Bill Dickey was the best all-around catcher to whom I’ve ever pitched. People sometimes give me a puzzled look because I played for the Indians and Bill played for the New York Yankees. What about the All-Star games?
I immediately think back to the 1939 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium when Joe McCarthy was managing the American League team. We won the game 3–1 and beat the National League. I entered the game and relieved Tommy Bridges of the Tigers in the sixth inning. There was one out and Arky Vaughan was at bat with the bases loaded. My first pitch was a fastball. Arky hit a two-hopper to second base to Joe Gordon, who threw to Joe Cronin at shortstop, who in turn threw to first base to complete the inning-ending double play. I pitched the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings for the American League to preserve the win.
I also pitched to Bill Dickey in the 1941 All-Star game in Detroit when Ted Williams hit a home run with two outs in the ninth inning to win the ballgame 7–5. I saw Bill catch a lot against the Indians and I always made sure to observe the way he called a game and the manner in which he played baseball. Jim Hegan might be better defensively and Frankie Hayes was a little better at calling pitches. Rollie Hemsley was an excellent catcher and was faster on the base paths than Bill Dickey, but Bill gets the nod as the best in my book, with Rollie Hemsley a close second place.
Bill Dickey could hit for average, a lifetime .313 hitter. He had a great arm to throw runners out at second base who were trying to steal. He was tall. He had excellent range because of his height. He had excellent judgment behind the plate and was a real Yankee all the way. I say that because he exhibited the class and dignity that the Yankees are always bragging about. In my book he is the best catcher I’ve ever pitched to because he had the total package. I’d also like to mention that while some great baseball players have made cameo appearances in some major movies, Bill gave an excellent performance in The Pride of the Yankees, alongside the great Gary Cooper and Theresa Wright. This movie was not only good for baseball, it was a fine motion picture, and I’ve seen it many times. I still regard the movie as one of the most sentimental tearjerkers of all time.
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From Bob Feller's Little Black Book of Baseball Wisdom by Bob Feller.
Copyright © 2001 by Bob Feller. Reprinted by permission of the McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.