Posts Tagged ‘Joe Medwick’

Buff Biographies: Joe Medwick

May 14, 2013
Joe Medwick Outfielder Houston Buffs 1931-1932, 1948

Joe Medwick
Houston Buffs
1931-1932, 1948

Joe Medwick wasn’t included in the 1948 autograph book about the 1948 Houston Buffs by Morris Frank and Adie Marks. He wasn’t supposed to be back in Houston that year.

19-year-old outfielder Joe Medwick wasn’t the easiest guy to get along with when he joined the 1931 Houston Buffs in 1931. Blessed with Hall of Fame baseball skills and a thin skin to the comments and trash talk of others, many of his teammates chose to stand-off rather than set off the young powder keg in the middle of a game situation. He seemed to get a little worse as he moved into his early to mid twenties before finally mellowing out with maturity during the latter years of his total baseball career (1930-49, 1951-52). He did not leave baseball, however, for a career in any of the commercial human relationships fields, nor did he seek or find work in the State Department’s diplomatic corp.

Columnist Lloyd Gregory and a Buffs fan hung the nickname "Ducky" on Joe Medwick. Of course, they did it from afar.

Columnist Lloyd Gregory and a Buffs fan hung the nickname “Ducky” on Joe Medwick. Of course, they did it from afar.


Medwick acquired his nickname, “Ducky”, in 1931 after a female fan wrote to Houston Post Dispatch columnist Lloyd Gregory, claiming that she hard started calling him by that name because she thought he waddled like a duck when he walked. Gregory apparently agreed with the fan and started using the moniker in his own public references to Medwick in his columns.

It stuck, or “resonated”, as we might say in 2013. The Houston public saw him as “Ducky” through a second season in 1932 and then sent their slugging and swifty center fielder onward and upward to St. Louis late in the 1932 season to waddle all the way to baseball greatness, starting with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang.

Medwick hit .305 with 19 league-leading homers and 126 RBI for the 1931 Texas League champion Buffs. In 1932, Ducky raised his batting average to .354 with 26 HR; this time, not leading the league in either category.

Over the course of his 17-year MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals (1932-40, 1947-48)); Brooklyn Dodgers (1940-43, 1946); New York Giants (1943-45); and Boston Braves (1945), Joe Medwick batted .324 with 205 HR and 1,383 RBI.

For his 7 seasons as a minor leaguer (1930-32, 1948-49, 1951-52), Ducky batted .336 with 83 HR. He also served as a manager at three different minor cities in his last three active seasons (1949, 1951-52).

Joe Medwick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968 He died at age 63 on March 21, 1975.











Houston Fan Tagged Medwick with “Ducky”

February 17, 2012

Joe Medwick Had a "Ducky" Time in Houston Back in 1931-32.

Future Hall of Famer Joe Medwick was little more than a 19-year old kid when he arrived in Houston for his first season as an outfielder for the Houston Buffs back in 1931. Together with future Hall of Fame teammate Dizzy Dean, Medwick would help guide the young Buffs to the 1931 Texas League pennant in a 108-51 runaway sweep into first place and a full 14 game-lead finish over the second place Beaumont Exporters.

Medwick his .305 for the ’31 Buffs, leading the Texas League in home runs with 19 and runs batted in with 126. Even then, Medwick played with a turbocharged ferocity that sometimes spilled over into ferocious violence against friend and foe alike before it sank back into a face of sultry unhappiness with the world around him. – WIth a personality bordering on the anti-social at times, you have to be good to make up for it.

Medwick was. Good. To very good. To excellent. And finally to great. The stuff that fills the Baseball Hall of Fame. Medwick was.

As a teammate, you simply had to hope to do that unpredictable thing that would put you on Joe Medwick’s good side and out of harm’s way. The 1931 Buffs managed to get that done and come together for a great run, in spite of their disappointing loss in seven games to the Birmingham Barons in the 1931 Dixie Series.

Baseball historians Bill Weiss and Marshall Wright ranked the 1931 Buffs as the 42nd greatest minor league club of all time.

 Medwick remained with the Buffs in 1932, but the talent that Dizzy Dean took with him up to the Cardinals that same year left Houston to languish in 3rd place at 88-66 on the season. This descent cam about in spite of the fact that the 20-year old version Joe Medwick had now exploded against Texas League pitching, Medwick hit .354 with 26 home runs in 1932, but he lost the batting title to Ervin Fox of Beaumont at .357 and to Hank Greenberg of Beaumont and his 39 home runs.
Medwick wasn’t a cactus prick in the eyes of all Houston fans back in the day. The girls loved his rugged good looks and sometimes they even wrote of their various attractions in letters to Houston sportswriters. One such female fan even wrote a comment to Houston Post sportswriter Lloyd Gregory that would hang around Medwick’s neck for life.
After admitting her attractions to Medwick in the same tempered language of those times, this young lady mentioned that she had built her own special nickname for the Buffs hitting star because of the way he walks.
“I’ve watched Medwick coming in from the outfield until he slows from a trot to a walk near the dugout. Joe walks like a duck,” the young lady wrote to Gregory in words that I can only paraphrase here, “and because he walks like a duck, I’ve taken in own mind to calling him ‘Ducky.'”
“Ducky, eh?” Writer Gregory mulled the observation.
“Come to think about it,” Lloyd Gregory considered, “he does walk like a duck.”
At some risk to life and limb, Lloyd Gregory started making reference to the story and using the descriptive “Ducky Medwick” identity tag as a way of describing the young outfielder’s play in his “Looking ‘Em Over” column in the Houston Post.
The nickname stuck. By the time Joe “Ducky” Medwick ascended to St. Louis, he went there quacking all the way, eventually flying his way into history as a member of the Gashouse Gang in St. Louis and the Daffiness Boys in Brooklyn on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After completing a 17-season MLB career (.324 BA, 205 HR) from 1933 to 1948, Ducky rejoined the Houston Buffs on the wind down the old career spiral staircase, hitting .276 with 2 homers in 35 games. I will always feel privileged that I came along in time to see Medwick play before he hung ’em up, even if there wasn’t much quack left in the bat back in 1948.
Joe Medwick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968. He passed away in 1975 at the age of 63.

The Man Who Named Medwick “Ducky”

May 2, 2011

  Long before Richard Justice and the Houston Chronicle there was another major newspaper in this town known as the Houston Post. A third one was the Houston Press, which perished from print even earlier, but none of the local rags covered sports quite like the Post. The great Mickey Herskowitz carried the sportswriting banner for the Post through their abrupt business-shark-kill death in 1996 and before Mickey was the incomparable Clark Nealon, leaning all the way back to the 1930s with both the Press and the Post. Along the way, writers like Morris Frank, John Hollis and Tom Kennedy made their own marks with the wonderful Dame News Girl, the morning Houston Post, along with others too numerous to mention. Does the names Bruce Layer and Clyde LaMotte ring any bells with any of you back-in-the-day Houston sports readers?

Go back far enough and you will run into one name that stands out as the godfather of all who came after him. That would be the one and only Lloyd Gregory, a native Texan and the first great sports writer in Houston publishing history. Gregory got to Houston in time to take over his duties here shortly after Ross Sterling bought both the original Post and also the Dispatch in 1924 and put them into the administrative hands of William P. Hobby as the new Houston Post-Dispatch. Hobby would eventually acquire the newspaper from Sterling and drop the “Dispatch” part of the identity, but the 1930s were a period for dragging Houston full-bore into the marketplace of early 20th century journalism.

With radio in its infancy during the 1920s, and with no TV, Internet, or low-cost telephone access, Houstonians were like all Americans in their growing dependency upon newspapers for up-to-date news. The 1920s were the era of the “special edition” paper that came out when big news couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s edition and there was money to be made is from a special edition run.

Most of the time, the morning Post-Dispatch and the afternoon Houston Chronicle and Press had the time field covered, but big news breaking after 4:00 PM opened the gate on special edition possibility.

Lloyd Gregory was there for the growth of the Houston Buffs as the face of farm team baseball for Branch Rickey and the S. Louis Cardinals back in the 1920s. Gregory was there to greet Rickey and Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis when the two men came to Houston for the original opening of buff Stadium on April 11, 1928. He covered the arrival of lights and night baseball at Buff Stadium in the early 1930s, and saw Houston Buffs baseball through the Great Depression of that decade and into the 1942 stoppage of the Texas League in 1942 due to World War II.

Somewhere in that World War II and post war period, Lloyd Gregory retired from everyday reporting at about the same time I was awakening to baseball with the 1947 Houston Buffs club as a nine-year old. Eventually, his place at the Post writing mentor table would be taken over by Clark Nealon and the others who followed in both their footsteps.

My memories of Lloyd Gregory are of the man who hosted “The Hot Stove League” weekly half-hour TV program every winter into the spring training season from about 1950 to 1952. Gregory would gather other writers around a prop hot stove to discuss the Buffs chances for the coming year with team President Allen Russell and others. By that time, I was a fully-invested baseball nerd and a devourer of statistical data on our prospects for the coming season. That made for some great anticipation of each new weekly show. If memory serves, Morris Frank, Clark Nealon, and Bruce Layer all worked with Gregory on the show, but all seemed to defer to Lloyd as the leader of the pack. I can still here that calm drawling Texas voice of Lloyd Gregory playing out in my memory. He was a good baseball man, the kind of guy that innately left his audience crying for more.

Ducky Medwick

One time writer Lloyd Gregory left a player crying for less, most probably. The issue came up with Joe Medwick, back when Joe was playing outfield for the great 1931 Houston Buffs. Medwick and the terrific Dizzy Dean, of course, went on from Houston to become hinge-pin players for the 1934 Gashouse Gang World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, with both later making it into the Hall of Fame. While he was in Houston, however, Medwick acquired a nickname he never requested as the result of a female fan letter written to Post-Dispatch writer Lloyd Gregory for his “Lookin’ Em Over” sports column.

A female fan wrote Gregory that she loved Medwick, but added that she felt he walked like a duck. She even admitted to growing into the thought  of her favorite Buff as “Ducky” Medwick whenever she saw him walking around the field at Buff Stadium.

Well, columnists have space to fill on a daily basis. Lloyd Gregory protected the identity of his writer, but he divulged the story in one of his 1931 daily columns, He then started referring to the player as “Ducky” Medwick in his game coverage stories.

“Ducky” stuck. Soon everyone else was calling him “Ducky” too. By the time Medwick moved on up to St. Louis, that “Ducky” nickname needed no special packing. It was stuck all over him.

Somewhere out there, most probably in a Houston cemetery by this late date, is the never identified Houston girl who gave Joe Medwick his famous nickname with the help of sportswriter Lloyd Gregory. Too bad Joe never met or maybe married that girl. Any woman who can lay a nickname like “Ducky” on a guy is bound to have held other gifts of good fortune for the man who once caught the light as the object of her affections.

Thank you, Lloyd Gregory, for all the good and fun things you did for Houston baseball.