Dusty Rhodes had a 15-year professional playing career that featured eight years in the minors and seven seasons with the New York Giants. Though he never had as many as 250 at bats in a big league season, Rhodes 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 percentage. 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.
Giants skipper Leo Durocher said of Rhodes, “He thought he was the greatest hitter in the world, and for that one year, I never saw a better one. The best pinch hitter I ever saw, no contest. Every time we needed a pinch hit to win a ballgame, there was Dusty Rhodes to deliver it for us.”
How did Rhodes feel about the Hall of Fame manager Durocher? In the collection is this handwritten note from Rhodes revealing just that.
“I think Leo Durocher was by far the best manager in Base Ball at the time he managed. Today would be a different story.” Rhodes has signed his name below that.