Johnny Mize

Mize, a dependable but slow-moving first baseman, left the game with some remarkable achievements. The burly, red-faced slugger is the only man to hit three home runs in a game six times; in 30 games he homered twice; he had seven pinch-hit home runs, and he homered in all of the 15 ML parks in use during his career. A remarkable slugger who was also a contact hitter, he struck out only 524 times while hitting 359 home runs. He was a student of hitting who relied as much on knowledge of the pitchers and an extremely graceful, well-balanced hitting style as he did on his considerable strength.

Successful surgery to correct an upper-leg bone spur saved Mize’s career in 1935 and he hit .329 in his rookie year with the Cardinals in 1936. From 1937 through 1941, he powered the Cardinals’ attack with more than 100 RBI each season. He was traded to the Giants after the 1941 season and gave them four excellent seasons around three years spent in the Navy during WWII. He tied Ralph Kiner for the NL home run title with 51 in 1947, when the Giants set a since-broken ML record with 221, and again with 40 in 1948. In August 1949 he was sold to the Yankees for $40,000. From 1949 through 1953, he was a part-time first baseman and pinch hitter deluxe for five Yankees championship teams. He led the AL in pinch hits three straight years, 1951-53. He was the WS MVP in 1952, hitting .400 with three home runs in the seven-game series.

Former Cardinals teammate Stan Musial said of Mize during Mize’s 1981 induction into the Hall of Fame: “Did you ever see a pitcher knock him down at the plate? Remember how he reacted when brushed back? He’d just lean back on his left foot, bend his body back and let the pitch go by. Then he’d lean back into the batter’s box and resume his stance, as graceful as a big cat.”

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