On November 8th, way back in 1950, Boston Red Sox rookie first baseman Walt “Moose” Dropo became the first Red Sox player to win AL Rookie of the Year. Dropo was a big guy, standing at 6’5 and listed at 220 lbs. He was a coveted football and basketball player coming out of the University of Connecticut. Baseball was always his main passion & first love — he proved that by turning down offers from the Chicago Bears and from Providence in the Basketball Association of America, after being drafted by both teams. During his studies at UCONN, Dropo served 3 years in Europe during WWII, which resulted in him entering the Majors as a 27-year-old rookie.
Not many people know of or remember him, because he played over 60 years ago, but Dropo was no slouch. In his 13-season career, Dropo batted .270 (1,113-for-4,124) with 152 home runs, 704 RBIs, 478 runs, 168 doubles, and 22 triples in 1,288 games. The reason I’m familiar with him is that I had a Red Sox tear-away daily calendar when I was a child, and he was the center of a couple of the facts.
In 1950, Dropo led the league in RBIs (144) and total bases (326), while batting .322 and hitting 34 dingers, second only to Cleveland Indians’ Hall of Famer, Al Rosen (37). Additionally, his slugging percentage of .583 and 70 XBH were second only to the .585 & 75 of future Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. Dropo’s .961 OPS finished third in the league and he finished sixth in the AL MVP race which was won by Phil Rizzuto, another Hall of Famer. Walt earned AL Rookie of the Year honors beating out, you guessed it, another future Hall of Famer and Yankee legend Whitey Ford. Dropo also earned the only All-Star appearance of his career in 1950. For someone who isn’t in the Hall himself, Walt could certainly hang with the big boys.
After sustaining a fractured wrist in 1951, The Moose of Moosup’s productivity declined. On June 3, 1952, Dropo was part of a nine-player trade that sent him, Johnny Pesky, and three other Red Sox players to Detroit for George Kell, Dizzy Trout, Johnny Lipon, and Hoot Evers. Dropo played for the Tigers until ‘54, then the White Sox from ‘55-58, the Cincinnati Redlegs from ‘58-’59, before finishing his career with Baltimore from 1959-1961.
Upon retirement, Walt became a regional manager for an investment firm and briefly spent time working for his family’s fireworks company in D.C. In the years before his death, while still living in the 617 area, Dropo remained active attending Red Sox alumni events and local sports card shows. Dropo was said to have enjoyed working as an “instructor” at Red Sox fantasy camps for many years. Ted Williams was a close friend of Dropo’s and it is believed that his last public appearance at Fenway was at Teddy Ballgame’s tribute on July 22, 2002. He passed away from natural causes on December 17, 2010. He was 87 years old.
Photo Credit:Associated PressAny guy that can fight in a war, make money off of hitting home runs, pedal fireworks and still find a way to enjoy Red Sox games as an old man, is a damn fine human being to me. So here’s to a war veteran, a savvy businessman, a historical baseball figure, and a great man. Cheers, Walt Dropo! Thank you for your service, thank you for your contribution to baseball and thank you for being a Red Sox legend! Happy Anniversary!