was an American Major League Baseball pitcher. He was the last National League pitcher to win 30 games in one season. Dean was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953.
During a 13-year baseball career, he pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals (1930-1937), the Chicago Cubs (1938-1941), and briefly for the St. Louis Browns (1947).
Dean was best known for leading the 1934 "Gashouse Gang" St. Louis team. He had a 30–7 record with a 2.66 ERA during the regular season. His brother, Paul, was also on the roster, and was nicknamed "Daffy", although this was usually only done for press consumption. Though "Diz" sometimes called his brother "Daf", he typically referred to himself and his brother as "Me an' Paul".
The Gashouse Gang was the southernmost and westernmost team in the major leagues at the time, and became a de-facto "America's Team." Team members, particularly Southerners such as the Dean brothers and Pepper Martin, became folk heroes in Depression-ravaged America. Americans saw in these players, dirty and hustling rather than handsome and graceful, a spirit of hard work and perseverance, as opposed to the haughty, highly-paid New York Giants, whom the Cardinals chased for the National League pennant.
Much like later sports legends Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali, Dizzy liked to brag about his prowess and make public predictions. In 1934, Dizzy predicted, "Me an' Paul are gonna win 45 games." On September 21, Diz pitched no-hit ball for eight innings against the Brooklyn Dodgers, finishing with a three-hit shutout in the first game of a doubleheader, his 27th win of the season. Paul then threw a no-hitter in the nightcap, to win his 18th, matching the 45 that Diz had predicted. "Gee, Paul", Diz was heard to say in the locker room afterward, "if I'd a-known you was gonna throw a no-hitter, I'd a-thrown one too!" He also bet he could strike out Vince DiMaggio four times in one game. He struck him out his first three at bats, but when DiMaggio hit a popup behind the plate at his fourth, Dean screamed at his catcher, "Drop it!, Drop it!" The catcher did and Dean fanned DiMaggio, winning the bet. Few in the press now doubted Diz's boast, as he was also fond of saying, "It ain't braggin' if ya can back it up." Diz finished with 30 wins, the only NL pitcher to do so in the post-1920 live-ball era, and Paul finished with 19, for a total of 49. The Cards needed them all to edge the Giants for the pennant, setting up a matchup with the American League champion Detroit Tigers. After the season, Dizzy Dean was awarded the National League's Most Valuable Player Award.
Dean was known for antics which inspired his nickname. In time, perception became reality. In Game 4 of the 1934 World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Dean was sent to first base as a pinch runner. The next batter hit a potential double play groundball. Intent on avoiding the double play, Dean threw himself in front of the throw to first. The ball struck him on the head, and Dean was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital. The storied (and possibly apocryphal) sports-section headline the next day said, "X-ray of Dean's head reveals nothing." Although the Tigers went on the win the game 10-4, Dean recovered in time to pitch in Games 5 and 7 and put the Series away for the Cardinals.
Branch Rickey, the Cardinals executive who had developed their farm system and built the great 1930s Cardinals teams, found Dean's homespun candidness and observations refreshing. He once told a friend, with some bemusement, "Tell me why I spent four mortal hours today conversing with a person named Dizzy Dean."
After leaving sportscasting in the late 1960s, Dean settled with his wife, Patricia, in her hometown—Bond, Mississippi. Dean died at age 64 in Reno, Nevada, of a heart attack, and was buried in the Bond Cemetery. Dean's home in Bond was named Deanash, a combination of his name and his wife's maiden name (Nash); it was willed by Dean's wife to the Mississippi Baptist Convention, which operates foster homes for children in a rural setting.
A Dizzy Dean Museum was established at 1152 Lakeland Drive in Jackson, Mississippi. The building was significantly expanded, and the Dean exhibit is now part of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, located adjacent to Smith-Wills Stadium, a former minor-league baseball park. On July 6, 2000, The United States Congress designated the U.S. Post Office in Wiggins, Mississippi, as the "Jay Hanna 'Dizzy' Dean Post Office" by Public Law 106-236. On October 22, 2007, a rest area on U.S. Route 49 in Wiggins, Mississippi, five miles south of Dean's home in Bond, Mississippi, was named "Dizzy Dean Rest Area" after Dean. In Morrison Bluff, AR; about 2 miles south of Clarksville, AR; there is a restaurant, Porky's, with Dizzy Dean memorabilia.
Dean was mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash: