Wednesday, October 09, 2013

RIP, Andy Pafko - Handy Andy

Dodger nation and the Baseball world lost one of their own yesterday.  Andy Pafko, a one-time Cub and Milwaukee Brave, died in Michigan at the age of 92.

He wore Dodger Blue during the 1951 and 1952 Baseball seasons, and is notable for being the player stationed in left field when Bobby Thompson hit his game winning home run that has since been dubbed the "shot heard 'round the world" in 1951.  There is a famous photograph of him peering up the left field wall as the ball landed into the crowd.  See it on the right.

Andy Pafko also played for the PCL Los Angeles Angels in 1943.  At the time, the Angles was a farm club for the Chicago Cubs.  He quickly established himself as a top-flight prospect; winning the MVP in his only season in Los Angeles.  Pafko batted .356, with 18 home runs, 118 RBI's and a OPS of .941. 

Soon after, he was promoted to the Cubs and remaining in the show for 17 season.  Andy Pafko became a beloved Cubbie and was considered, for a time, to be one of the best outfielders in the National League.  He was noted for having a strong bat and for his great defensive prowess.  He would often make diving catches then rifle the ball back to the diamond with ease. 

(An auto'd ball from my collection)
Then, one summer afternoon in 1951 the Dodgers came to town and he was traded to Brooklyn in a 8-player deal at the trade deadline.  Cub nation was furious.  They had come to respect his mid-western work ethic.  For the Dodgers, they were able to slot him into the 6th hole behind Jackie Robinson and Gil Hodges to create a truly formidable lineup, and their outfield defense became one of the best in the league.

In 1953, he was traded to the recently moved Milwaukee Braves.  Being a Wisconsin native it was hoped that local fans would come out to watch him.  Pafko stayed a Brave for the remainder of his career, until he retired from playing in 1959.  It is notable that in 1955 he lost his starting outfielder job to Hank Aaron. 

For more background on Andy Pafko I would suggest checking out his SABR Biography written by Dale Voiss, here.  BTW, in the card collecting world his 1952 Topps card is famous.  See it at the very top.  It is considered one of the toughest cards in the set to get in good condition due to it's number placement as card #1.  At the time, kids would stack their cards in numbered order and wrap it with a rubber band.  As a result, his card always found itself on the top of the stack which would invariably cause a significant number of them to be in less than great condition.  Today, this card in excellent or better condition can sell for a large premium.

I thought I would finish this post by highlighting a delightful video of Andy Pafko singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in his home town of Boyceville, WI in 2007.

Video Link:

Below are his career stats, via Baseball Reference:

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