Jerome “Dizzy” Dean, the last National Leaguer to win 30 games, was a colorful and brash pitcher who later became a colorful and brash announcer. How brash? Dean on Dean, “Anybody who’s ever had the privilege of seeing me play knows that I am the greatest pitcher in the world.”
Dean was wonderfully quotable. He was often quipping “If ya done it, it ain’t braggin’.” After pinch-running in Game 4 of the 1934 World Series, Dean’s head broke up a double play and Dean was knocked unconscious. “The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing,” Dean proudly said the next day. Dizzy then pitched in Game 5 and won Game 7.
Once, he pitched a nine-inning three-hit shutout. The three hits came in the ninth inning. His brother, Paul “Daffy” Dean, pitched in the second game of the doubleheader. Daffy pitched a no-hitter. After the game, Dizzy told Daffy, “If you would have told me you were going to through a no-hitter, I would have too!”
As an announcer, he would talk about players “sluding into third”. He was often criticized for his less than stellar grammatical abilities but never for his baseball knowledge.
Broken Toe to a Dead Arm
In the 1937 All-Star Game, Cleveland’s Earl Averill hit a pitch back to the mound that fractured Dean’s toe on his landing foot. “Fractured. Hell, the damn thing’s broken!” said Dizzy when asked about it.
It was the broken toe that helped shorten his career. Dizzy Dean came back too early from the injury. Dizzy and his painful toe were determined to get the Cardinals into the World Series. Dean altered his pitching motion to lessen the impact of landing on his sore foot. The adjustment drastically affected his follow-thru motion. By the end of the 1937 season, Dizzy’s arm was dead. In 1938 he sore-armed his way to a 7-1 record with the Cubs, helping them get to the World Series. Dean’s career would be over by 1941. The talent was there, but the body wasn’t. From 1937 to 1941, Dean could only manage to appear in 44 games, while before the injury, he would typically appear in 40 games a season.
Dean himself would mention that he came back too soon and hurt his arm. This brings about an important part of any injury. They tend to cascade and cause issues on the next weak link in the chain. Will Carroll, the Injury Expert, talks about the kinetic chain a pitcher uses to deliver a ball. When a pitcher throws the ball, a long link of body parts needs to work. As things change along that kinetic chain the weakest link in the chain can break. The Cardinals knew that Dean was damaged goods and did not resign him after the 1937 season.
Dizzy Dean’s injury and career mirror the theory. Mark Prior is another example of how quickly a simple event can derail a career, quickly. Fun fact, the Cubs did sign Dean for the 1938 season for a rather large contract.
Dizzy Dean Kinetic Deadarm Highway
Stephen Strasburg’s shortened rookie campaign is a good example of the kinetic chain at work. I remember watching him pitch and he was often working the mound to improve his landing spot. After Strasburg’s ninth major league start, he was placed on the injury list for a sore shoulder. After 19 days rest, he pitched three games before he place on the injury list again, this time to have Tommy John surgery. The difficulties with his landing and the sore shoulder were symptoms of problems along the kinetic chain. If you follow Strasburg’s career, you’ll often hear of muscle issues that lead to larger stays on the injury list. As electric as Strasburg can be when healthy, it is not hard to see the patterns that lead to long stints on the injury list.
Given the recent news of Mike Clevinger’s elbow issues and his recent injuries, it is not a surprise that the Indians pulled the trigger and traded him. In 2019, Clevinger lost time because of back and ankle issues. If the 2020 season started on time, Clevinger would have lost time because of off-season surgery on his right knee. Clevinger’s injuries are walking right up the kinetic chain. Did Clevinger’s knee issue alter his motion enough to find a weak link in the chain? Did fixing his knee just give the next weakest link a chance to show up?
I can promise you that the Indians considered this when they were talking trades. A 30-year-old pitcher with electric stuff heading into arbitration with a two-year injuries history, making stops along the Dizzy Dean Kinietc Deadarm Highway is exactly the type of player you trade for assets. This is also the type of pitcher other teams are willing to trade for if you currently are trying to win.
When looking at trades, take a look at the type and frequency of injuries. Find a pitcher or even a positional player that seems to have injuries that are following a certain path. If you own the player, it may be a good idea to trade the guy for assets. You can also attempt to trade for the player at a more cost-effective price. The Indians and Padres have similar thinking in their front office. Both teams knew the risks and the trade reflects that. This was about the haul one would get for the risks involved in Clevinger.
How this works out for the Padres and Indians will take some time, but both teams can start to worry about that after the playoffs.
Last Dizzy Note
After 1941, Dizzy Dean pitched one last time. In 1947, he was the announcer for the St. Louis Browns. The Browns were having their typical bad season and Dean bemoaned how “Doggone it, I can pitch better than nine out of the ten guys on this staff!” Some people involved with the Browns complained, okay the players’ wives, so the team decided to take Dean up on the offer. On the last game of the 1947 Season, 37-year-old Dizzy Dean started. He pitched four scoreless innings, allowing three base hits and a walk. He also got one hit in his only at-bat. But, he pulled a hamstring and had to call it quits. But once again, he got to say, “If you done it, it ain’t braggin’.”
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)