The Team That Forever Changed Baseball and America: The 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers

By Lyle Spatz; Maurice Bouchard et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8. Dixie Walker

Lyle Spatz

During Dixie Walker’s playing days, he won a batting championship and a runs-batted-in title, and he played in two World Series and four All-Star Games. Yet modern-day fans remember him mostly for the charge that he was the player most responsible for trying to keep Jackie Robinson from joining the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Dating from his Major League debut as a twentyyear-old in 1931, Walker’s abilities were so apparent as to make many in the media call him the eventual successor to Babe Ruth in the Yankees outfield. A series of recurring injuries throughout Walker’s eight-year American League career prevented that from ever happening. In May 1936 the Yanks sold him to the Chicago White Sox to clear a roster spot for the man who truly would be the Babe’s successor—Joe DiMaggio.

Overall, the left-handed-hitting Walker batted .306 and accumulated 2,064 hits during his eighteen-year big league career. Tall and lean, at six feet one and 180 pounds, he was a solid hitter, a fine defensive player with an excellent throwing arm, and, in his early days, among the fastest players in the game.

Of Scotch Irish descent, Fred Walker was born in a log cabin in Villa Rica, Georgia, on September 24, 1910. Villa Rica was a small railroad and factory town about thirty-five miles west of Atlanta. He was the first child born to Ewart and Flossie (Vaughn) Walker. Ewart, also known as Dixie, was in his second season as a right-handed pitcher for the Washington Senators when Fred was born. In four seasons with Washington, the original Dixie Walker won twenty-five games and lost thirty-one. After his Major League career ended, he returned to the Minor Leagues, where he had a long career as a manager. Ewart’s younger brother, Ernie, also reached the Major Leagues, as an outfielder for the St. Louis Browns from 1913 to 1915.

Dixie Walker, the team’s clubhouse leader, made the best
of his self-created awkward situation with Jackie Robinson.

Young Fred left school at the age of fifteen to take a job with the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company, a Birmingham steel mill, working at the open hearth. It was hot, backbreaking work, and Walker never forgot it.

As the son and nephew of Major Leaguers, Fred,

-36-

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