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Chuck Dressen
Manager/Third baseman
Born: September 20, 1898(1898-09-20)
Decatur, Illinois
Died: August 10, 1966 (aged 67)
Detroit, Michigan
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
April 17, 1925 for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1933 for the New York Giants
Career statistics
Batting average     .272
Home runs     11
Runs batted in     221
Teams

As Player

As Manager

Career highlights and awards
  • Won two National League Pennants as Manager (1952, 1953)

Charles Walter Dressen (September 20, 1898 – August 10, 1966), known as both "Chuck" and "Charlie," was an American third baseman, manager and coach in professional baseball during a career that lasted almost fifty years, and was best known as the manager of the powerful Brooklyn Dodgers of 1951-53. Indeed, Dressen's "schooling" of a young baseball writer is one of the most colorful themes in Roger Kahn's classic memoir, The Boys of Summer.

Born in Decatur, Illinois, Dressen was a veteran baseball man when he took the reins in Brooklyn after the 1950 season. After a short football career playing quarterback for the Decatur Staleys (a forerunner of the Chicago Bears) in 1920 and in 1922-23 with the Racine Legion, Dressen was a third baseman for the Cincinnati Reds (1925-31) and a late-season utilityman for the 1933 New York Giants, batting .272 in 646 games.

Contents

Association with Larry MacPhail

After a successful minor league managerial debut with the Nashville Vols of the Southern Association, Dressen was called to Cincinnati to manage the last-place Reds on July 18, 1934. The Reds would rise as high as fifth place under him, in 1936, but when they fell back into the National League basement the following season, Dressen was fired.

Despite his poor won-loss record in Cincinnati, Dressen made a valuable ally in the Reds’ mercurial general manager, Larry MacPhail. A year after MacPhail took over the Dodgers in 1938, he named fiery shortstop Leo Durocher player-manager and Dressen as his third base coach. Under MacPhail and Durocher, the Dodgers became a hard-playing pennant contender, winning Brooklyn's third NL pennant of the modern era in 1941. But when MacPhail resigned in October 1942 to rejoin the armed forces and was succeeded by Branch Rickey, Dressen was fired from Durocher’s staff – reportedly because he refused to eschew betting on horses. He was on the sidelines for the first three months of the 1943 season before being rehired by the Dodgers that July.

When the Second World War ended, MacPhail returned to baseball as part owner, president and general manager of the New York Yankees. Following the 1946 season, he raided the Dodger coaching staff, signing Dressen and Red Corriden as aides under his new manager, Bucky Harris, and causing hard feelings between the Yankee and Dodger front offices.

MacPhail quit after the Yankees' 1947 world championship (gained at Brooklyn’s expense) and Harris was sacked after the following season. Dressen was not retained by the new Yankee manager, Casey Stengel, but instead replaced Stengel as the manager of the Oakland Oaks of the AAA Pacific Coast League. He skippered the Oaks in 1949-50 and his teams finished second and first, winning 104 and 118 games. Simultaneously, a power struggle for control of the Dodgers ended in Walter O'Malley forcing Rickey out of the Brooklyn front office. When O'Malley fired Rickey associate Burt Shotton in the autumn of 1950, he gave the manager's job to Dressen.

Leader of Brooklyn's 'Boys of Summer'

The Dodgers, unlike the Reds of a decade and a half before, were a perennial contender in the National League, with a lineup that included four future members of the Baseball Hall of FameRoy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider. They had won pennants in 1947 and 1949 and finished second by only two games in 1946 and 1950.

Brooklyn charged into first place early in the 1951 season, while the New York Giants — led since July 16, 1948 by Durocher himself — struggled (despite the callup of a 20-year-old rookie phenom named Willie Mays). When the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Giants at Ebbets Field, August 10, the Brooklyn lead over the Giants stood at 12½ games. "The Giants is dead," Dressen sang loudly (to the tune of "Roll Out the Barrel") through a door adjoining the teams’ clubhouses. The next day, after another Dodger win and Giant defeat, the Brooklyn lead swelled to 13½ games. As for the ungrammatical remark, Dressen was defended by at least one college professor who pointed out that, since Dressen was not saying that the Giant players were literally deceased, he had more latitude with grammar in a figure of speech. (All the same, when O'Malley later fired the manager, New York newspapers commented "DRESSEN ARE DEAD.")

Then, however, the Giants began to win. With Sal Maglie, Larry Jansen and Jim Hearn anchoring their starting rotation — and (according to some accounts) with a "spy" stealing opponents' signs from their center-field clubhouse at their home field, the Polo Grounds — the Giants won sixteen in a row in August and 37 of their last 44 games to force a flat-footed tie at season’s end and a best-of-three playoff. In the ninth inning of the decisive third game at the Polo Grounds, Dodger starting pitcher Don Newcombe had a 4-2 lead and two men on base when Dressen decided to go to the bullpen, where Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca were warming up. "Erskine is bouncing his curve," the manager was told by his bullpen coach, Clyde Sukeforth. Dressen summoned Branca, whose second pitch to Bobby Thomson was hit into the lower left-field stands for a three-run homer, a 5-4 Giants' win, and a National League pennant — Baseball's "Shot Heard ‘Round the World".

Dressen kept his job in 1952 (while Sukeforth was fired) and for the next two seasons, his Dodgers dominated the NL, winning the pennant by margins of 4½ and 13 games. But each season, they came up short against the Yankees in the World Series, losing in seven games in 1952 and six in 1953. Fresh from winning the 1953 pennant with 105 victories, Dressen decided to publicly demand a three-year contract from O’Malley instead of the customary one-year deal the Dodgers then offered their managers. But O'Malley didn't yield. He replaced Dressen with AAA Montreal Royals manager Walter Alston — a veteran minor leaguer who was unknown to most baseball fans. Alston would go on to sign 23 one-year contracts with O'Malley, while winning seven NL pennants, four World Series, and a berth in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Struggles in Washington and Milwaukee

Dressen returned to Oakland to manage the PCL Oaks in 1954 while he sorted out his major league future, and was hired to manage the hapless Washington Senators for the 1955 season, remaining with the club until being fired on May 7, 1957, having won only 116 of 328 games – a winning percentage of .354.

Dressen then rejoined the newly relocated Los Angeles Dodgers to serve as a coach under Alston in 1958-59. After the '59 Dodgers won the World Series, Dressen was in demand as a manager once again, and the Milwaukee Braves, who had lost a pennant playoff to LA at the end of the 1959 season, named him their field boss for 1960. But Dressen was not able to reverse the Braves' slow decline to the middle of the NL pack and he was dumped in late 1961, succeeded by Birdie Tebbetts. In 1962, Dressen managed the Toronto Maple Leafs of the AAA International League to 91 victories.

Reviving the Tigers

In 1963, Dressen was out of uniform, scouting for the Dodgers, when his final managing opportunity presented itself. After the Detroit Tigers won only 24 of their first 60 games under Bob Scheffing, the call went out for Dressen on June 19. He rallied the Tigers to a 55-47 record for the remainder of 1963, a first division finish in 1964, and slowly was assembling much of the talent that would win Detroit the 1968 world championship.

By now, however, Dressen's health began to fail. A heart attack sidelined him during spring training and the first 42 games of 1965; then he suffered a second coronary only 26 games into the 1966 campaign. He apparently was recovering from the heart attack when he was fatally stricken with a kidney infection, dying at age 67 in a Detroit hospital August 10, 1966 — fifteen years to the day he had infamously (and prematurely) celebrated the death of the New York Giants. He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Known for his sunny self-confidence, Dressen would often tell his highly talented Dodgers, "Just hold them, boys, until I think of something." His career major league managerial record was 1,037-993 (.511).

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