The ‘Daffy’ Part of America’s Dean Team!
One made fans Dizzy, yet there was also a “Daffy” part to the Dean brother legacy that baseball has been proud of since 1912. Paul Dee Dean was the man behind “Daffy,” and made the name even more famous than everyone’s favorite cartoon duck.
This American Major League pitcher was born in Lucas, Arizona, and brought his magic to the mounds of the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Giants. Dean played several years of baseball right alongside his ‘more famous’ pitching brother, Dizzy. Although Paul was given the nickname “Daffy,” to help with advertising and media-hype for the brothers in the early 1900’s, he was anything but daffy. In fact, Paul was the quiet one, the truly calm and serious-minded pitcher who enjoyed his greatest success as a teammate of his brothers for the St. Louis Cardinals.
It was due to unfortunate injuries that Paul ended up having only two truly successful years in the major leagues, although he worked hard and attempted numerous comebacks throughout his time. But what fans and history most remember are the 1934 and 1935 seasons that most baseball historians still call the ‘best of the best.’
Paul Dean came into this world, born to sharecroppers, Albert and Alma Dean. By 1932 he became a professional baseball player by signing with Houston (Texas League.) Joining his beloved bother in 1934, the pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals became the unbeatable duo that no hitter wanted to go against. It was Dizzy who announced that he and his younger brother would win forty-five games that season, as if he was truly psychic, and no one was going to tell him that he was wrong.
In the regular season, “Daffy” won nineteen of those games (including a no-hitter), while Dizzy brought home thirty wins, working side by side to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series championship. (Apparently Dizzy was most definitely psychic, even though he was off by a few games). The next season “Daffy” won the exact same number, although Dizzy’s total fell to twenty-eight (still, the psychic energy continued.) Unfortunately, “Daffy” injured his arm in 1936 and his plans at having a long career on that mound turned to dust.
The nickname not only didn’t fit, but it was stated that Paul disliked the whole “Daffy” vibe that reports thrust upon him in 1934. Whereas his brother was far more outgoing, and an over-eager self-promoter who was the one who most likely convinced Paul that “Dizzy & Daffy” would sell tickets, Paul felt the ‘gag’ to be a little much. The real differences in the brothers’ outlooks were seen a greet deal after the 1934 World Series came to pass. Dizzy celebrated the fantastic moment by buying an airplane, while Paul got married, bought a farm, and raised four children.
That 1934 spectacle, however, sealed the Deans’ fate and made sure that they would be beloved by St. Louis fans for all time, assuring them a prominent place in baseball history. In the race for the National League title, a Dean pitched in thirty-seven of the season’s final fifty-two games, and each were behind the winning of two games in the World Series.
Whether he wanted it or not, Paul Dean will always be a member of that famous “Gashouse Gang” of 1934. The Cardinals earned this nickname from, oddly enough, the team member’s generally shabby appearance when they stepped out onto the field. Even an opponent of theirs once stated that the Cardinals’ players came into the stadium ‘unwashed, dirty, and wearing smelly uniforms.’ Perhaps bad hygiene and standing downwind was what brought tears to the eyes of the hitters and made it impossible to beat the incredible Dean brothers.
But it was not just the pitchers who received this ‘bashing’ from their rivals. One story says that it was shortstop, Leo Durocher, a scrappy man who – like the rest of this rough-and-tumble gang liked to get under the player’s skins – who coined the term. This came about when Leo was speaking about the ‘fresh and clean’ American League, and the consensus of the Cardinals was that if they should win the National league pennant they would beat any team who won the American League pennant that year. Leo said, “They wouldn’t even let us in that league over there. They think we’re just a bunch of gashousers.”
The phrase “gas house” referred to plants that produced town gas used for lighting and cooking from coal, before natural gas came about. Well, these plants were seriously foul-smelling and were typically found near railroad yards in the very poorest neighborhoods in the city. In the end, whether smelly or not, the 1934 Cardinals won 95 games, the National League pennant, and the World Series over the “cleaner, fresher smelling” Detroit Tigers.
The team featured five ‘regulars’ who hit at least .300, with Dizzy Dean being the last National League pitcher to win thirty games in a single season, and four All-Stars. The players on he Cardinal roster pretty much all came from working class backgrounds which appealed to the fans. The Dean brothers, Pepper Martin, Spud Davis, Joe Medwick, Ripper Collins, and Burgess Whitehead were all from ‘workers.’ Led by manager, Frankie Frisch, and the bulldog, Durocher, they showed the rest of the world that being a member of the “Gashouse Gang” ultimately meant gold!
In the World Series, the Cardinals and Tigers split the first two games in Detroit and the Tigers went on to win two of the next three in St. Louis. As payback, the Cardinals then won the next two, including a huge embarrassment for the Tigers (11-0) in their own hometown, to win the Series. Medwick was definitely one of the true ‘stars,’ with a .379 batting average, one of St. Louis’ two home runs, and a series-high five RBI’s. The Dean brothers, who combined for all four of the teams wins with twenty-eight strikeouts, also came out smelling like roses.
Very recently there has been Dean merchandise appearing all over the South – cropping up in television shows like, American Pickers, and the prices for these items are out of this world. The brothers were the ‘magic’ that baseball will always remember, and were even featured in the famous comedy sketch of Abbott & Costello’s – “Who’s on First?”
When his playing career was cut short, Paul became a minor league manager for seven years, as well as the University of Plano Texas baseball coach. Then he retired to Washington County, where he took up farming, and enjoyed a quiet life full of privacy that most everyone knew he really wanted.
Until Next Time, Everybody.