The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - #29 Andy Pafko


This oddly-colored photo is Andy Pafko's 1949 Bowman baseball card.

Profile by BCB reader Jettero2112 (with additions by Al)

Andrew Pafko was born in Boyceville, Wisconsin on February 25, 1921, and signed his first professional baseball contract with the Northern League Eau Claire Bears in 1940; he ended up batting .209 in his first season. In 1941, Pafko played with Green Bay of the Wisconsin State League, hitting .349. The Cubs bought his contract at the end of the season. In 1941 he played for the Macon Peaches, hitting .300 with 85 RBI. In 1943 he played for the Los Angeles Angels, the Cubs' top farm club, and was named league MVP. Andy led the league in batting (.356), RBI (118), hits (215), and total bases (326). He was second in the league in HR (18).

Called up to the Cubs, he had a fine rookie season in 1944, batting .269 in 128 games. In 1945, the Cubs last pennant season, Pafko hit .298 while slugging .455, with 48 extra base hits and 110 RBI. Andy played in all seven games in the 1945 World Series (against the Detroit Tigers). He went 6 for 28, scoring 5 runs.

In 1949 an incident occurred in which (according to Andy) he caught a blooper hit to the outfield that was littered with beer cups. Umpire Al Barlick called St. Louis Cardinals hitter Rocky Nelson safe, saying Pafko trapped the ball. Andy began arguing with Barlick, but forgot to ask for time. Nelson circled the bases for the only "inside the glove" home run in baseball history.

In 1950, Andy struck out only 32 times, making him one of only a handful of players to ever have more home runs than strikeouts in a single season (36 HR, and he had 69 walks to boot).

Pafko played for the Cubs until the middle of the 1951 season. In 8 1/2 seasons with the Cubs, Andy batted .298, driving in 667 runs and hitting 156 homers, which still ranks 13th on the all-time Cub list (although he's likely to be passed by Aramis Ramirez, who has 120, early in 2007).

On June 15, 1951, just before the scheduled game against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, the Cubs traded Pafko, C Rube Walker, P Johnny Schmitz and IF Wayne Terwilliger to the Brooklyn Dodgers for OF Gene Hermanski, IF Eddie Miksis, C Bruce Edwards, and P Joe Hatten. All 8 players showed up in the uniforms of their new team for that day's game. Pafko hit his 13th HR, but the Dodgers lost that game 6-4. Andy was injured in the game, keeping him out for 3 weeks in July. Cubs fans were uite upset at the move as Andy was one of the Cubs most popular players; it was one of the worst trades in Cubs history, as none of the acquired players (save Miksis) did anything good in a Cubs uniform, while Pafko went on to play in three more World Series.

The deal gave the Dodgers one of their greatest outfield lineups with Pafko in left, Duke Snider in center and Carl Furillo in right. Pafko stayed with the Dodgers through their pennant winning 1952 season, batting .268 with 37 HR and 143 RBI in 1 1/2 seasons. On October 3, 1951, in the final playoff game against the Giants, Pafko was playing left field when Bobby Thompson hit 'The Shot Heard 'Round The World' off Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca. Thomson yanked a fastball down the left-field line. Pafko sprinted towards the fence, thinking the line drive might bounce off the wall. Instead, the ball made it into the stands for a game-ending three-run homer (they hadn't yet been termed "walk-offs"), giving the Giants the pennant.

In the 1952-1953 offseason, Pafko was traded to the Boston Braves in for infielder Roy Hartsfield, who never played for the Dodgers; 25 years later Hartsfield was the first manager of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays. Before the 1953 season started, the Braves moved to Milwaukee, and Andy hit .297 in 1953 and .286 in 1954. By 1955, he became a part-time player, and the Braves became one of the NL's best teams. He played in 2 more World Series, winning in 1957 and losing in 1958. Andy retired after the 1959 season, having played 17 years in the big leagues; his final stats included a .285/.350/.449 line, and 213 HR in 1852 games.

Pafko stayed in the Braves' organization after retirement, coaching with the major league club from 1960 to 1962. He also coached in the minors with the Binghamton Triplets of the New York-Penn League in 1964, the West Palm Beach Braves of the Florida State League in 1965 and 1968 and the Kinston Eagles of the Carolina League in 1966 and 1967, winning the league pennant the second year.

Andy moved back to the Chicago area and was hired as a part-time scout for the Montreal Expos. When the Cubs won the NL East in 1984, Pafko said "I never dreamed it would take them 39 years to win again. I thought they would have won by accident before then!"

He was a five time All-Star (1945, 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950) and was named to the Cubs All-Century team in 1999.

Andy is featured in several books including Carl Erskine's "Tales from the Dodgers Dugout: Extra Innings" which includes short stories from former Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine as well as being the title character in "Pafko at the Wall", a short story about the 1951 playoff game, and the novel "The Perfect Pafko".

He was in attendance at the just-concluded Cubs Convention, the oldest former player attending at nearly age 86. Coming out and waving to the crowd at the opening ceremony, he looked twenty years younger than his chronological age.

Andy Pafko's career stats at baseball-reference.com

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