Today we celebrate the birthday of former big league outfielder Dick Wakefield.
Wakefield was born on this date, May 6th, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1941 Wakefield played college baseball at Michigan, and after hitting .372 with 9 homers, Wakefield signed with the Detroit Tigers.
As a Tigers fan I knew of Wakefield being a good outfielder for the Detroit club, but what I didn't know is that Dick Wakefield was the first ever baseball bonus baby.
Wakefield received offers to sign with the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Tigers, who signed the young slugger to a never before bonus...just to sign his name on a contract...of $52,000.
Wakefield made his big league debut on June 26th, 1941, just months after playing for the Wolverines.
After appearing in just 7 games with the Tigers in '41, Wakefield played in the Texas League in 1942.
In 1943 Wakefield was back with the Tigers, compiling an amazing rookie year.
The Tigers young hitter led the American League in games played, 155, plate appearances, 697, at bats, 633, doubles. 38, and in hits, with 200.
Wakefield was chosen to represent the Tigers in the '43 All-Star Game, collecting two hits, including the game winner.
Had there been a rookie of the year award in '43, Wakefield would have won easily.
In nine total big league seasons Wakefield batted .293, with 635 hits, 53 home runs, 315 RBI, scoring 334 runs in 638 games.
Wakefield served in World War II in 1943, part of '44, returned to the Tigers for the rest of the '44 season, then was back in the war for 1945.
Wakefield was back with the Tigers in 1946.
After seven years with Detroit, Wakefield was released in 1949, and finished his big league career with the Yankees in 1950(3 games) and New York Giants in 1952(3 games).
Happy Birthday Mr. Wakefield!