HARDBALL TIMES POST – The Major League Life of Cliff Dapper

My latest article for the Hardball Times chronicles the life of Cliff Dapper, the former Dodger catcher who was traded for Ernie Harwell.

I had written about him before, but thanks to a reader’s e mail, I see his life beyond baseball is worth a tribute.


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Sully Baseball Salutes Cliff Dapper

In my post for Ernie Harwell that I wrote earlier this week, I brought up the fact that Harwell’s broadcasting contract was traded to the Dodgers for backup catcher Cliff Dapper.

I made a little joke about how Dapper never made it back to the show.
But there are no idle thoughts on the internet and I wanted to see Dapper’s stats in the big leagues.

So naturally I looked up his page on Baseball Reference, the greatest website in the world.

The guy played in 8 big league games for the Dodgers in 1942. He got 8 hits including a homer and a double. He drove in 9 runs in those 8 games and batted .471 with an OPS of 1.232.

He was supposed to fill in for Mickey Owen and was ultimately sent down to the minors.

He was 22 years old in 1942 and most fit 22 year old men didn’t stick around Brooklyn then. He served three years in the Pacific Theater and made back alive.

He never played in the bigs again. He made it all the way to Montreal, the Dodgers top farm club, when his contract was traded to the Atlanta Crackers minor league team in exchange for their announcer Ernie Harwell.

What an 8 games those were. It’s hard to believe that with so many top players enlisting into the service that year that Dodgers manager Leo Durocher couldn’t find a little bit of playing time for a kid who came out of the gate swinging.

Alas, he didn’t.
But any man who made the best of his big league cup of coffee and went on to defend our country and then be traded for a Hall of Famer is worth at least a salute on line.

Somewhere Cliff Dapper is still alive. If any of you know him, drop me an e mail at info@sullybaseball.com

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Rest in Peace, Ernie Harwell

There are fewer and fewer great baseball announcers from the great golden age of radio and early television left… and yesterday we lost one of the greatest, Ernie Harwell.

When MLB.com started a subscription program where you can listen to any ballgame’s radio broadcast live in the early 2000s, I got it and would listen in to the other announcers. Around that time, when I saw the Tigers were playing an interesting game, I would listen to Ernie’s broadcast.

He was a pro. He didn’t try to create a persona or catch phrases. He called the game with dignity, humor and with a rhythm all his own. I was happy that I could hear him live calling the details of the game instead of simply the highlights.

And remember, this was to my knowledge the only announcer who was traded for a player. Branch Rickey (who knew a thing or two about long term thinking) dealt catcher Cliff Dapper to the Atlanta minor league team in exchange for Harwell’s contract.

Dapper never played again in the bigs.

And lest we forget Bo Schembechler let Ernie go inexplicably in the early 1990s during Schembechler’s disastrous turn at running the Tigers.

It’s one thing to put a crappy product on the field, but Bo made it SOUND worse without Harwell in the booth!

When Mike Ilitch took over the team, the first thing he did was bring Harwell back. (Oh yeah, Mike Ilitch also made sure the Red Wings remained champs and the Tigers made it back to the World Series.)

So rest in peace whereever you are Ernie.
And for the rest of us on Earth, let’s remember Ernie for what he was… one of the best voices in the game.

Click HERE to hear him call the 1984 AL East title for the Tigers.

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