“See that little mound of dirt out there with the rubber in the middle? That’s my concern. I don’t have any problems, just concerns. And that’s my big concern, right out there.” Eddie Stanky
Eddie Stanky was the spark plug second-baseman known as “The Brat”. Stanky played for over a decade in the National League from 1943-1953 and had a career batting average of .268. He led the NL in walks three times and in runs scored once.
He played on pennant winners with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, the Boston Braves in 1948, and the New York Giants in 1951. Perhaps the most accurate description of Stanky’s play was captured in this quote:
“Pitchers ‘lose’ Stanky more than they ‘lose’ any other player in the game. They go to the mound with the burning desire to get the ball over to the pestiferous little purloiner of first base, who walked 148 times last year. They may get two strikes and no balls on him. But almost invariably they ‘lose’ him. And, when they do, a saturating annoyance sets in. They are not the pitchers they were before Stanky upset them.” J.G. Taylor Spink, The Sporting News, June 5, 1946
Stanky was a personal favorite of the skipper of both the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, Leo “the Lip” Durocher. Perhaps no player better personified Durocher’s baseball philosophy than Stanky: “Look at Mel Ott over there (in the Giant’s dugout). He’s a nice guy, and he finishes second. Now look at The Brat. He can’t hit, can’t run, can’t field. He’s no nice guy, but all the little SOB can do is win.” Thus, when Durocher betrayed the Borough of Brooklyn by defecting to the hated New York Giants, one of his first moves was to acquire Stanky, along with shortstop Al Dark, from the Boston Braves. Both of these players were key components of the Giant squad which overcame a 13 ½ game Brooklyn lead in mid-August and then beat them in the three-game playoff, culminated by the most famous home run in major league history. It was Stanky who piggy-backed on Durocher after Bobby Thompson hit “the shot that was heard ‘round the world’.”
Stanky was known for waving his hands in order to distract the pitcher, as well as going into a pitcher’s wind-up at the same time as the pitcher. His antics later resulted in a rules change forbidding such displays. He once described Hall of Famer Carl Yazstremski as “an all-star from the neck down.” Later, when Yaz hit a game-winning homer, he tipped his hat to Stanky as he rounded the bases.
Prior to being called up to the Senior Circuit, Stanky played for a minor league club in Macon, Georgia, where he fell in love with the manager’s daughter, a beautiful gal named Dicky Stock. In 1942 his contract was purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers. He received permission from the owner of the franchise to take some time off in order to tie the knot.
Now Stanky’s roommate in Milwaukee was a catcher named Greek George. Greek had a habit of razzing players with a rather pungent and descriptive vocabulary, and Stanky’s bride became the object of his taunts. Stanky politely warned him several times to cut it out. The Greek paid him no mind and persisted with his off-color descriptions. Stanky then calmly took out a revolver and told him not to say one more word about Dicky. Well, the Greek said that one word, and then Stanky fired a shot, which hit the motel wall about six inches above the Greek’s head. The only question that remained: was Stanky that good, or that bad, a shot?*
The next year Stanky was purchased by the Chicago Cubs. The first pitch thrown to him as a big leaguer was a fastball that hit him square in the head. He wobbled around home plate, almost collapsed on his face, but recovered enough to stagger to first base. He asked a fellow player: “Is this the way they play the game in this league?” “Yeah, kid, you’re in the Big Leagues, ya better get used to it.” On the next pitch the batter hit a weak grounder to the second baseman, who relayed the ball to Hugh Geary, the shortstop. Sure enough, Stanky slid into second base spikes high and hit Geary around the knees; the momentum was so great that Geary was knocked all the way into center field. The injury to his knees was such that they didn’t think he would ever play again. He did manage to return to action but was not the same player and retired at the end of the year. Of course, the word soon got around not to mess with Stanky. And, you could bet your bottom dollar that this play caught the eye of Durocher, who cut his teeth playing that type of ball with the Gas House Gang back in the ’30’s.
Stanky was hired as a player-manager for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953. He later managed the Chicago White Sox as well as the Texas Rangers. However, his stint with the Rangers was short-lived as he left the team after one game, stating he was homesick.
Eddie Robinson, who was then the Rangers’ executive vice president, was in his hotel room when he got a call that morning from Stanky.
“I said, ‘Hey. You want to have a cup of coffee?’” Robinson recalled.
“He said, ‘I’m at the airport.’”
“I said, ‘Why are you at the airport?’”
“He said, ‘I can’t take the job. I’m getting on an airplane. I’m homesick for my family.’ Then he hung up.”
Eddie Stanky obituary, Sports Illustrated
“The Texas players just joked about it”, according to Tom Grieve, a player and future broadcaster for the Rangers. “The players started saying, ‘Gee. What if we would have lost that game? What would he have done then?’”
Despite being an old-school ballplayer, Stanky was open to new ideas, advocating the Designated Hitter Rule years before it was accepted in the American League. He passed on in 1999 and is undoubtedly having heated strategy discussions in the heavenly spheres with Durocher, Billy Martin, and all of the other gritty players of his era.