Nov 23, 2010

New Jersey's Greatest Baseball Player- Hall of Famer: "Ducky" Joe Medwick (1932-1948)

Joseph Michael Medwick was born on November 24, 1911 in Carteret, New Jersey. The strong hardnosed player was born to Hungarian immigrants and became a star player any where he played baseball. A woman saw him swimming and said he looked like a duck earning the nickname “Ducky Wucky”. The fans then called him Ducky because of the way he waddled when he walked, but his team mates never dared using that phrase. To players he was known as “Muscles” because of his size & strength.

He played hard and had a notorious temper fighting with team mates, opposing players & fans. He once decked a pitcher on his team for walking infron of him to many times when he was being photographed. He punched out another when he criticized him for not running out a fly ball. Legend has it, Medwick was the only player Dizzy Dean was afraid, after he threatened to take him & his brother out with a bat.

He came up with the Cardinals in 1932 becoming a ten time All Star & one of the National League’s best hitter. Ducky Joe was the last NL Player to win the Triple Crown Award that was in 1937 when he batted .374 with 31 HRs & 154 RBIs. He also won the MVP Award that year, posting 237 hits, 56 doubles, 10 triples, and a .414 on base percentage while scoring 111 runs. Ducky would hit well over .300 for 11 straight seasons, gathering over 200 hits four times, leading the league twice (1936 & 1937). He drove in over 100 runs six straight years, leading the league three straight years from 1936-1938. Medwick hit over 40 doubles seven times, including a record 64 in 1938, leading the league three straight years in that category. He hit over 10 triples eight times, leading the league in 1934 with 18. He also scored over 100 runs six times, leading the league in his Triple Crown season.

He was one of the stars of the St. Louis Cardinals Gas House Gang in 1934, along with team mates Frankie Frisch, Leo Durocher, Ripper Collins, & brothers Dizzy & Paul Dean. In the 1934 World Series he hit .379 with a HR & 5 RBIs. In the 7th Game of the Series the Cards were running away with it with a 7-0 lead, when Medwick slid hard into third base leveling third baseman Marv Owen. When he returned to his outfield position the Detroit fans, let him have it throwing fruit, vegetables, bottles, cushions, & anything else they could toss at him. Baseball Commissioner Mountain Landis ordered Medwick to taken off the field for his own saftey. Old Newsreel footage shows him slamming his glove onto the bench in disgust as h returned to the dugout.

In 1940 he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers to play for his old team mate now manager, Leo Durocher. In his first game against his old Cardinals team mates, four days after the trade he was almost killed getting hit in the head with a pitch. The beaning came from pitcher Bob Bowman, knocking Medwick unconscious as his wife screamed from a box seat in horror. Durocher & Dodger GM Lee Mcphail had to be restrained from going after Bowman & the Cards manager. Medwick was removed from the field on a stretcher & taken to a hospital. It affected his career, at age 28 he was never the same player again.

He led Brooklyn to a pennant in 1941 batting .318 with 18 HRs & 88 RBIs. The next year he drove in 96 runs but only hit 4 HRs as his career began to wind down. Midway through the 1943 season the New York Giants purchased his contract, and he would play in New York for two years. In 1944 he hit .337 (third in the league) posting a .386 on base % with 24 doubles & 85 RBIs. He was second in the league in fielding as well. Medwick finished his career out in St. Louis in 1948, finishing a 17 year career with 2471 hits (97th all time) a .324 batting average (47th all time) 540 doubles (28th all time) 113 triples (115th all time) 205 HRs 1383 RBIs (73rd all time) 1198 runs scored (165th all time) playing in 1984 games (243rd all time).

Quotes: In a 1944 World War II USO Tour, he was lucky enough to meet Pope Pius XII, he greeted him by saying; "Your Holiness, I'm Joe Medwick. I, too, used to be a Cardinal."

Honors: For some reason it took Medwick 20 years before he got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, making the class of 1968. The main reason was probably because he would antagonize the media during his playing days. He said “it was one of the first times in his life he was left speechless, it was like ending a twenty year slump.”

He was one of only three players to be elected to the Hall of Fame & was voted New Jersey’s Athlete of the Century in 2000. The Sporting News voted him #79 of the greatest players of all time list in 1999 & he was nominated for the All Century team. He worked at an insurance company in St. Louis after his playing day, & passed away in St. Petersburg Florida in 1975 at age 63.

Nov 2, 2010

Former Met of the Day: Matt Lawton (2001)

Mathew Lawton III was born in Gulfport Mississippi on November 3, 1971. He was drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 1991 draft. In 1994 he hit .300 at A ball & played in the Florida State League All Star Game.
As an outfielder he was rated a poor defensive player who sometimes made basic fundamental mistakes. He made the best of his abilities and after two brief appearances in 1995 & 1996, became the Twins everyday outfielder by 1997.

He had some good hitting seasons, hitting over 35 doubles three times, driving in over 60 runs five times, scoring over 90 runs three times and stealing 23 or more bases four times.

He had his best season in 2000 making the All Star team, batting .305 with 44 doubles, 13 HRs and 88 RBIs. He was batting .293 through July of 2001 when the Twins traded him to the New York Mets for popular pitcher Rick Reed.

Lawton would only play in 48 games as a Met right fielder, as his average dropped to .246 in 183 at bats, with 3 HRs 11 doubles & 13 RBIs. In an early September series sweep over the Marlins, Lawton had six hits with three RBIs.

That winter he was involved in a multi player trade going to Cleveland with Alex Escobar for Roberto Alomar and a couple of minor leaguers. Lawton spent three season in Cleveland, having his best year in 2004, batting .277 with 20 HRs & 70 RBIs making his second All Star team. In 2005 Lawton got caught up in a steroids scandal, he apologized and admitted using horse steroids. He finished his 12 year career in 2006 batting .267 with 1273 hits 138 HRs 267 doubles 631 RBIs & 165 stolen bases.