Dixie Walker

Walker spent all or parts of eight seasons in the American League before becoming The People’s Cherce in Brooklyn. The lefthanded hitter was purchased by the Yankees off the Greenville (South Atlantic League) roster for a then-record $25,000 in 1930. Though he was highly regarded, he remained in their rich farm system until 1933. He suffered a severe setback when he tore some shoulder muscles, and in 1936 he was waived to the White Sox. He batted .302 and tied for the AL lead with 16 triples in 1937, yet was traded to Detroit. He continued to hit more than .300 but showed little power, and his shoulder problems persisted. After tearing up his knee in 1939, he was placed on waivers and was snatched up by Brooklyn GM Larry MacPhail.

Walker led the 1940 Dodgers in batting (.308) and doubles (37). The likable, 6’1″ blond quickly became a favorite of the Brooklyn fans, especially for his heroics against the hated Giants; he batted .436 against New York in 1940. Nevertheless, manager Leo Durocher opened the 1941 campaign with the newly acquired Paul Waner in Walker’s outfield spot. Brooklyn fans were outraged. The 38-year-old Waner had won the job in spring training but faded fast and was traded. Walker became part of an all-.300-hitting outfield (with Pete Reiser and Joe Medwick) that led Brooklyn to the 1941 NL pennant. For the next six years, he was a fixture in Brooklyn’s right field. He led the NL with a .357 batting average in 1944 and won the 1945 RBI title with 124.

When Jackie Robinson broke the color line with Brooklyn in 1947, Walker, a native of Georgia, initially resisted the idea. But he was soon defending Robinson and giving him pointers. Following that pennant-winning season, in what turned out to be one of the best trades in Brooklyn history, Walker was sent to the Pirates in a six-player deal for pitcher Preacher Roe and third baseman Billy Cox. In 1948 Walker topped the .300 mark for the tenth time in 12 seasons, helping the Pirates to improve by 21 games, from last place to fourth. However, at age thirty-eight in 1949, he played in just 88 contests, led the NL with 13 pinch hits, and left the majors.

Walker managed in the minors for most of the 1950s, coached for the Cardinals, and coached and scouted for the Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dixie’s brother, Harry Walker, was the 1947 NL batting champ. Their father, Ewart “Dixie” Walker, pitched for the 1909-12 Senators, and their uncle, Ernie Walker, played for the 1913-15 Browns.