Cieradkowski: John Dillinger’s semi-professional baseball career

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski Jr. at Today I Found Out on May 16, 2014:

One of the many things I love about baseball is how many people that you know of, for an entirely different reason, happen to also have been ball players. President George Bush played in the first two College World Series’ and kept a well-oiled first baseman’s mitt in his desk in the Oval Office, just in case. Dwight Eisenhower played minor league ball in Kansas. Actor Kurt Russell played in the minor leagues before an injury ended his career.  Writer Jack Kerouac was a star ballplayer in high school and college and even invented his own fantasy baseball game.  I love highlighting these guys because it makes them more human – baseball has that effect on people, a great equalizer. How many fathers and sons, with nothing in common due to differing generations, found a language they both understood in baseball. Think back at the times you’ve sat in a bar or holiday party or on a plane and was able to have a conversation with a complete stranger due to your mutual interest in our national pastime? Which brings me to this story.


Like most red-blooded American boys of the time, young John Dillinger was an avid fan of the national pastime. He followed the Chicago Cubs and in between bullying smaller kids, petty thievery and hard-partying, Dillinger played baseball. His quick speed on his local Indiana sandlots earned him the nickname “The Jackrabbit”. After too many run-ins with the local police, Dillinger enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1922 but deserted after a few months. He slinked home to his father’s house in Martinsville, Indiana and married a 16 year-old girl named Beryl.

Trying to get his life back on track, Dillinger tried his hand at a few different types of jobs but failed miserably. His marriage to teenage Beryl also started falling apart as well. The only success he seemed to have was on the baseball diamond.

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Originally published: May 16, 2014. Last Updated: May 16, 2014.