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Joe Dwyer

Sport: baseball

Born: March 27, 1907

Died: October 21, 1992

Town: Orange

Joseph Michael Dwyer was born March 27, 1907 in Orange. Quick and coordinated, he began making a name for himself as a teenager on the local sandlots. Joe got his big break when he was pressed into service for the town’s semipro team, the Orange Athletic Association Meadowbrooks, who were minus two outfielders and were scheduled to play the powerhouse Paterson Silk Sox on a Saturday afternoon. Starting in center and facing Milt Gaston—who had recently beaten Babe Ruth and the Yankees in an exhibition game—Joe went 4-for-4 to lead Orange to a 2–1 victory.

The Meadowbrooks signed Joe up for $20 a game. At the age of 15 and 16 he was facing big-league clubs in exhibitions, as well as barnstorming Negro League teams. By the age of 17, the boy teammates dubbed “Double Joe” was making $200 a week as the young star of the Orange club. He decided to take a shot at playing in the big leagues and signed with the Rochester Tribe of the International League. Their manager was George Stallings, the longtime Boston Braves manager. When Stallings informed Joe that he would be riding the bench that year—even after he slugged a pinch-hit homer—he quit and went back to New Jersey. He got a day job at the Edison factory and continued to tear it up as a semipro star.

Joe resumed his minor-league career when he was 19 and found the pitching was actually inferior to what he was used to back home. He had a great year for a Class-B club in the New England League in 1926 and expected to start his climb toward the majors. But an argument over money with the club in which Commissioner Landis eventually interceded—branded Joe as a malcontent and doomed him to a career in the bushes. Joe spent his prime years playing for the Lynn Papooses, and then for the Wilkes-Barre Barons of the NY–Penn League. He was a line drive machine, spraying balls to all fields, crushing pitches to the walls of the notoriously cavernous old-time ballparks, and batting over .300 year after year. But the call to the majors never came. Frustrating as that was, he was happy to have a paycheck during the darkest days of the Great Depression.

In 1936, Wilkes-Barre found itself in financial straits and had to sell off some players. Joe ended up playing for the Nashville Volunteers. He became the veteran star on a club that included up-and-comers Jimmy Outlaw, Johnny Vander Meer and a beefy 21-year-old pitcher named Whitey Wistert, an All-American tackle for JoeDwyerSigMichigan’s national championship team. Joe had a monster year, with 230 hits, 117 RBIs a .383 average (1 point shy of the Southern Association batting title) and an eye-popping 65 doubles—more than living up to his nickname, Double Joe.

In 1937, Joe finally achieved his dream when he made the Cincinnati Reds out of spring training. No longer a young gun, he was slated for a pinch-hitting and utility role. He began the year 3-for-11, with all three hits coming off the bench (and once against Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell). Joe suffered a broken arm in a collision at second base, but he refused to take time off to let it heal, which led to his release. The New York Giants signed him and sent him to their farm team in Jersey City, where he hit.263. Unable to the pull the ball consistently even after the injury healed, Joe finished his career in the minors, playing in the Yankees organization during World War II. He called it quits at 42 when the soldiers returned in 1946. Joe retired with more than 2,500 hits as a minor leaguer and, although his record is incomplete in places, finished with a career average well above .300. Hepassed away in Glen Ridge at the age of 89.

 

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