A Dozen Things You Should Know About Johnny Mize

Johnny Mize while with the Giants

Johnny Mize while with the Giants

1. John R. Mize was born in Georgia in 1913. He was a cousin of Ty Cobb and his second cousin Clare married Babe Ruth.

2. In 1928 he joined the Piedmont College baseball team. At the time he was 15 and still attending High School (obviously eligibility rules were different then). He was good enough to catch the attention of Frank Rickey, Branch Rickey’s brother. After watching Mize play one semipro game in Taccoa Frank Rickey signed him to play for the Cardinals. In case you’re wondering where you know the name “Taccoa,” it’s the name of the town made famous in the TV series “Band of Brothers.” The original members of Easy Company trained there.

3. He joined the Cardinals farm system in 1930 and moved steadily up the chain. In 1932 St. Louis switched him from the outfield to first base because he was considered too slow to track down ball in the outfield.

4. In 1935 he was traded to Cincinnati, but because of a previous groin injury he failed his physical and was returned to the Cards.

5. He made the Cardinals roster in 1936 and remained with St. Louis through 1941. While with the Cards he won a batting title (1939), two home run titles (1939 and 1940), the 1940 RBI title, and picked up a triples title in 1938. In 1938 he had 16 triples and no stolen bases.

6. In 1942 he was traded to the New York Giants for $50,000 and three players: Bill Lohrman, Ken O’Dea, and John McCarthy. He led the NL in slugging and RBIs that season.

7. He lost 1943 through 1945 to World War II while in the Navy. His main Naval job was to play ball.

8. He returned to New York in 1946 and hit .337. In 1947 he led the league in runs and RBIs. He also led the league with 51 home runs. He struck out only 42 times, the only player to hit 50 home runs without striking out 50 times.

9. He won another home run title in 1948 and was traded late in 1949 across town and leagues to the Yankees. That got him to his first World Series.

10. He stayed with the Yanks through 1953. He initially played first base, but by the end of his career was doing a lot of pinch hitting. As a rule he did well enough in the World Series but in 1952 he was great. Mize hit .400, had three home runs and one double in six hits and drove in six runs.

11. He was done after 1953. He did some coaching, but spent most of his time making a living in real estate and running a liquor store. He was chosen for the Hall of Fame in 1981.

12. He died in Georgia in 1993.

Mize's grave from Find a Grave

Mize’s grave from Find a Grave

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7 Responses to “A Dozen Things You Should Know About Johnny Mize”

  1. wkkortas Says:

    In his book A False Spring, Jordan notes that Mize was the Braves’ minor league hitting instructor when he was in the system, although he makes it clear that the level of instruction was a bit on the minimalist side.

  2. Gary Trujillo Says:

    Failed a physical with a groin injury!? Who was running the Reds back then? Jeeez.

    • glen715 Says:

      Actually, according to most newspaper accounts of the time, Mize had a “growth on his side” that had to be removed. There was the groin problem, but the Reds gave the “growth on his side” as the reason that they returned Mize to the Cardinals. I wonder what kind of growth it was. Anyway, in answer to your question, Gary, the Reds general manager was Larry McPhail and the manager Charlie Dressen. According to an Associated Press article on page 16 in the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle on April 16, 1935, the Reds returned Mize to the Cardinals the day before. The Cardinals had sold Mize to the Reds for $55,000 dollars. Although Dressen, according to the article, described Mize as “the greatest rookie first baseman I have ever seen”, the ever-impulsive McPhail couldn’t wait until next year and didn’t want to take a chance on Mize. After hitting well for the Cardinal’s Rochester (N.Y.) team in the International League in 1935, Mize came up to St. Louis in 1936 and wowed the Redbird faithful with a .329 batting average, 19 home runs, and 93 runs batted in, and Mr. Dressen, no doubt, was quite a bit angry at Mr. McPhail. McPhail did a LOT of things that made people sorta angry, as you will find out if you read Harold Parrott’s excellent and witty book “The Lords of Baseball. (Harold Parrott knew a lot of inside stuff about McPhail as both a sportswriter for the Brooklyn Eagle and, later on, as the traveling secretary for the Dodgers. It’s an enjoyable book.

      Glen

      • glen715 Says:

        Also, in a locally-written article in the Cincinnati Enquirer of that very same day (opening day of 1935 for the Reds, incidenatally, in Pittsburgh) reads as follows: “It was with regret that Johnny Mize, one of the best-looking youngsters who ever came up from the minors, was given his return papers was given his return papers to the St. Louis club yesterday.

        Manager Dressen almost had tears in his eyes when he bade the smart first-baseman good-bye, for he had counted for weeks on starting him with the rest of the kid infield today. But the condition of Mize’s leg was such that it would have been folly to pay any such sum as $55,000 for his release at this time and the club officials and the manager were agreed on the matter.

        They all hope that Johnny will submit to an operation which will correct his trouble and that he will be back with the club again next year.”

        (This was on Page 13 of the Enquirer of that day).

        This last sentence seems to make no sense, as the only club he could possibly be back with next year would be the St. Louis Cardinals.

        Glen

  3. glen715 Says:

    Also, I figured you might be interested in this video—-

    Local and state officials gathered for a bridge naming ceremony in Demorest, Georgia (Johnny Mize’s home town) on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 for a bridge naming ceremony honoring Mize. He returned to his hometown after retiring from the big leagues in 1953.

    He walked and drove and maybe even hopped and skipped, over this bridge, which was built over Hazel Creek, many times.

    Among those in attendance were members of the Demorest City Council, Habersham County Commisioner Natalie Crawford, Habersham Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Judy Taylor, State Representative Terry Rogers and State Senator John Wilkinson.

    Here’s the video. It makes mighty fine watching.

    Glen

    • verdun2 Says:

      Thanks, Glen. Hadn’t seen this.
      v

      • glen715 Says:

        V, I recently started to subscribe to newspapers.com, and it really is a great source of newspaper research. That’s how I found out that stuff that I posted, and much more. Even as an eleven year old kid, I enjoyed going to the public library and looking up things on newspaper microfilm on the big, bulky, crank wind-up microfilm machines, and newspaper research has always has fascinated me.

        I think that cranking that microfilm machine (and I did a lot of cranking on it with my right hand, which is also my throwing hand), kept my arm in shape for my “awesome” stickball pitching career. (I walked more batters than anyone in stickball history and when I DID have control, I gave up a LOT of home runs that went into the nearby basketball court at Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin, New York. I developed myself into a pretty good hitter, though, when I taught myself to bat lefthanded, and when I hit lefty, I was always Wayne Garrett (at least in my mind).

        Glen

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