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They Played
the Game
JOHNNY MIZE

Full name: John Robert Mize
Nickname: The Big Cat
Born: January 7, 1913 (Demorest, GA.)
ML Debut: April 16, 1936
Final Game: September 26, 1953
Bats: Left    Throws: Right
6' 2"   215
Hall of Fame: 1981 (Veterans Committee)



Played for St. Louis Cardinals (1936-41), New York Giants (1942-49), New York Yankees (1949-53)
Postseason: 1949 WS, 1950 WS, 1951 WS, 1952  WS, 1953  WS
All-Star 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1953
AL Babe Ruth Award 1952

During Johnny Mize's eleven-season career with the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Giants, he was THE slugger in the National League, leading in home runs in 1939, '40, '47, and '48, and in RBIs in 1940, '42, and '47. In 1939 he hit 28 home runs to win the home-run title, and in 1940 Mize set a Cardinal team record for home runs with 43. That year Mize might have had a chance to break Babe Ruth's season record of 60 home runs, but a temporary wire mesh fence was erected above the low right-field wall, and many of the 31 doubles and 13 triples he hit banged off the screen instead of going into the stands for home runs. In 1942 his 137 RBIs led the league, and after he spent three years in the Navy, he hit 51 home runs for the Giants in 1947, becoming only the second left-handed batter in baseball history to hit more than 50 home runs in a season. That year his 138 runs batted in also led the league. He hit 40 home runs to lead the league in 1948, and his 125 RBIs made it the eighth season that he batted in over 100 runs.
Mize was 36 years old when the Yankees bought him from the Giants toward the end of the 1949 season. Mize played first base for manager Stengel and during his five-year Yankee stay, he became Stengel's number one pinch hitter, leading the league in pinch hits in 1951, '52, and '53.
When Mize finally retired at the end of the '53 season, he had hit more home runs than any other active player. His 359 career home runs placed him sixth on the all-time home-run list behind an exclusive group of Hall-of-Famers: Babe Ruth (714), Jimmy Fox (534), Mel Ott (511), Lou Gehrig (493), and Joe DiMaggio, two ahead at 361. Behind Mize were two more Hall-of-Famers, Ted Williams, at 337 the only active player close to him, and Hank Greenberg (331).
He was 40 years old when he retired, a member of the exclusive 2000-hit club, and one of three men in the history of the game to have hit a home run in each of the American League and National League parks in which he played....
The Yankees were fortunate to acquire Mize in August of '49. He had led the National League in homers for the past two years and had been named to the All-Star team in '49, but the Giants had hired a new manager, Leo Durocher, in mid-'48, and Durocher preferred players with speed and finesse who could steal bases and hit-and-run, and he began to bench some of the older, less mobile veterans including Mize. In midsummer of 1949 the Yankees were playing the Giants in the annual Major's Trophy game for charity, and Stengel, knowing that Mize was not playing regularly, approached him before the game. "How you doing?" Stengel asked the big first-baseman. "I'm not playing much," Mize responded. "Over here you'd be playing," Stengel said. Stengel then urged George Weiss to acquire him. Mize had a .324 lifetime batting average, he had been a league All-Star for nine years, and he would be a perfect batsman to challenge Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch. For the Yankees there were also disturbing rumors that the Red Sox were trying to get him.
....When Mize came to the Yankees, he and Stengel got along famously. For many years Mize had been a one-man destruction gang against Stengel's Dodger and Brave teams, and Casey highly respected Mize's knowledge of the mechanics of hitting. When he wasn't starting, Mize would sit on the bench next to Stengel and act as the unofficial batting coach, making suggestions and annoying some players who didn't particularly desire his criticism ....
--Peter Golenbock
Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964

"Mize's nickname was the 'Big Cat,' but he couldn't move at all around first base. However, he could hit. He had a great eye and a beautiful compact swing. He hit .337 in 1946, but injuries kept his homer total down to 22. Then in 1947 he hit those 51 homers and led the league with 137 runs and 138 RBIs. What a year! He was a cigar smoker. The first thing he'd do every morning on the road was light a cigar .... He'd get up and walk to the window and lift the shade and look out and find a flag. He'd figure out from the direction that flag was blowing the direction of the wind at the ballpark. If the wind would be blowing out, Mize would lie back in bed and puff that cigar and say, 'Roomie, I'm going to hit one or two today.' And he would."
-- Bill Rigney
We Played the Game

"Another thing Stengel ... liked to do was acquire a veteran to help down the stretch. In 1949 we purchased Johnny Mize, the former home run champion with the Cardinals and Giants. He had a bunch of key hits for us in September. He did so well that the Yankees would make it a practice to pick up veterans for stretch drives in future years."
-- Billy Johnson
We Played the Game
In 1947, Mize became the only player ever to hit more than 50 home runs while striking out less than 50 times.
Your arm is gone, your legs likewise
But not your eyes,, Mize, not your eyes
--Dan Parker, New York Daily Mirror (1950)
Major League Batting Record
Year
Team
G
AB
H
R
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
BB
SO
BA
OBP
SLG
1936
STL
126
414
136
76
30
8
19
93
1
50
32
.329
.402
.577
1937
STL
145
560
204
103
40
7
25
113
2
56
57
.364
.427
.595
1938
STL
149
531
179
85
34
16
27
102
0
74
47
.337
.422
.614
1939
STL
153
564
197
104
44
14
28
108
0
92
49
.349
.444
.626
1940
STL
155
579
182
111
31
13
43
137
7
82
49
.314
.404
.636
1941
STL
126
473
150
67
39
8
16
100
4
70
45
.317
.406
.535
1942
NYG
142
541
165
97
25
7
26
110
3
60
39
.35
.380
.521
1946
NYG
101
377
127
70
18
3
22
70
3
62
26
.337
.437
.576
1947
NYG
154
586
177
137
26
2
51
138
2
74
42
.302
.384
.614
1948
NYG
152
560
162
110
26
4
40
125
4
94
37
.289
.395
..564
1949
NYG
106
388
102
59
15
0
18
62
1
50
19
.263
.351
.441
1949
NYY
13
23
6
4
1
0
1
2
0
4
2
.261
.393
.435
1950
NYY
90
274
76
43
12
0
25
72
0
29
24
.277
.351
.595
1951
NYY
113
332
86
37
14
1
10
49
1
36
24
.259
.339
..398
1952
NYY
78
137
36
9
9
0
4
29
0
11
15
.263
.327
..416
1953
NYY
81
104
26
6
3
0
4
27
0
12
17
.250
.339
..394
TOTALS
1884
6443
2011
1118
367
83
359
1337
28
856
524
.312
.397
.562
World Series
1949
NYY
2
2
2
0
0
0
0
2
0
0
0
1.000
1.000
1.000
1950
NYY
4
15
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
.133
.133
.133
1951
NYY
4
7
2
2
1
0
0
1
0
2
0
.286
.444
.429
1952
NYY
5
15
6
3
1
0
3
6
0
3
1
.400
.500
1.067
1953
NYY
3
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
.000
.000
.000
TOTALS
18
42
12
5
2
0
3
9
0
5
3
.286
.362
.548

Major League Fielding Record
Pos.
G
PO
A
E
DP
FP
1B
1667
14850
1032
133
1320
.992
OF
8
12
1
0
0
1.000
1675
14862
1033
133
1320
.992