1950 National League vs American League: Walt Dropo and Sam Jethroe
The 1950 season presented two players who were nothing alike. Walt “Moose” Dropo almost captured the MVP his rookie year for Boston and Sam “The Jet” Jethroe won Rookie of the Year and led the league in stolen bases at age 33.
Follow along in the series and get caught up by reading: 1949 Rookie Battle
Let’s do this.
American League: 1B Walt Dropo, Boston Red Sox
Walt, a spectactular multi-sport athlete, arrived in the majors in 1950 with a bang. He finished second in the league with 34 home runs, led the league in RBIs (144), total bases (326), and finished second in slugging and extra bases behind the great Joe DiMaggio; which led to an All-Star appearance, Rookie of the Year honors and a sixth-place finish in MVP voting. He beat out Whitey Ford for ROY and became the first Red Sox player to ever win the award.
Dropo was an outstanding athlete in college. He played baseball, football and basketball for the University of Connecticut. He left UConn as the leading basketball all-time scorer and was drafted in 1947 by the Providence Steamrollers with the fourth overall pick. As a football standout, he was also drafted by the Chicago Bears in the ninth round. He decided to sign his 6′-6″, 220-pound frame to the Red Sox as an amateur athlete in 1947 to pursue a professional career in baseball.
Walt played for 13 seasons and battled injuries, including a broken wrist early in his career. He never truly regained his form and finished his career with a .270/.326/.432 line that totaled 152 home runs, 704 RBIs, 168 doubles, and 1,113 hits. His 162-game average included 140 hits, 21 doubles, 19 home runs and 89 RBIs.
After his stellar rookie year, he panned out and never received another award except for finishing 26th in 1952 for MVP. He never had another All-Star appearance again.
National League: CF Sam Jethroe, Boston Braves
“The Jet” was a 33-year-old MLB rookie who won multiple batting titles in previous years with the Buckeyes in the Negro League. Back in the day, he was believed to be only 28 at the time, but recent sources have him being born in 1917 or 1918, which would have made him either 32 or 33 during his rookie season. Regardless of age, he hit .273/.338/.442 with 35 stolen bases, 18 home runs, eight triples and 28 doubles during his rookie year. He finished 27th in the MVP voting and took home rookie honors.
Jethroe only played in three years (technically four, but only got one at-bat in 1954 with the Pirates) and after his age-35 season, he dwindled significantly, batting only .232 on the season and seeing every stat decline. He had a career line of .261/.337/.418 and recorded 98 stolen bases, 49 home runs, 25 triples and 181 RBIs.
Rookie of the Year goes to … Dropo. He had a stellar rookie year that led him to a sixth-place finish in the MVP voting.
Rookie career goes to … Dropo. He had a more impactful career and better numbers in the majors. If Jethroe would have played his entire career in the majors, I believe it would have been a different outcome.
Score: NL 8, AL 8