The Gashouse Gang, as the southernmost and westernmost team in the major leagues at the time, became a de-facto "America's Team," and members, particularly Southerners such as the Dean brothers and Pepper Martin, became folk heroes in Depression-ravaged America, who saw in these players, dirty and hustling rather than handsome and graceful, a spirit of hard work and perseverance, as opposed to the haughty, highly-paid New York Giants, whom the Cardinals were chasing for the National League pennant.
Much like later sports legends Joe Namath and Reggie Jackson, Dizzy liked to brag about his prowess and make public predictions. Dizzy predicted, "Me an' Paul are gonna win 45 games." On September 21, Diz pitched no-hit ball for eight innings against the Brooklyn Dodgers, finishing with a three-hit shutout in the first game of a doubleheader, his 27th win of the season. Paul then threw a no-hitter in the nightcap, to win his 18th, to match the 45 that Diz had predicted. "Gee, Paul," Diz was heard to say in the locker room afterward, "if I'd a-known you was gonna throw a no-hitter, I'd a-thrown one too!" He also bet he could strike out Vince DiMaggio four times in one game. He struck him out his first three at bats, but when he hit a popup behind the plate at his fourth, Dean screamed at his catcher, "Drop it!, Drop it!" The catcher did and Dean fanned DiMaggio, winning the bet. Few in the press now doubted Diz's boast, as he was also fond of saying, "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Diz finished with 30 wins, the only NL pitcher to do so in the post-1920 live-ball era, and Paul finished with 19, for a total of 49. The Cards needed them all to edge the Giants for the pennant, setting up a matchup with the American League champion Detroit Tigers. After the season, Dizzy Dean was awarded with the National League's Most Valuable Player Award.
Some confusion arose about Dean's legal name, as some sources had it as "Jerome Herman Dean" and others as "Jay Hanna Dean". His biographical film did not help in this regard, as the actor playing Paul called him "Jay" and the actress playing his wife called him "Jerome". One time-honored story is that Dean gave conflicting information to three different reporters, in quick succession, as to his name and birthplace. A teammate questioned him about that, and he answered, "I wanted to give each of them fellas an exclusive story!"
Branch Rickey, the Cardinals executive who had developed their farm system and built the great 1930s Cardinals teams, found Dean's homespun candidness and observations refreshing. He once told a friend, with some bemusement, "Tell me why I spent four mortal hours today conversing with a person named Dizzy Dean."
By , Dean's arm was largely gone. Chicago Cubs scout Clarence "Pants" Rowland was tasked with the unenviable job of obeying owner P. K. Wrigley's direct order to buy a washed-up Dizzy Dean's contract at any cost. Rowland signed the ragged righty for $185,000, one of the most expensive loss-leader contracts in baseball history. Dean helped the Cubs win the 1938 National League pennant, and pitched gamely in Game 2 of the World Series before losing to the New York Yankees in what became known as "Ol' Diz's Last Stand." He limped along for the Cubs until , when he retired. Between the ages of 23 and 27, he was arguably the best pitcher in baseball; by 28, he was just another pitcher, and at 31 he was done.
Dizzy Dean made a one-game comeback on September 28, . After retiring as a player, the perennially cash-poor Browns hired the still-popular Dean as a broadcaster to drum up some badly needed publicity. After broadcasting several poor pitching performances in a row, he grew frustrated, saying on the air, "Doggone it, I can pitch better than nine out of the ten guys on this staff!" The wives of the Browns pitchers complained, and management, needing to sell tickets somehow, took him up on his offer and had him pitch the last game of the season. At age 37, Dean pitched four innings, allowing no runs, and rapped a single in his only at-bat. Rounding first base, he pulled his hamstring. Returning to the broadcast booth at the end of the game, he said, "I said I can pitch better than nine of the ten guys on the staff, and I can. But I'm done. Talking's my game now, and I'm just glad that muscle I pulled wasn't in my throat."
Later, doing a game on CBS, he said, over the open mike, "I don't know why they're calling this the Game of the Week. There's a much better game, Dodgers and Giants, over on NBC." Every so often, he would sign off by saying, "Don't fail to miss tomorrow's game!" These manglings of the language only endeared him to fans, precursing such beloved ballplayers-turned-broadcasters as Ralph Kiner, Herb Score and Jerry Coleman.
An English teacher once wrote to him, complaining that he shouldn't use the word "ain't" on the air, as it was a bad example to children. On the air, Dean said, "A lot of folks who ain't sayin' 'ain't,' ain't eatin'. So, Teach, you learn 'em English, and I'll learn 'em baseball."
Dean is often blamed for sportscasters' fond misuse of the word, "nonchalant". Once describing a player who had struck out, Dean reportedly said, "he nonchalantly walks back to the dugout in disgust."
The Pride of St. Louis, a motion picture based on Dean's career, was released in 1952. Dan Dailey portrayed Dean. Chet Huntley, who would later gain fame as an NBC News anchorman, played an uncredited role in the movie as Dean's radio announcing sidekick.
Dean was mentioned in the poem "Lineup for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:
The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and Their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Series--and America's Heart--During the Great Depression.(Book review)
Sep 22, 2008; John Heidenry. The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and Their Colorful,...