By Tom Knight
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
He was called “The Dazzler.” During the 1920s, Arthur C. “Dazzy” Vance was the pitching sensation of the National League and the pride of Flatbush.
“Dazzy” had chronic arm problems in his early days but had great determination and would never give up. Early trials with the Yankees and Pirates did not pan out and “Dazzy” spent a total of 10 years in the minors.
In 1922, he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 31 and won his first major league game. Incredibly, before he was through, he won a total of 197 games! Vance won 18 games that first year and 18 the following season. His first seven years in the league, he led everyone in strikeouts. That’s a record that still stands.
Brooklyn never had a pennant winner while Vance was with the team. One wonders what his record would have been with a contender.
The Dodgers came close in 1924, losing the pennant to the Giants by a game-and-a-half. It was through no fault of “Dazzy.” He won 28 games and lost only six, while striking out 262 batters. He was voted Most Valuable Player that year. It was no small achievement since the Cardinals’ Rogers Hornsby hit .424 that same season!
Brooklyn’s all-time pitching hero won 15 games in a row that great year. He had a blazing fastball and a great curve. In 1925, he pitched a no-hit game against the Phillies.
Whenever it was announced that “The Dazzler” was going to pitch, the crowds came to Ebbets Field in droves to see him, in spite of the fact that the team was usually not in the pennant race. At his peak, from 1922 to 1932, “Dazzy” struck out a fantastic average of 172 batters each season for 11 years!
The big right-hander (he was six feet, one inch tall and weighed 200 pounds) won 22 games in 1925 and again in 1928. Three times in his career he fanned 15 hitters in a game. The Cubs were the victims each time. In those days, the Cubs had some good hitters, too!
Vance led the league in earned run average three times with 2.16 in 1924, 2.09 in 1925, and 2.61 in 1930. While on the mound, he wore a torn undershirt. The sleeves would flap in the breeze as he reared back and, with a high kick, poured that ball over the plate!
Hank De Berry was Vance’s favorite catcher. They were teammates at New Orleans before coming to Brooklyn.
“Gosh, he was easy to catch,” De Berry said. “In spite of his speed, he threw a ball as light as a feather. Furthermore, he had the best curve I ever saw.”
“Dazzy” was with the Cardinals in 1933 and finished his career with the Cards and Reds in 1934. But the native of Orient, Iowa, came back to the team and fans he loved in Brooklyn for the 1935 season. At age 42, he won three games, pitched 51 innings and struck out 28. Of the 197 games he won in his career, 190 were with Brooklyn. He lost 140.
“Dazzy” was voted in to the Hall of Fame in 1955. He died in Homosassa, Fla., on Feb. 16, 1961. He was 70.
Tom Knight's column appears every week in the Brooklyn Eagle.