Baseball’s Forgotten Stars: Let’s Remember “Handy Andy” Pafko!

Baseball’s Forgotten Stars: Let’s Remember “Handy Andy” Pafko!

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 Another Edition of Baseball’s Forgotten Stars!

Let’s Remember “Handy Andy” Pafko!

“If I could choose any player to help the Reds, I’d choose Andy Pafko. He’s about the best centerfielder in the league.” –Cincinnati Reds President Warren Giles

Sixty-six years ago yesterday, April 17, 1951, the Cubs traded fan favorite Andy Pafko to the Brooklyn Dodgers as part of an eight-player deal. It was a trade the Cubs surely came to regret.

Over his 17-year major league career (1943-1959), Andy Pafko played for the Cubs (1943-1951), Dodgers (1951-1952), and Braves (1953-1959). The five-time All-Star hit .285, with 213 home runs, 976 RBIs, and a .350 on-base percentage in 1852 games. A Milwaukee native, Pafko was a member of four pennant winners (1945, ’52, ’57, ’58), and one World Series championship. Starting his career as a third baseman who later switched to the outfield, he is one of only a few players to achieve All-Star status in both the infield and outfield.

Baseball history buffs will remember that, following his trade to the Dodgers on June 15, 1951, Pafko was the left fielder who watched helplessly as Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” sailed over his head into the left field bleachers at the Polo Grounds. The play-off homer eliminated the Dodgers eliminated the Dodgers from the 1951 pennant race and made the Giants and propelled the Giants into the World Series. 

Pafko was later traded to the Boston Braves before the start of the 1953 season, becoming the only Wisconsin native on the Braves’ roster when they arrived in Milwaukee. He was s strong contributor to their contending teams which included pennants in 1957 and ’58, and the 1957 World Series championship. After his playing days were over, Andy managed in the minor leagues and later became a scout for the Montreal Royals, and was active in the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association.

Known for his timely hitting and excellent defense, Andy Pafko is also remembered for a 1949 incident at Wrigley Field. According to his Wikipedia page:

“Andy claimed he caught a blooper in the outfield off the bat of Cardinal’s first baseman, Rocky Nelson. The outfield was strewn with paper cups, perhaps confusing umpire Al Barlick who called Nelson safe on a “trapped” catch. At the time of the play there was a runner on first base with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and the Cubs leading 3-2, so if Pafko had indeed made a valid catch, the Cubs would be 3-2 victors. Pafko started arguing with Barlick, and forgot to call time. By the time the enraged Pafko realized that time had not been called, the base runner on first had scored and Nelson was heading home. Pafko finally threw home, but his throw bounced off Nelson as Rocky slid home, giving the Cards the lead 4-3. The Cardinals subsequently went on to win 4-3 and Nelson was credited with perhaps the only “inside the glove” home run in baseball history.”

 

Pafko was named to the Cubs All-Century team in 1999. Until his death, he and Lennie Merullo (who died May 30, 2015) were the last two men living who played for the Cubs in a World Series. Pafko died at a nursing home in Stevensville, Michigan on October 8, 2013, aged 92.

-Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Andy Pafko Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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