November 5 – Happy Birthday Sonny Dixon
John Craig “Sonny” Dixon was already a good enough pitcher at the age of sixteen to be signed to a contract by the Washington Senators just before the 1941 season started. At that young of an age you would expect him to struggle during his first couple of seasons of pro ball and he did. But instead of being allowed to mature on a minor league mound, this big right-hander from Charlotte, North Carolina was called into the Navy and spent the next three years of his life battling the Japanese in the Pacific. He was still only 21 years of age when he returned from Service and put together an impressive 19-11 season for the Senators’ Class B affiliate in his hometown of Charlotte, in 1946.
You’d think that performance would have been good enough to put Dixon on a fast track to the parent club, especially since Washington was a pretty bad ball club back then. The post WWII Senators never found themselves in a Pennant race so one would have expected them to give their top minor league pitching prospects plenty of chances to pitch at the big league level. Dixon, however, would end up spending another six full seasons in Washington’s farm system, finally making his big league debut in 1953. He posted a 5-8 first year record in 20 appearances that included 6 starts. He went 6-9 in his sophomore season during which he was traded to the Philadelphia Athletics.
In 1956, Yankee GM George Weiss was on the prowl for relief pitchers who could shore up Casey Stengel’s bullpen for the second half stretch drive. In May of that season, he sent 37-year-old Johnny Sain and 39-year-old Enos Slaughter to the A’s in exchange for Dixon. The Yanks then kept their new pitcher down in Richmond until the very end of the season, when he was called up so that Stengel could rest his best arms for the postseason. Dixon made three appearances in ten days, losing his only Yankee decision during his final performance in pinstripes. His final pitch as a Yankee turned out to also be his final pitch as a big leaguer.
Dixon spent the next five seasons pitching back in the minors before returning to Charlotte where he worked as a convenience store manager. He passed away at the age of 87 in 2011. Folks might wonder how a guy who lived the life of a Major League ballplayer could feel happy and satisfied working the rest of his life in a convenience store in his home town. Sonny Dixon signed a professional baseball contract as a 16-year-old and fought in WWII while still a teenager. Perhaps Old Sonny felt he had enough excitement just in those five years to last him a lifetime.
Dixon shares his birthday with this former outfielder who helped end one memorable Yankee postseason and win another.
|WSH (2 yrs)||6||10||.375||3.61||59||6||26||3||0||4||149.2||149||72||60||16||43||47||1.283|
|KCA (2 yrs)||5||7||.417||5.04||40||6||24||1||0||4||109.0||142||66||61||9||27||42||1.550|
|NYY (1 yr)||0||1||.000||2.08||3||0||2||0||0||1||4.1||5||3||1||0||5||1||2.308|