The 1934 season was an exceptional one for Dizzy Dean. At the young age of 24, he was a 30-game winner with a 2.66 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals. He appeared in the first of four straight All-Star Games, won Games One and Seven to lead his team to a World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, and finished as the National League MVP. Jump-started by his early success, Dean became the darling of baseball for the rest of his career. Alongside his early prominence came his penchant for offseason barnstorming, which was a way to make a few extra dollars and to enjoy the limelight of an adoring public.
Dean also continued the tradition established by White ballplayers from earlier years to find opportunities to go head-to-head with Black players, something that was not possible during the regular season due to the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” among White owners that unofficially barred Black players from the White leagues. Despite being frowned upon by Commissioner Kenesaw Landis and team owners, in part because of their fear of offseason injury to players and embarrassment when White teams lost games during interracial play, barnstorming remained a constant in the 1920s and ’30s. Dean merely picked up the baton from others who came before him. His first recorded barnstorming appearances were in 1933 in the Midwest. They were organized by Kansas City Monarchs owner J.L. Wilkinson, who assembled a Monarchs-laden team and a few imports – most notably Satchel Paige – to play against Dean, his brother Paul, and a collection of White major leaguers including Lloyd Waner and Pepper Martin. The resulting tour drew large crowds – Black and White – as well as headlines and a paycheck that cemented in Dean’s mind the value of these offseason games.1
In 1934 Dean was all in for another postseason barnstorming tour. In fact, in the years ahead, rarely an offseason went by when Dizzy did not lead a touring team around the country to play all comers, Black nines among them. The 1934 outing was again organized by Wilkinson whose three-week “Dizzy and Daffy Tour” would take on both White semipro teams and Black teams in the East and Midwest.
Chicago Defender columnist Al Monroe raised the stakes by writing, in light of the Cardinals’ World Series championship, “Truly I cannot see how any team can call itself champion of the world that hasn’t batted against Satchel Paige. … And I am wondering if ‘Schoolboy’ Rowe and the Dean brothers can gloat over their strikeout records and world series [sic] wins over teams that failed to include Josh Gibson, Turkey Stearnes, Jud Wilson, Oscar Charleston, and others in their line up.”2 Starting in Oklahoma City on October 10, the touring squad played in the Midwest against a mostly Monarchs team after which the Dean brothers flew to Philadelphia for a Tuesday, October 16, doubleheader against the Philadelphia Stars at Shibe Park, the home of the Philadelphia Athletics.3
As was the case in all the venues where the Dean brothers played, they joined an amalgam of local semipros that was sometimes bolstered by the addition of one or more AL or NL players. Their competition in Philadelphia was organized by Philadelphia Stars owner Ed Bolden, whose team had just finished a stellar season in which they captured the Negro National League 2 championship with a memorable 4-3 series victory over the Chicago American Giants, the Midwest Negro League powerhouse. Exactly two weeks after their Game Eight victory on October 2, the Stars were ready to play Dean and his aggregation.
The Tuesday doubleheader on what was described as a fair, partly cloudy day in Philadelphia drew 9,000 fans, Black and White. The Stars played their best lineup in both games led by their two best pitchers, Webster McDonald and Slim Jones. In the first game, Jake Stephens led off at short, followed by Dewey Creacy at third, Jud Wilson in right, Biz Mackey at first, Jake Dunn in left, Johnny Hayes catching, Pete Washington in center, Dick Seay at second, and McDonald pitching. Game two had an unchanged lineup except for Mickey Casey catching and Jones on the mound.4
The Dean brothers were on their own with only the all-stars of the Philadelphia semipro league filling out their scorecard, but they knew that was what their barnstorming tour was about. Baseball historian William McNeil wrote, “[T]he games weren’t exactly played on a level playing field … since Diz and his brother Paul often teamed up with a bunch of local players to play against the powerful Kansas City Monarchs lineup [or other Negro League teams]. But they packed them in wherever they went.”5 Thus, in retrospect, the Philadelphia Stars’ sweep of the Deans’ team was not a surprise, although interestingly, Dizzy and Paul’s cameo appearances in the games drew criticism from the local papers.
In game one, the Stars shellacked Dizzy’s side, 8-0. James C. Isaminger of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Dizzy and Daffy Dean did their chores at Shibe Park yesterday afternoon in a doubleheader, but it was nothing of which the Dean dynasty will be proud.”6 Webster McDonald blanked Dean’s team, giving up only four hits. Biz Mackey and Jud Wilson excelled for the Stars, each driving in three runs. The Dean brothers played the outfield, Paul in right field long enough to get two at-bats, Dizzy in left field for six innings. The game lasted a little under two hours.
Dizzy started game two for his team, pitching two innings and allowing no runs on three hits. Spearheaded by Jud Wilson’s three-run homer, the Stars scored all four of their runs in the third inning off Dean’s replacement, Joe Schmidt. Dean’s locals scored one run in the fifth inning and two in the seventh, but the game was called because of darkness, giving Bolden’s team a 4-3 win and a series sweep. Slim Jones, a 20-game winner in 1934 and the victor in the deciding game of the championship series against the Chicago American Giants, pitched all seven innings for the Stars, giving up seven hits in addition to the three runs. Reportedly, Paul Dean had a sore arm that precluded him from pitching in either of the games.7
The doubleheader win by the Stars was icing on the cake to an outstanding season. And despite the losses, Dizzy did not have much to complain about either. After the game on the way to New York City for their next contest, he learned he had been named MVP of the National League. And, as Isaminger reported:
The Deans are in the money up to their necks. Last night they went to Atlantic City where they were to receive $1,000 for appearing in a softball game and not even playing. Tonight, they will pitch for the Bushwicks in Brooklyn. They will get a guarantee there and were informed yesterday that every reserved seat had been sold.8
In addition to showcasing their talents against at least some White major-league competition, the relationship, at least between Negro League ballplayers and Dizzy, was amicable. According to McNeil, “Dizzy Dean was a regular guy as far as the Negro League ballplayers were concerned, but his brother Paul was a quieter individual who didn’t mix in easily.”9 Thanks to Monarchs owner Wilkinson’s negotiations in setting up the tour, the Black teams got a share of the gate to make their play worthwhile, although not the same percentage that the Dean brothers garnered.
In New York the next day, the Dean brothers put a more formidable team on the field by joining the fabled semipro Brooklyn Bushwicks and Cardinals teammate Joe Medwick to play a mediocre New York Black Yankees squad. Nonetheless, the Black Yankees still defeated the Deans.10 The Dizzy and Daffy tour continued westward and by the end of the month, Dean’s various local squads finished 4-13-1, losing consistently to the Negro League teams they played.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics referenced are from Seamheads.com.
Photo credit: Webster McDonald, courtesy of Gary Ashwill.
1 Timothy M. Gay, Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 50-53.
2 Gay, 71, as referenced from the Chicago Defender, October 6, 1934.
3 Gay, 89.
4 James C. Isaminger, “Dizzy Daffy Stars Lose Double Bill, J. Dean Twirls Two Frames, Paul plays Afield,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 17, 1934: 17.
5 William F. McNeil, Black Baseball Out of Season: Pay for Play Outside of the Negro Leagues (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co, 2007), 101.
6 Isaminger, 17.
7 Isaminger, 17.
8 Isaminger, 19.
9 McNeil, 101.
10 Gay, 92.
Philadelphia Stars 8
Dizzy Dean All-Stars 0
Philadelphia Stars 4
Dizzy Dean All-Stars 3
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