Dropo in about 1953.
January 30, 1923|
|Died: December 17, 2010
|April 19, 1949 for the Boston Red Sox|
Last MLB appearance
|May 17, 1961 for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs batted in||704|
Career highlights and awards
Walter Dropo (Serbian: Валтер Дропо, Valter Dropo; January 30, 1923 – December 17, 2010), nicknamed "Moose", was an American college basketball standout and a professional baseball first baseman. During a 13-year career in Major League Baseball, he played for the Boston Red Sox (1949–1952), Detroit Tigers (1952–1954), Chicago White Sox (1955–1958), Cincinnati Redlegs (1958–1959) and Baltimore Orioles (1959–1961).
Dropo's Serbian parents emigrated from Mostar, then Kingdom of Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina), to start a new life. His father, Savo, worked at the local textile mill while also running their Connecticut family farm. Walter was raised in Moosup, Connecticut, where he played sandlot baseball with his brothers Milton and George, and attended Plainfield High School in the Central Village district of Plainfield, Connecticut, before attending the University of Connecticut.
While at the University of Connecticut Dropo played for the football team, basketball team and baseball team. Dropo left UConn as the school's all time leading scorer in basketball. Dropo was drafted in the first round of the 1947 BAA Draft by the Providence Steamrollers with the fourth overall pick. Dropo was also drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 9th round of the 1946 NFL Draft.
Listed at 6'5", 220 lb (100 kg), Walter turned down offers from the Bears and the Providence Steamrollers, in order to sign with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1947. He debuted on April 19, 1949, and in 11 games batted .146 (6-for-41).
In 1950, Dropo led the league in RBIs (144) and total bases (326), while batting .322 and hitting 34 home runs, (second only to Al Rosen 37). In addition, his .583 slugging percentage and 70 extra bases were second only to the .585 - 75 of Joe DiMaggio, and his .961 OPS finished third in the league, after Larry Doby (.986) and DiMaggio (.979). Dropo finished sixth in American League Most Valuable Player award, and earned AL Rookie of the Year honors, ahead of Whitey Ford. His efforts that season led to his only All-Star appearance.
In 1951, Dropo fractured his right wrist and never had another season the equal of his 1950 campaign. After another one-plus season, he was traded to Detroit on June 3, 1952. After being traded, he collected 12 consecutive hits to tie the MLB record. Included in the streak was a 5-for-5 game against the Yankees (July 14) and a 4-for-4 performance in the first game of a doubleheader against Washington (July 15). In the second game, he went 4-for-5, hitting on his first three at bats and popping out on his fourth at bat on the 7th inning, matching an American League record of 16 hits in three games. In that season, he hit a combined 29 home runs and 97 RBIs, but would never again hit over 19 homers (1955) or bat over .281 (1954).
- Rookie of the Year (1950)
- All-Star (1950)
- Top 10 MVP (sixth, 1950)
- Led league in RBIs (144, 1950)
- Led league in total bases (326, 1950)
- Tied an MLB record with 12 consecutive at-bats with a hit (July 15, 1952)
- Tied an MLB record with 12 consecutive plate appearances with a hit (July 15, 1952)
- Tied an AL record with 15 hits in four games (July 16, 1952)
- Dropo was the first rookie to top 100 RBIs with more RBIs than games played (144 in 136 games, 1950)
- Red Sox rookie record for home runs in a season, with 34.
- The first Red Sox player to be named the American League Rookie of the Year, followed by Don Schwall (1961), Carlton Fisk (1972), Fred Lynn (1975), Nomar Garciaparra (1997), and Dustin Pedroia (2007).
Dropo died of natural causes on December 17, 2010, at the age of 87. His funeral service was held at the Serbian Orthodox Church he helped found at 41 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, Mass., and he was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Plainfield, CT
- Mayer, Larry (April 25, 2013). "These Bears draft picks gained fame in other areas". Chicago Bears. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
- Montville, Leigh (July 19, 1993). "What Ever Happened To...: Walt Dropo". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc. Retrieved September 10, 2009.
- Amore, Dom (December 18, 2010). "Walt Dropo Dies; 1950 AL Rookie Of Year With Red Sox, 3-Sport UConn Star". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved December 19, 2010.