Dizzy Dean: A Texas League Legacy

Dizzy Dean was one of the greatest players in baseball history, known for his legendary pitching arm while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, not many people know that this hall-of-famer began his career in a minor league known as the Texas League.

Jay Hanna (Dizzy) Dean was born on January 16th, 1910, in Lucas, Arkansas to former semi-professional baseball player Albert Monroe Dean and his wife Alma Nelson Dean. He had four siblings, including Paul Dean, who went on to be a professional pitcher as well. Dizzy only went to school through second grade, where his outgoing personality earned him the nickname “Dizzy” that stuck his whole life.

dizzy deanDean made his professional baseball debut with the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League in 1930. He impressed on the mound so much that the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals took an interest in him and recruited him to their team in the same year. However, due to disagreements with the team’s manager, Gabby Street, Dean appeared only in a few games during the 1930 season. Frustrated, Dean returned to the Houston Buffaloes the following May, winning twenty-six games for the team, striking out 303 batters, and compiling an astonishing 1.53 earned run average (ERA), all minor league records that still stand. Dean is the only pitcher in minor league history to lead his league in all three of these categories in one season. Returning to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1932, he played with them for the remainder of his professional career. He was selected to play in the All-Star Game for the National League each year between 1934 and 1937.

During the 1937 All-Star Game in Washington D.C. tragedy struck. The Cleveland Indians’ Earl Averill hit a line drive hit that struck Dean’s left foot, shattering his toe. Normally, this would not have been a career-ending injury, but Dean returned to pitching before the bone fully healed. The injury forced a change in his entire pitching motion, which in turn caused irreversible injuries to his shoulder. His record at the end of the season was 13-10, but his days as an all-star pitcher had come to a close.

dizzy deanAfter his injury, Dean briefly took a job as a coach for the Chicago Cubs, but another opportunity came his way: broadcasting. His legacy in this emerging field was perhaps as significant as that from his playing days. He broadcasted for the Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns of the American League in 1941. After twelve years, Dean moved on to host the nationally televised show “Game of the Week” as the first-ever broadcaster for baseball on national television. He maintained this job until 1965, when he retired. He died on July 17th, 1974, sharing the last few years with his wife of forty-three years, Patricia Nash Dean.

Although Dizzy Dean was at his peak in the mid-1900s, his influence lives on to this day. Dizzy Dean Baseball, Inc. is a non-profit youth baseball and softball league whose mission is to provide a way for kids aged five to nineteen to engage with sports, regardless of their race, sex, religion, etc. Dizzy Dean was involved with youth baseball throughout his life, and this league that is named in his honor provides scholarships and teaches kids teamwork, honesty, and good sportsmanship to encourage love of the sport. Since its inception in 1977, Dizzy Dean Baseball, Inc. has become a multi-state institution, spreading Dean’s legacy decades after his death, proving that this original Texas League superstar will live on as long as the game of baseball does.