I feel like there has been a spate of baseball deaths this year. Maybe it just feels that way because so many have been high-profile players, but it just seems like a lot. The latest, at least the latest relevant to Tigers fans, was the passing of Walt Dropo, "The Moose from Moosup".
What ever happened to great location-based nicknames like this? Just the other day I heard "The Heater from Van Meter" over and over, now there's the "Moose from Mooseup." More of this, please.
When I heard that Dropo had died, I immediately pictured his 1953 card (yeah, the one staring back at you), because 1. Every card from that set is fantastic and 2. I thought I actually had that one. It turns out I don't (I got his picture confused with Fred Hutchinson). Dropo, by all accounts, was a tremendous athlete. He was drafted to play professional baseball, basketball and football out of UConn, he won the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year (Take that, Whitey Ford!) and was a legend in Connecticut. His New York Times Obituary is really quite impressive.
As someone who wasn't alive anywhere close to Dropo's era, it would have been easy for me to pass over this news, or not even recognize that Dropo was a former Tiger. I mean, a lot of players have played for a lot of teams and it is certainly hard to keep track of what player played for what team in some year thirty years before you were born, right?
Well, take this as my semi-annual "thank you" to baseball cards. If I didn't collect cards, I wouldn't have known who Walt Dropo was. It's that simple. His name wouldn't have stuck out to me when I was reading the news this morning, and I wouldn't have said, "Walt Dropo? He was a former Tiger from the 50s." to myself while I was drinking my coffee. This is why I collect--because no amount of baseball reference data or digital media, or video footage or new stories or books will make an individual player stand out as easily as a single baseball card. I'm proud that I know who Walt Dropo is, and I'm pleased to know that his name and legacy will live on because he has been permanently captured on cardboard.