Dizzy Exhibition Game Pitcher
"The One and Only," Jack Sher, Sport Magazine (May 1948)
Dizzy Dean, Houston Buffaloes
The day was dry and hot, with just the whisper of a wind stirring the warm air. Big, white clouds moved lazily in the sky, traveling North over the land of Texas. The elements were at peace, but a man-made storm was occurring in a Houston ball park. For on this fine day in 1930 the name and reputation of one of the greatest pitchers of the 20th Century was being born.
The occasion was an exhibition game between the Houston team and the Chicago White Sox. And the arm and antics of the 20-year-old Texas League pitcher were causing wailing and gnashing of teeth in the White Sox dugout.
The pitcher's name, when he went into the game, was Jerome Herman Dean. But, before the contest ended, he was to be given a new first name. He was henceforth to be known as "Diz-zy." And the name of Dizzy Dean was to dominate the baseball world for a decade. The chatter and wisecracks he was dishing out were full of brash, confident, homespun humor.
"Well, lookee, now watta we got here? Jes' keep that ol' bat on the shoulder, fellah. I'm a gonna breeze this here one right a-cross the middle. Now don't get the catcher fussed up by swing-in' at it. Jes' save yer strength and watch 'er go by!"
Down in the Chicago dugout, manager Owen Bush was more than slightly steamed. His voice floated out to the batter, loudly and derisively.
"What's going on out there? You're supposed to be a major-leaguer! You're lettin' that dizzy kid make a fool outa ya."
Jerome Herman turned the big grin toward the White Sox dugout. Before facing the batter again, he delivered a few wisecracks to the manager, some derogatory words about the ability of the Chicago hitters.
"Listen to that!" Bush railed, jumping up and down in anger. "Are you guys gonna take that from this dizzy kid?"
It was dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, all afternoon. The adjective was a better description of the batters than of the kid pitcher. They swung and missed until most of them felt as though they had their heads in a revolving door.
A name can be born in a moment. It takes action to make it mean something, to breathe life and color into it. Diz gave it that life. A lesser man might have resented the name "Dizzy," but not a guy like Dean. Even then, this warm, lovable, uneducated (but wise) kid understood that baseball is more than mere auotmatons who can hit, catch, or pitch. He knew that the game is also the personalities of the men who play it, their diverse backgrounds and peculiarities.
As his onetime brilliant teammate, Pepper Martin, said: "When ol' Diz was in there pitching it was more than just another ball game. It was a regular three-ring circus and everybody was wide awake and enjoying being alive."
Even as Jerome Herman Dean, his big right arm undoubtedly would have made him a great winning pitcher. But as Dizzy Dean, he was more than that. He was a tremendous, exciting personality, a strictly screwy, magnificently American character, an advertisement for baseball, an attraction that drew to the game those hitherto unfortunate people who didn't know a scratch hit from a double steal.