Dusty Rhodes’ 15-year professional playing career featured eight years in the minors and seven seasons with the Giants. Though he never had as many as 250 at bats in a big league season, Rhodes had some moments that will never be forgotten.
He certainly left his mark on baseball history in 1954. That year he had posted career highs in homers, runs batted in, total bases, average, and both on-base and slugging percentages. The Giants won the pennant and earned a Fall Classic showdown with the 111-win American League champion Cleveland Indians.
Rhodes made the most of his time on baseball’s biggest stage. In Game 1 he hit a 10th-inning pinch-hit walk-off three-run homer off of future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon.
The next night Rhodes’ pinch-hit RBI single in the 5th inning off of 300-game winner Early Wynn tied the game at one apiece. He stayed in the game and came up big again with a 7th-inning solo homer off of Wynn to lead the Giants to a 3-1 win.
Rhodes again delivered in Game 3, this time with a pinch-hit two-run single. Though he didn’t appear in Game 4, the Giants swept the heavily-favored Indians to capture the World Championship.
He finished the Series with four hits in six at bats, two homers, and seven runs batted in. For his efforts, Rhodes received the Babe Ruth Award, the forerunner to the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
In this letter dated May 12, 1983, Rhodes writes about his performance in the Fall Classic. “The two (home runs), one short, one long was kind of lucky. The first in the tenth inning was wind blown. Bob Lemon threw his glove in the stands further than I hit the ball. We are still friends.”
Three years later Rhodes grounded out as the last batter in the history of one of baseball’s shrines – New York’s famed Polo Grounds. About that at bat Rhodes writes, “Seems like yesterday. The pitcher Bob Friend was never my favorite. The pitch before I grounded out I hit foul over the roof. It still is a game of inches.”
A quick glance of the game’s play-by-play shows that Rhodes drove in the only New York run in the 9-1 loss. Friend went the distance to gain the 73rd of his 195 career victories. Though Rhodes said that Friend was, “never my favorite”, he did hit the Pirates pitcher well. In 21 career at bats against Friend, Rhodes had seven hits including two home runs.
Rhodes signs his name at the bottom of the letter.