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Dixie Walker of the Dodgers

The People's Choice

Written by Maury Allen and Susan Walker

Publication Year: 2010

Fred “Dixie” Walker was a gifted ballplayer from a family of gifted athletes. (His father, uncle, and brother all played major league baseball.) Dixie Walker played in the majors for 18 seasons and in 1,905 games, assembling a career batting average of .306 while playing for the Yankees, White Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, and Pirates. Walker won the 1944 National League batting title, was three times an All-Star, and was runner-up for Most Valuable Player in the National League in 1946. He was particularly beloved by Brooklyn Dodgers fans, to whom he was the “People’s Choice.”
But few remember any of those achievements today. Dixie Walker—born in Georgia, and a resident of Birmingham, Alabama, for most of his life—is now most often remembered as one of the southerners on the Dodgers team who resented and resisted Jackie Robinson when he joined the ball club in 1947, as the fi rst African American major leaguer in the modern game. Having grown up in conditions of strict racial segregation, Walker later admitted to being under pressure from Alabama business associates when, in protest, he demanded to be traded away from the Dodgers.
Written by a professional sportswriter knowledgeable of the era and of personalities surrounding that event, and Dixie Walker’s daughter, this collaborative work provides a fuller account of Walker and fleshes out our understanding of him as a player and as a man. Walker ultimately came to respect Robinson, referred to him as “a gentleman,” and gave him pointers, calling him “as outstanding an athlete as I ever saw.”

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The story of a baseball player’s life is never the sole contribution of the author. It is the accumulation of information and insight offered by so many through the years. As Dixie Walker’s one hundredth birthday is marked in 2010, it is writings from the past and revelations from the present that flesh out the full picture of this dedicated athlete and complicated man.

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1. How It All Started

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pp. 1-13

Leo Durocher was wearing blue silk pajamas and a golden yellow bathrobe as he stood in the kitchen of the army barracks at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone. It was the middle of the night in late March 1947. Durocher, the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team on the threshold of making history with the promotion of a Negro, Jackie Robinson, from its Montreal farm club to Brooklyn...

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2. The Lingering Legend

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pp. 14-29

Susan Walker hadn’t been in the New York City area for several years. She was born in Rockville Centre, New York, a leafy Long Island suburb about forty-five minutes from Manhattan depending on Long Island Railroad traffic or the whims of drivers on the ballooning Long Island She remembered nothing of the small village, some 3.4 square miles ...

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3. The Walkers of Birmingham

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pp. 30-45

World War II ended in 1945. The Germans accepted unconditional sur-render on May 7 and the Japanese signed their surrender documents after two atomic bomb attacks in August on their homeland on Sep-tember 2 on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay before General Douglas More than 17 million men and women had served their country...

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4. The Walker Family Baseball Dynasty

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pp. 46-60

Dixie Walker discovered his English roots on a vacation trip with E stelle after his retirement. “My grandfather was a bobby in England,” Dixie told Bill Lumpkin, the Birmingham Post-Herald sportswriter in an extensive 1981 interview conducted in the den of his comfortable Birmingham home at Old Leeds Lane...

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5. Watch Out, Babe, Dixie Is Coming

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pp. 61-86

Joe McCarthy won a pennant with the Chicago Cubs as manager of the Windy City team in 1929. He lost the World Series in five games to Connie Mack’s powerful Philadelphia A’s, a team that had shattered the Yankees with an eighteen-game pennant lead. It had been 21 years since the Cubs had last won a Series, a drought that would be at 102 years old and counting by 2010...

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6. Estelle Shea Walker

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pp. 87-99

David A. “Sonny” Werblin started his career as a show business agent in the late 1920s after graduating from Brooklyn’s James Madison High School and Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. He got a po-sition with the huge Music Corporation of America, handled some of the biggest entertainers in the 1930s, and represented dozens of represented dozens of Hollywood stars and the big bands of Benny Goodman, Harry James...

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7. Arrival in Brooklyn

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pp. 100-113

There are some baseball seasons that become memorable for thrilling pennant races—the Boston Braves coming back from last place for a miracle pennant in 1914, the 1946 St. Louis Cardinals beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in two games in the first pennant playoff, the 1948 Cleveland Indians beating the Boston Red Sox in a one-game playoff, the ...

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8. The 1941 Pennant and the 1944 Batting Title

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pp. 114-131

Larry MacPhail, eager to show off his impressive team and spread the aura of the Dodgers as far and wide as he could, actually scheduled fifty exhibition games for the club. The team would begin training in wide open Havana, Cuba (they would return there in 1947 because of the arrival of Jackie Robinson), and then move to their permanent spring camp in Clearwater, Florida, on April 1...

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9. Jackie’s Early Years

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pp. 132-148

The revolutionary figures in baseball’s twentieth-century integration were Jackie Robinson, of course; Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers boss who signed him in 1945; Commissioner Albert (Happy) Chandler, who allowed Rickey’s move to go through; Brooklyn shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who quickly accepted and aided his black teammate; opposing ...

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10. Jackie and Dixie in 1947

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pp. 149-167

On March 1, 1947, frederick Graham wrote in the New York Times that a P-82 twin-engine fighter named Betty Jo had flown nonstop 4,978 miles from Hickam field in Hawaii to LaGuardia Airport in Queens in fourteen hours and thirty-three minutes. “Lt. Col Robert E. Thalker, pilot, and Lt. John Ard, co-pilot, looking none the worse for the trip, ...

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11. The Pennant, the World Series, and the Long Farewell

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pp. 168-197

The racial abuse heaped on Jackie Robinson in his early Brooklyn days “Jack went to Brooklyn, and I used to go there every year for a visit,” recalled Willa Mae Robinson Walker, Jack’s sister, in a 1987 interview. “I went to every World Series he was in except the 1955 World Series and that’s the one they finally won. In those early days in Brooklyn, I don’t think we ever stopped worrying about him. He got so much hate mail and so many...

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12. The Final Playing Years and a New Career

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pp. 198-214

Dixie Walker hit .316 in 129 games for the 1948 Pittsburgh Pirates. They moved up from last place to fourth place behind Boston, St. Louis, “He was an important player on that team,” said 1948 teammate Ralph Kiner in 2008, on one of his rare broadcasting visits with the New York Mets. “He helped a lot of the young players. I was a right-handed ...

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13. The Sweet Dodger Days

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pp. 215-234

In 1948 a Vero Beach, florida, businessman by the name of Bud Hol-man contacted Buzzie Bavasi of the Brooklyn Dodgers concerning a new spring training home for the Dodgers. Brooklyn had trained at Ha-vana in 1947 with side trips to Panama, Honduras, and Miami. Walter O’Malley, a co-owner of the Dodgers, had instructed Bavasi to look for ...

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14. Dixie, a Baseball Lifer

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pp. 235-244

It had all started for Dixie Walker as a seventeen-year-old in the Piedmont League in 1928. Through all his playing time with the Yankees, the White Sox, the Tigers, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and those final seasons at Pittsburgh, Walker saw it all as a temporary job. Injuries can end a playing career in a moment and Walker came close...

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15. Estelle Carries the Torch

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pp. 245-259

They were together all the time now, Dixie and estelle Walker, moving slowly around the country, seeing this sight or that, visiting old friends, checking out the scenery, sharing the grandeur of the country and the “They were in the Northeast, in Waterbury, Connecticut,” recalls Susan Walker, “and they pulled into a rest stop. My father did all the ...

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16. History’s Verdict

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pp. 260-275

There are ten former members of the Dodgers whose uniform numbers have been retired by the club: two managers, Walt Alston, number 24, and Tommy Lasorda, 2; three pitchers, Sandy Koufax, 32, Don Sutton, 20, and Don Drysdale, 53; and five regular every-day players, Pee Wee Reese, 1, Duke Snider, 4, Jim Gilliam, 19, Roy Campanella, 39, and ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383589
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817355999

Page Count: 275
Publication Year: 2010