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Johnny Mize

From Academic Kids

Johnny Mize (January 7, 1913 - June 2, 1993) was a baseball player who served as first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants), and New York Yankees. He was in the Major Leagues from 1936 through 1953. In recognition of his playing ability, Mize was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Born in Georgia, he was known as "Big Ja-wn" and "The Big Cat" for his smooth fielding around the bag at first base. He had a great batting eye, and in his early career hit for high averages, leading the National League with a .349 batting average in 1939. In 1938 he batted .363, but Cardinals teammate Ducky Medwick took the title with a .374 average. Mize then changed targets and went for power instead of batting average. He led the National League in home runs in 1939 with 28, and in 1940 with 43. He also led the league in Runs Batted in during 1940 and 1942. That season he was traded to the New York Giants.

John spent 1943, 1944 and 1945 in military service during World War II. Returning to the Giants in 1946, a broken toe caused hin to fall one home run short of the title, won by Ralph Kiner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. But in 1947 he belted 51 home runs-and tied Ralph Kiner for the league lead. But John did lead in Runs and RBI, and to this date is the only player to strike out less the fifty times while hitting fifty homeruns. In 1948, Mize and Kiner again tied for the league homer championship with 40 each. John went to the New York Yankees in 1949 following his showing of discontent with his playing time. He spent 5 years with them, ending in 1953. Johnny was a big contributor to their winning 5 consecutive American League pennants and World Series titles. In the 1952 World Series vs the Brooklyn Dodgers, he belted pinch hit 3 home runs, and was robbed of a 4th by Dodger right fielder Carl Furillo, who made a leaping catch at the fence just as the ball was exiting the park.

Johnny Mize may still hold the Major League record for the most times hitting 3 homers in one game, a feat he performed 6 times. He also was the only one to do it in both leagues-5 times in the National and once in the American. He finished his career with 359 home runs. There is no telling how many more he would have hit in the 3 years he was on military duty at the peak of his power, but it seems safe to assume he would have greatly increased that number.

Johnny had 2 memorable idiosyncrasies: he was the first to smear mud under his eyes to reduce glare, and he never stepped out of the batter's box between pitches.

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