Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hall of Fame Profile: Bill Dickey

The fifth installment of Hall of Fame Yankees is about Bill Dickey.

Full Name: William Malcolm Dickey

Born: June 5, 1907  Died: November 12, 1993

Nickname(s): The Man Nobody Knows, The Greatest Catcher of All-Time

Hall of Fame Induction: 1954 (80.2% vote in 7th year eligible)

Teams Played for: New York Yankees (1928-1943, 1946)

Retired Jersey: #8 by the New York Yankees in 1972 (the only jersey number so far to be retired twice by NY...same # as Yogi Berra)

Career Statistics (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com):

Batting Average: .313 (85th all-time)
On-Base %: .382 (156th all-time)
Slugging %: .486
OPS: .868
HR: 202
RBI: 1209 (142nd all-time)
Runs: 930
Hits: 1969 (59nd all-time)
2B: 343

Caught Stealing %: 46.7 (59th all-time)
Caught Stealing: 464 (76th all-time)
WAR: 55.9 (136th all-time for position players)
MVPs: 4x in the top-6 in voting, 2nd in 1938 to Jimmie Foxx of Boston
All-Star Appearances: (11) 1933, 1934, 1936-1942, 1946
World Series Championships: (14, 8 as a player) 1928, 1932, 1936-1939, 1941, 1943
Little Known Fact: Played himself in two different movies: "The Pride of the Yankees" and the "Stratton Story"


Bill Dickey played 1759 games at catcher for the New York Yankees between August 15, 1928 and September 8, 1946 and was known as the guy who "taught Yogi Berra to catch"  and before Bench made his mark on the league with the Big Red Machine, the "Greatest Catcher of All-Time."  Dickey wore the number 8 for the Yanks for much of his career and would have that jersey number retired along with his protege Berra to never be worn again in pinstripes in 1972.  There is only one other Yankee that will have his number retired twice by the Yankees and that is Mariano Rivera with the #42 as all of Major League Baseball retired that number in honor of Jackie Robinson.  There are 17 catchers in the Hall of Fame and 3 of them are Yankees with the possibility of a 4th if Posada gets consideration.  Catchers weren't known to be offensive juggernauts in Dickey's time which is evident in his 202 home runs, 1209 runs batted in, and .486 slugging percentage, but for a catcher those numbers were astonishing.  Throw in the fact (no pun intended) that he was a pretty stellar defensive catcher and a .313 batting average lifetime over 17 seasons with the Yankees made him a sure-fire candidate for the Hall.

Dickey won a total of 14 World Series titles as a player, manager, and coach and was on 8 teams as a player winning it all.  He was top-5 in MVP voting 3 times, which once again was unheard of for a catcher at the time.  Other catchers would seem to emulate Dickey starting with Berra and then Bench and so on.  Just missing out on perhaps the greatest lineup ever assembled in the "Murderer's Row" of 1927, Bill played his first full season in the majors in 1929 in which he batted .324 with 10 home runs and 65 RBI in 447 at bats.  He would already be considered a World Series Champion as he was on the postseason roster in 1928 but saw no playing time being relegated to backup catcher.  He wouldn't see any World Series action until 1932 against the Cubs in which .438 in 19 plate appearances with 7 hits, 4 RBI, and a .964 ops.

I have already stated that Dickey wasn't known for his power, but he was actually in the top-10 in the American League in home runs 5 different times maxing out at 29 home runs in 1937, his age-30 year.  He represented the AL in the All-Star game 11 times and would go on to win 7 more World Series titles as a player before joining the Navy in World War II.  In those 7 series he was marginal at best but was a workhorse for the pitching rotation leading them to a stellar run of 6 titles in an 8-year span, which was absolutely unheard of, only to be surpassed by his protege's run of 10 wins out of 14 tries in a 16-year span. One could say that fully two-thirds of the Yankees all-time World Series titles were aided by Dickey (either with him on the team or Berra).  On top of the way he handled the pitching staff, Dickey was known for being a gunner on the base path shooting down 46.7% of all runners that attempted to steal a base.  He was 1st in the league in CS% 4 times and was top-4 10 times.  He was also 1st or 2nd in the AL in putouts 11 times.  With the specialization of catching and modern equipment, etc, his rate of catching base runners looks small in comparison being 59th all-time, but for the time was outstanding.

After the war, Bill Dickey returned to the Yankees as a player-manager and batted only .261 in a limited 54 games.  He retired at the end of that season but would return once again, this time as a first base coach and special instructor for the Yankees new catching all-star that could hit like crazy, Yogi Berra.  Bill Dickey didn't put up crazy numbers like Ruth, Gehrig, or Mantle, or even Berra for that matter, but one could argue that without the mainstay known as #8, the Yankees would not have compiled such great success in such a short span of time in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.



3. Pictures from HowStuffWorks.com, WikiPedia, and baseball-collect.com

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)