Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jim Dusty Rhodes, 82, 1954 World Series MVP 1927-2009

When the current generation hears the name "Dusty" Rhodes they may think of wrestling, but baseball fans recall the colorful outfielder who was the hero of the 1954 World Series. James Lamar Rhodes, affectionately known in baseball circles as "Dusty", helped lead the Giants to the 1954 World Series crown with his dramatic pinch hit homerun to win Game 1 off of future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon at the Polo Grounds. Rhodes passed away Wednesday June 17, 2009 in Las Vegas after a long battle with diabetes and emphysema.

Rhodes accepted his role as one of the "scrubbini", platooning in the outfield and serving as a feared pinch-hitter for 7 seasons with the Giants. Rhodes was never known for his defensive play, as Leo Durocher stated in his autobiography "Nice Guys Finish Last," Rhodes was, "the worst fielder who ever played in a big league game who made training rules forgotten."

In a recent interview that I conducted with Rhodes, I had asked Rhodes about his Hall of Fame teammates, Willie Mays and Monte Irvin. He said he knew Mays was, "a Hall of Famer the first time I met him." He referred to Irvin as a "buddy," and "the greatest in my book!" Irvin, when interviewed by the New York Daily News regarding Rhodes' death, called Rhodes a "good friend," and "a brother to all black players." When Mays was interviewed for the same piece, he said Rhodes was, "a fabulous hitter and a great friend." The high praise Rhodes received from two of the best players in baseball's history displays that his reach extended far beyond his heroics in the 1954 World Series.

To read an in-depth interview with "Dusty" Rhodes, check out Bill Madden's article from the December 20th, 2008 edition of the New York Daily News.


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