Dusty Rhodes, a light-hitting, hard-drinking outfielder who was at his best on baseball's biggest stage, died of cardiopulmonary arrest Wednesday at a Las Vegas hospital. He was 82.
Rhodes, whose left-handed swing was tailor-made for the short right-field porch at the New York Giants' home in the Polo Grounds, never batted more than 244 times in seven big-league seasons and had a career average of just .253.
But in his only World Series, in 1954, he delivered a game-winning pinch-hit home run in the 10th inning of Game 1, a game-tying pinch-hit single in Game 2 and a two-run pinch single in Game 3 to help the Giants win their last championship by sweeping the heavily favored Cleveland Indians.
Rhodes also hit a solo home run later in Game 2, remaining in the game after his pinch-hit single. His two home runs were the only ones hit by the Giants in the series.
Although that World Series is best remembered for "The Catch," Willie Mays' great running grab of a Vic Wertz drive in the opening game, it was Rhodes' bat that proved the difference. Yet, earlier that season, Giants manager Leo Durocher promised to quit unless the team traded Rhodes.
In his autobiography, "Nice Guys Finish Last," Durocher called the fun-loving Rhodes "the worst fielder who ever played in a big-league game." But he also wrote that Rhodes' personality kept the team "confident and happy."
"He was a lovable guy. He was a party guy. He was just a good old boy," Frank Turco, a cousin of Rhodes' wife, Gloria, said Thursday. "Did he live a hard life? Did he go out at night? Yes. But he was a good man. He was a Southern gentleman."
A rather disconcerting headline to wake up to, to be sure. But you know, there's some inspiration to me in the life story of the guy who I may or may not have been named after (my parents have never confirmed nor denied whether my nickname comes from this fellow). As some of you know, I've been having kind of an off-season, career-wise.
But September's coming.
Thanks to alert reader Randy Johnson for the heads-up.