By Glen Sparks
The World Series is over, and we’re getting into the hectic baseball awards season. To make this time even busier, I am introducing a new honor. Next week, I will announce the winner of the first Dazzy Vance Award, to be given to the National League pitcher who put up the most Dazzy Vance-like statistics during 2014.
Vance, of course, posted big strikeout numbers for the Dodgers; he led the N.L. in K’s seven times. He also didn’t walk batters or give up a lot of hits or runs. He topped the league in strikeout/walk ratio eight times, shutouts four times, WHIP three times and ERA three times.
The winner can expect no monetary compensation. He can, of course, burst with pride and joy throughout the offseason.
Why, you might ask, is only a National League hurler eligible to win a Dazzy? I am sure Vance would have wanted it this way. The right-hander pitched 2,966.2 innings in the big leagues. Only 30.1 of those innings came in the American League. Vance was an N.L. guy.
Stay tuned to see who wins a Dazzy.
By Glen Sparks
Dazzy Vance, with his crank-it-up fastball and show-stopping curveball, nearly got shut out of the postseason. The Brooklyn Dodger teams he played for in his heyday from 1922-32 weren’t very good. Seven of those teams finished in sixth place in an eight-team National League.
The 1924 team nearly did it. Dazzy almost won the N.L. pennant by himself. The Midwest farm boy, doing his business in the big city, went 28-6 in ’24. He posted a 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts. Writers voted Vance the N.L. MVP, but the Dodgers (actually, the Robins at the time) ended up 92-62, 1 ½ games behind their past nemesis, current nemesis, and forever nemesis, the Giants.
Vance left Brooklyn in 1932. The big redhead did a tour of St. Louis, Cincinnati, St. Louis again, and, finally, Brooklyn again, before retiring after the 1935 season. Dazzy got to the postseason in 1934, during his second go-around with the Cardinals, against the Detroit Tigers.
By Glen Sparks
The name of this blog being what it is, I feel obligated to link to articles I find about Dazzy Vance. Chad Dotson wrote a good one in January for Hardball Times about the Dodger pitching great.
You’ll find out, among other things:
How does Vance rank with other pitchers in their age 30-39 seasons?
How did Vance get from the New Orleans Hornets to the Brooklyn Dodgers?
Why was Vance so hard to hit on Mondays?
Dotson also does a good job of telling the story of Vance’s improbable rise from sore-armed journeyman to Brooklyn ace.
The 1930 baseball season in brief
By Glen Sparks
- The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Dazzy Vance posts a 2.61 ERA, more than one run lower than the next best ERA in the National League (3.87, the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell). Vance suffers from a lack of run support and finishes with just a 17-15 won-loss record.
- Hack Wilson, a portly 5-feet-6-inches, slugs his way to a 56-home run season, then an NL record. The Chicago Cubs’ outfielder also drives in 190 runs, still a major league record, and wins the league MVP.
- George Watkins bats .373 for the St. Louis Cardinals, setting the major league mark for rookies. That is the best mark by far that the outfielder from Texas will ever post. He drops to .288 in his sophomore campaign and bats .312 in his third season. He retires after the 1936 season, a career .288 batter.
- The Boston Braves’ Wally Berger also turns in a precocious rookie season. The outfielder sets National League rookie records for home runs (38) and RBI (119). Unlike fellow rookie Watkins, Berger enjoys several good seasons and hits .300 with 242 homers over an 11-year career.
- Sam Rice shows off the wisdom of experience. The Washington Senators’ right-fielder collects 207 hits, 271 total bases and scores 121 runs at the age of 40. Rice goes on to play another four seasons. He bats .322 over his career, collects 2,987 hits and goes into the Hall of Fame in 1963.
- The New York Giants’ Bill Terry hit .401. He is the last National League player to bat at least .400 over a single season. The first baseman retires with a .341 average over his illustrious career and enters the Hall of Fame in 1954.
- Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove, ace of the Philadelphia A’s, tops the major leagues in wins (28), winning percentage (.848), strikeouts (209) and, believe it not, saves (nine). Like Vance, Grove wins the ERA title by a wide margin. He finishes at 2.54, or .77 lower than Cleveland’s Wes Ferrell. Grove wins exactly 300 games in his career and nine ERA titles. Maybe the greatest left-handed pitcher in history, he is elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947.
- Babe Ruth holds out and signs a record contract–$80,000. The Babe leads the American League in home runs (49), but the New York Yankee slugger also becomes the first player to ever strike out 1,000 times in his career.
- Al Simmons enjoys another big year in his career for the A’s. He leads the A.L. in batting average (.381), runs scored (152) and runs produced (281). “Bucketfoot Al”, born Aloys Szymanski, enjoys a Hall of Fame career, batting .334 lifetime with 307 home runs.
- The A’s, behind the pitching of Grove and George Earnshaw, beat the Cardinals in a six-game World Series. Grove and Earnshaw both win two games for Philadelphia, which went 102-52 in the regular season. The Cardinals, who were 92-62, score just 12 runs in the Series after averaging a league-leading six runs a game. The longest game goes one hour, 58 minutes. The Series title is the A’s fifth and final in Philly.
Charles Arthur “Dazzy” Vance pounded his right arm on a poker table and went to the doctor. From there, he won nearly 200 games and earned a spot in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
The 6-foot-2-inch right-hander fooled batters with a lively fastball and a sharp curve. He led the National League in strikeouts seven straight seasons, still the only pitcher to accomplish that feat. The Iowa native, born March 4, 1891, in little Orient, Iowa, also topped the league in strikeout/walk ratio eight times and in WHIP three times.
The great Casey Stengel, a middling outfielder before he became a legendary manager, once said, “I hit against Dazzy when I was with the Giants from 1921 to 1923, and I can say he was a great one.”
Talk about peaking late, though. Vance put together his best seasons from ages 31-39 after struggling early in his career. He went 0-4 with a 4.91 ERA in 33 innings during parts of two seasons (1915 and 1918) with the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees (at ages 24 and 27, respectively). From 1919-21, he went into exile in the minors.
The problem, at least in part, was that he couldn’t stay healthy. His arm always hurt. Luckily for Vance, smacking that poker table turned a chronic pain an excruciating one. He sorely needed medical attention. Whatever the doctor did, it worked. Vance hoped for one last chance in the Major Leagues.
Finally, the Brooklyn Robins, the forerunner of the Dodgers, purchased Vance’s contract from the New Orleans Pelicans in 1922. He responded by winning 18 games in each of the next two seasons for Brooklyn.
That led up to 1924. The pitcher, with a big smile and a shock of wavy red hair that he hid underneath his cap, won the MVP award that season. Besides compiling a career-high 262 strikeouts, he went 28-6 with a 2.16 ERA (174 ERA+) and a WAR of 10.4.
Vance flat-out dominated National League hitters. Burleigh Grimes and Dolph Luque, finished second and third, respectively, in strikeouts that season. They fanned 221 batters combined, or 41 fewer than Vance. (Trivia: What did Vance win for being named Most Valuable Player? The answer is at the end of the article.)
The Dodgers’ ace threw a no-hitter in ’25 and went 22-9. He finished first in ERA in 1928 (2.09) and again in 1930 (2.61) at the age of 39. Following a 12-11 season in 1932, Vance left Brooklyn for the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Cincinnati Reds. He returned to Brooklyn for one more season, 1935, before calling it quits with a career won-loss mark of 197-140 and a 3.24 ERA (125 ERA+).
Sabermatrician Bill James rated Vance the 35th best pitcher of all-time in the 2003 paperback edition of his Historical Baseball Abstract, just ahead of Bert Blyleven and Hal Newhouser. Baseball writers elected Vance to Cooperstown in 1955. The Hall of Famer died Feb. 16, 1961, in Florida. He was 69.
(How did Vance get the nickname of “Dazzy”? One story is that people said he threw a “dazzling” fastball as a semi-pro pitcher in Nebraska.)
Vance won $1,000 in gold coins for being MVP.
By Glen Sparks
What should you expect from the Dazzy Vance Chronicles? As mentioned, most posts will be about baseball from an earlier era. By that, I mean a time before artificial turf, the designated hitter and summoning five pitchers to get the last five outs of a game. So many talented people write about today’s game; I want to do something different.
(Just a little bit on my own baseball perspective: I am a long-time St. Louis resident, but I spent much of my impressionable youth in Southern California. That’s what made me a Dodger fan, and I remain one at heart. No, that isn’t always easy in Cardinal country. My favorite player growing up was Ron Cey, a hard-hitting third baseman for the Dodgers and, later, the Chicago Cubs. You also may remember him by his nickname, the Penguin. He not only hit, you see, he also waddled a bit.
My all-time favorite highlights? Kirk Gibson hitting a one-legged home run off Dennis Eckersley in 1988, Rick Monday blasting a homer off Steve Rogers in 1981 and Bob Welch striking out Reggie Jackson to end Game 2 of the 1978 World Series. My favorite player today is Clayton Kershaw, and I believe Vin Scully is a national treasure.)
Back to the blog. You’ll notice that not all the posts will fall into a specific period, i.e., the Dead Ball Era, the 1930s, etc. I prefer to keep things a bit open-ended. Anyway, one fan’s old-timer is another fan’s childhood hero.
You’ll also notice that some posts will be straight narratives, while others will focus on analysis, trivia or other tidbits. I hope you’ll notice, at least in time, a variety of styles and perspectives. I think that will make the blog more fun and interesting for both the writer and the reader. Every so often, I’ll write about the modern game, or I may write about a subject other than baseball. Consider those posts to be curveballs and change-ups.
Every post is written by me unless otherwise noted. Thanks for reading. Play ball!
By Glen Sparks
Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoy this introductory post and many more after that.
I call this blog the Dazzy Vance Chronicles. Vance was a hard-throwing, late-blooming ace for the Brooklyn Robins, a.k.a. the Dodgers. A Midwest guy, he could probably thank a painful night of poker playing for getting his Hall of Fame career going. (You’ll be able to read more about Vance in an upcoming post.)
Really, the blog might more aptly be titled the Will White Chronicles. White, who completed almost every game he started, inspired this Internet exercise. Does it fascinate you as much as it does me that pitchers from yesteryear like White, Walter Johnson and Cy Young threw so many innings and so many complete games? After reading about White and his pitching prowess (75 complete games in one season. Yes, that’s a record, and a very safe one.), I decided to write a blog that focuses on bygone baseball. (Like Vance, you can read about White in a future post.)
How did I settle on Dazzy Vance Chronicles as the blog’s title? Well, Charles Arthur Vance did have a pretty cool nickname, didn’t he? Beyond that, I wanted to name the blog after an old-time player. Will White just seemed too obscure. He pitched in an era not long after the Civil War had ended.
The Lou Gehrig Chronicles would have been too easy. Gehrig was a superstar of the first order, like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth. Better to go down one notch. Dazzy Vance seemed just right, a better choice than Walter “Rabbit” Maranville or George “High Pockets” Kelly. And, OK, I am a lifelong Dodger fan, so there was that, too.