- OF, 1B
- Ducky, Muscles
- November 24, 1911
- 5' 10"
- 187 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-02-1932 with SLN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1937 MVP, 1937 TC
- Hall of Fame:
Known as much for his terrible temper and surly disposition as he was for his exceptional hitting ability, Joe Medwick was arguably the National League's finest all-around hitter for much of the 1930s. The last N.L. player to win the triple crown, Medwick led the senior circuit in both runs batted in and doubles three straight years, from 1936 to 1938, averaging 138 RBIs and 56 doubles over that span of time. One of the leaders of the famed "Gas House Gang" in St. Louis, the Cardinals left fielder brawled with opposing players and teammates alike as he continued to terrorize National League pitchers throughout the decade. Medwick was so unpopular among players in the senior circuit that one former teammate who preferred to remain anonymous stated when the outfielder announced his retirement, "When he dies, half the National League will go to his wake just to make sure that son-of-a-bitch is dead."
Born to Hungarian immigrants in Carteret, New Jersey on November 24, 1911, Joseph Michael Medwick was one of the greatest all-around athletes in the Garden State's history. After excelling in track, football, basketball and baseball in high school, Medwick turned down a football scholarship to Notre Dame to sign with the Cardinals organization.
Medwick experienced a great deal of success while advancing through the St. Louis farm system, posting lofty batting averages and solid power numbers in the Middle Atlantic League in 1930 and the Texas League in each of the next two seasons. While playing in the minors, Medwick acquired the nickname "Ducky Wucky" for the unusual manner in which he waddled when he walked. The moniker was eventually shortened to "Ducky," one that Medwick found somewhat more tolerable, although he very much preferred to be called by his other nickname of "Muscles."
Medwick made his major league debut with the Cardinals in September of 1932, batting .349 in the 26 games in which he appeared. He replaced defending batting champion Chick Hafey as the team's regular left fielder the following year, batting .306, hitting 18 home runs, driving in 98 runs, and scoring 92 others in his first full season. Medwick also surpassed 40 doubles for the first of seven consecutive times.
Medwick had another very solid year in 1934, helping St. Louis capture the National League pennant by hitting 18 homers, knocking in 106 runs, scoring 110 others, batting .319, and topping the senior circuit with 18 triples. It was during the World Series, though, that the outfielder truly made a name for himself.
A combative and hard-nosed player who epitomized the Gas House Gang's aggressive style of play, Medwick typically slid hard into every base and rarely backed down from an altercation. With the Cardinals comfortably in front of the Detroit Tigers late in Game Seven in Detroit, Medwick drove a ball off the centerfield wall and proceded to slide into third base with his spikes high, knocking Tiger third baseman Marv Owen to the ground. After Owen said something to Medwick, the St. Louis leftfielder began kicking him, causing blows to be exchanged between the two men. Neither player was ejected immediately, but Tiger fans, already upset because their team was on the short end of a 9-0 score, began pelting Medwick with fruits and bottles when he returned to his position in the outfield in the bottom of the inning. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis,who was in attendance, subsequently summoned Medwick, Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch, and the umpiring crew to his box, where he decided to remove the St. Louis leftfielder from the contest "for his own good." The Cardinals ended up winning the game 11-0, capturing the World Series in the process, with Medwick posting a .379 batting average during the Fall Classic. Nevertheless, the incident provided additional fodder for critics of Medwick, who often found fault with his contentious nature.
Even Medwick's harshest critics, though, found it difficult to criticize his performance on the field the next few seasons. The muscular outfielder began a string of five consecutive years in 1935 that were the finest of his career. He surpassed 100 RBIs in each of those seasons, topped 100 runs scored and 200 hits four times each, and surpassed 20 home runs and the .350-mark in batting three times each. After placing among the league leaders with 23 home runs, 126 runs batted in, 132 runs scored, 224 hits, and a .353 batting average in 1935, Medwick batted .351 and topped the circuit with 138 runs batted in, 223 hits, and 64 doubles the following year. He had his greatest season in 1937 when he captured the N.L. triple crown and league MVP honors. In addition to establishing career highs with league-leading marks of 31 home runs, 154 runs batted in, and a .374 batting average, Medwick led all National Leaguers with 111 runs scored, 237 hits, 56 doubles, 406 total bases, and a .641 slugging percentage. He led the league in both runs batted in and doubles for the third straight time the following year.
After another very strong season in 1939, Medwick was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers early the following year in a move that likely reflected the frustration St. Louis management felt towards their confrontational star. Medwick's earlier behavior during the 1934 World Series was merely the tip of the iceberg. At different times, Medwick decked teammate Ed Heusser when the St. Louis pitcher censured him for failing to hustle on a fly ball, knocked down fellow Cardinals slugger Rip Collins, and slugged pitcher Tex Carlton when he walked in front of Medwick one too many times when the latter was being photographed. Medwick once even threatened to take out both Dean brothers with a bat.
Medwick's violent behavior eventually caught up with him. Six days after being traded to the Dodgers, he was hit in the head with a fastball thrown by Bob Bowman, one of his former Cardinals teammates. Knocked out by the pitch, a concussed Medwick had to be carried off the field. Although he remained a solid hitter the next several years, Medwick never again posted huge offensive numbers. After hitting 18 home runs, knocking in 88 runs, scoring 100 others, and batting .318 for the pennant-winning Dodgers in 1941, he failed to hit more than seven home runs, drive in 100 runs, or score more than 69 runs in any single season the remainder of his career. Medwick was dealt from the Dodgers to the Giants midway through the 1943 campaign. He spent two years with the Giants before joining the Boston Braves for one season. Medwick then returned to Brooklyn for one year, before ending his career in the place it first started with the St. Louis Cardinals. He retired at the end of 1948 with 205 home runs, 1,383 runs batted in, 1,198 runs scored, 2,471 hits, and a .324 career batting average.
Medwick surpassed 100 runs batted in and 100 runs scored six times each, accumulated more than 200 hits four times, topped 50 doubles twice, finished in double-digits in triples eight times, and batted over .300 in each of his first 11 seasons. He holds the major league record for most consecutive seasons (7) with 40 or more doubles. Medwick led the National League in runs batted in, doubles, and total bases three times each, hits twice, and home runs, triples, runs scored, and batting average once each. In addition to capturing league MVP honors in 1937, Medwick finished in the top five in the voting two other times. He appeared in a total of 10 All-Star games during his career.
Medwick mellowed somewhat after his playing career ended. A mainstay at many baseball events, he became a minor league batting instructor in the Cardinals organization in 1966. Medwick was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the members of the BBWAA in 1968. He died of a heart attack in St. Petersburg, Florida two years later, at age 63.
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