In 1933, during his second full season in the big leagues, Dizzy Dean of the Cardinals was developing a reputation as a fearless pitcher who could work his way out of any situation.
Dean walked into a St. Louis drugstore while an armed robbery was in progress. One of the suspects stuck a pistol in Dean’s side and ordered the pitcher to keep quiet.
Dean and the customers survived the hold-up unscathed.
The incident added to the legend of a 23-year-old pitcher who was attracting as much attention for his demeanor as he was for his arm.
In the summer of 1933, The Sporting News wrote, “Dean has a lot of ego, both off and on the field. … It is the result of a supreme confidence in himself. … Breaks against him never daunt him, for, in his opinion, all things must come his way eventually.”
On the evening of July 21, Dean entered a St. Louis drugstore, noticed two men confronting the pharmacist and assumed he’d walked in on a practical joke, according to author John Heidenry in the book “The Gashouse Gang” (2007, Public Affairs).
In his book “Diz” (1992, Viking), author Robert Gregory described what Dean did next:
“What’cha doin?” he asked the two jittery stickup men.
“Shut up,” one replied.
“Well, I’m Dizz…” he said, his friendly introduction interrupted when they waved their pistols.
Historian Lee Allen, in Heidenry’s book, said “a pistol shoved into his ribs emphasized the serious nature of the occasion. When (Dean) was ordered to join other herded customers in a stockade, he promptly obeyed.”
Gregory wrote that one of the suspects then told Dean, “Not another peep outta you, mister.”
Dean and the others stayed in the back room of the drugstore until the robbers fled.
According to Gregory, Dean told the police, “Musta not been ball fans. They didn’t even ask me for my autograph.”
Dean’s presence in the incident was reported in newspapers the next day. That evening, according to Heidenry, Dean got a phone call from a man who said he was one of the robbers.
“I didn’t know you was in the store,” the man reportedly told Dean. “I want you to know that I don’t hold nothing against you personally and to prove it I’m going to send you a bunch of neckties.”
A few days later, a half-dozen neckties, wrapped as a gift, arrived for Dean.
Dick Farrington, a columnist for The Sporting News and St. Louis Times, wrote, “Dizzy Dean was held up the other night. Reports say this was the only time Diz has been known to keep his mouth shut and his pockets open.”
Unfazed, Dean delivered one of the most dominant performances of his Hall of Fame career when he struck out 17 Cubs on July 30, 1933. Boxscore
Wrote Grantland Rice: “This Cardinal star has everything a great pitcher needs _ more smoke than a burning oil well, a fine curveball, good control, a cool head and plenty of heart.”