- OF, RF, 1B, LF
- February 9, 1925
- 186 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-15-1947 with DET
Vic Wertz had a 17-year career in the major leagues from 1947 to 1963, hitting 266 home runs, appearing in 4 All-Star Games, and playing for most of 1954 on the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians that won 111 games.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1925, he signed with the Detroit Tigers as a 17-year-old in 1942. He missed most of the 1943 and all of the 1944-1945 seasons due to military service.
He played for Winston-Salem in 1942, and was briefly with Buffalo in 1943 before going into the Army. While serving in the Pacific he played on a service team that included Enos Slaughter and Joe Gordon. Both Wertz and Slaughter were staff-sergeants. In 1946 Wertz played again for Buffalo, hitting .301 with 19 home runs. Sources: Wertz in Wartime and Baseball in Wartime May 2008
He came to the majors in 1947, when at age 22 he was the fourth outfielder on a team that featured George Kell and Hal Newhouser. The team finished 2nd in the league and Vic hit .288.
He stayed with Detroit until halfway through the 1952 season. Peaks of success were in 1949, when he hit .304, with 20 homers and 133 RBI, and in 1950, when he hit .308 with 27 homers and 123 RBI. His 37 doubles in 1950 were second in the league. He was named to the All Star team in 1949, 1951, and 1952.
Not too long after the 1952 All-Star Game, Wertz was traded to the St. Louis Browns in August. Although he had started slowly with Detroit, he finished up hitting .346 in 37 games for the Browns. The next year, 1953, he was a regular outfielder for them, along with Johnny Groth and Dick Kokos. Wertz hit .268 with 19 home runs. His 19 home runs led the team, while his .268 average was second among the regulars. The team lost 100 games.
The Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954, and traded Wertz to Cleveland on June 1, so he spent most of the season with the Indians, who won 111 games that year, instead of with the Orioles, who lost 100. Vic played a lot of first base in 1954 with the Indians, along with Bill Glynn. The 1954 Indians had an incredible pitching staff (team ERA of 2.78) along with hitting performances by Larry Doby, Bobby Avila, and Al Rosen.
In the 1954 World Series, Wertz was quite prominent. First, he hit .500 (going 8 for 16) as he batted fifth (cleanup once) in the lineup. Second, it was Wertz who hit the hard drive caught so famously by Willie Mays. He contracted polio during the 1955 season but came back the next year with one of his best years, hitting 32 home runs with 106 RBI.
Wertz stayed with Cleveland through the 1958 season. In 1957, he hit 28 home runs with 105 RBI, and was named to the All Star team again.
He then spent 1959, 1960, and part of 1961 with the Boston Red Sox. This was the Red Sox of the ageing-but-still-good Ted Williams, who slugged .645 in his last season in 1960, and of Pete Runnels, who was 3rd in the league in batting in 1959 and 1st in 1960. Wertz hit .282 with 19 home runs and 103 RBI in 1960. That year, he only scored 45 runs, the lowest single-season total for a hitter with over 100 RBI.
He came back to Detroit toward the end of 1961, and in 1962 hit .324 largely as a pinch-hitter at the age of 37. Norm Cash hit 39 home runs for the team, and Rocky Colavito hit 37 home runs. Al Kaline hit .304. Jim Bunning had 19 wins.
Released in May 1963 by the Tigers, he finished up with the Minnesota Twins, where Harmon Killebrew hit 45 home runs.
While Wertz rarely led the league in offensive categories, he was often in the top ten. He was in the top 10 in the league in home runs 7 times, and the top 10 in the league in RBI six times. His career OPS+ of 121 is quite good for a 17-year career.
After his career ended, he owned a Detroit area beer distributor. He died at age 58 after suffering a heart attack.
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- 1954 World Series, Al Kaline, Al Rosen, All Star, Bill Glynn, Bobby Avila, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Dick Kokos, George Kell, Hal Newhouser, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Bunning, Johnny Groth, Larry Doby, Minnesota Twins, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, St. Louis Browns, Ted Williams, Vic Wertz, Winston-Salem State University