1935-1936
BABE DAHLGREN   1B

Babe Dahlgren was born in San Francisco on June 15, 1912. He graduated from Mission High School.

By age 12, Babe was playing ball all the time and by 14, he was on the San Francisco Boys’ Club all-star team. The team won the semipro Class-B title and Babe was named captain of the team. He also played semipro ball for teams such as Frank Dito’s Olympic Florists.

He also served in 1930 and into 1931 with the California National Guard 250th Coast Artillery, Headquarters Battery.

Babe signed with the Tucson Missions, in the Class-D Arizona-Texas League in 1931 and was was hitting .347, when he got the call to play in San Francisco. From 1932 through 1934, he played for the Mission Reds, playing in a lot of games, given the longer PCL schedule.

In September 1934, Boston Red Sox GM Eddie Collins purchased his contract, while he was having a banner year, finishing with 20 homers and a .302 batting average with 136 RBIs. He made the Red Sox and started the season on Opening Day in New York. He hit nine homers by the end of the year, to go with his 63 RBIs (third on the team) and .263 batting average.

He played most of the next two years in the minor leagues, because even though he was a fine first baseman, but Tom Yawkey had bought Jimmie Foxx’s contract and there was no way anyone was going to play first base in place of the future Hall of Famer. 

Babe played in 1936 with the Syracuse Chiefs and hit .318 with 16 homers. He was called back up to Boston in September, got into 16 games and hit .281. Foxx had driven in 143 runs, third in the league, and, impressively, when Babe was called up, agreed to move to left field so Babe could get some work at first base.

Early in 1937, Eddie Collins said that the Sox might not even bring Babe to spring training because they just didn’t think his hitting was adequate. The Yankees, on the other hand, were confronted with a holdout by Lou Gehrig and decided to buy Babe’s contract as insurance. But Gehrig signed and manager Joe McCarthy asked Dahlgren to learn to play third base and optioned him to Newark. 

He stayed with the Yankees for all of 1938, something of an understudy for Gehrig, also playing some games at third base, and a number of pinch hit appearances. 

Babe’s most notable game was on May 2, 1939. Lou Gehrig had informed McCarthy that he should leave him out of the lineup that day. The “Iron Horse” had ALS, appeared in 2,130 consecutive games, and his one, he took off.  Slotted in Gehrig’s place at first base was Babe Dahlgren, who went went 2-for-5.

Babe got into 144 games in 1939, batting just .235, but very productively driving in 89 runs, fifth on the club. Several newspapers referred to him as perhaps the best fielding first baseman in the game.

The Yankees won the pennant and swept the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series and Babe played in all four games, the only time he saw postseason play. 

In 1940, he played every single game for the Yankees, and hit .264. He was a holdout in early 1941, and in February, the Yankees sold him to the Boston Braves in a straight cash deal. Babe was leading the Braves in both home runs and runs batted in when his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs in June.

With the Cubs, he hit .281 with 16 homers. For the year, he had 23 homers, more than any other right-handed batter in the National League that year. 

He began the 1942 season with the Cubs, and was hitting only .214 after 17 appearances and the St. Louis Browns acquired him in May, but returned him to the Cubs six days later because of a disagreement over his possible entry into the armed services. That same day, the Cubs sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers, who were looking for protection at first base, for Dolph Camilli. Babe seemed like he’d become something of a hot potato, and in mid-August, only batting .169 he was sent to the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliate in Montreal and he refused to report.

Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that Babe had been sent to a minor-league club for less than the waiver price and Babe therefore stuck to his principles, and did not report. Branch Rickey then met with him to discuss his contract for 1943 and it was during that meeting that Rickey asked Babe if he smoked marijuana. Babe denied the claim and voiced his outrage over the question. Rickey said he had no intention of selling him, but did so within a month, trading him to the Phillies in March.

Babe was an All-Star in 1943. He had a very good year, hitting .287, but had to leave in September to report for induction. However, he failed the physical because of a sinus condition.

In December 1943, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and played in every game of the 1944 season, batting .289. Somehow he had played superbly, despite being beaten down by the recurrent rumors about marijuana use. Babe played in 1945 as well, hitting an even .250.

He moved on to his last team, a return to the Browns in April 1946. He stuck with the team all year, but only appeared in 28 scattered games, in large part due to a seriously injured shoulder. He hit .175 and in September was released and then decided to retire. His retirement didn’t last long, though, because he was asked to play first base for the Sacramento Solons in the Pacific Coast League. He played in 115 games and was hitting .298 when he was sidelined for the rest of the season by an emergency appendectomy in August. This time he retired for good.

Babe decided to become an owner in January 1947, when he purchased the Ontario club in the Sunset Baseball League.

In 1956 he became a scout for the Kansas City Athletics, switching to the Orioles in 1958. He became inspired by the idea of using film to teach hitting and for three years, filmed numerous batters talking about their work, producing a 2 1/2 hour film on the subject he titled "Half A Second". In 1964, as a coach for the Athletics, he was asked to film all of the team’s hitters and use it in a way to help them. In 1965, he was asked to film the Cardinals, but that, too, only lasted for a year.

For the last twenty-five years of his life, Babe continued working with young prospects and eager-eyed players. He had compiled hundreds of rolls of film dating back to the early ‘40s when he used his first 8mm movie camera to capture the likes of Joe DiMaggio and other stars from the past. Tragically these historical and priceless films were lost to a fire that destroyed his home in 1980.

Babe Dahlgren developed advanced dementia and ultimately died of natural causes on September 4, 1996, at age 84, in Arcadia, California.