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CHUCK DIERING in 1954 – The First MOST VALUABLE ORIOLE

diering.jpg

When Baltimore got an American League franchise in 1954, Chuck Diering was named Most Valuable Oriole for a team than went 54-100 and finished in seventh place.

Diering batted .258 with two homers, drove in twenty-nine runs and scored thirty-five.  He didn’t lead the team in a single offensive category, so his value wasn’t easy to pinpoint more than half a century after the fact.  So I went through a lot of back issues of The Sporting News to see what I could find.

Diering grew up in St. Louis and went to the same high school that future O’s skipper Earl Weaver later attended.  When Diering was eighteen, he signed with his hometown Cardinals.  After a couple years in the minor leagues, he missed three seasons for military duty during World War II.  Diering returned to baseball in 1946, made his major league debut a year later, and spent parts of the next five seasons with the Cardinals before being dealt to the New York Giants prior to 1952.  There, Diering logged just twenty-three at bats, and he returned to the minors full-time a year later, with a .249 career average in the big leagues and the reputation of a 30-year-old, two-time flop.

Manager Frank Genovese prodded Diering to bear down on every pitch during the 1953 season at Minneapolis though, and Diering responded with his best numbers since turning pro:  .322 with 12 homers and 74 RBI.

He kept hitting that winter in the Cuban League, pacing the circuit in doubles while batting .312.  While he was there, Orioles General Manager Arthur Ehlers selected him in the minor league draft.  Perhaps, went the optimisitic viewpoint, Diering has finally learned how to hit. 

Diering was the only true centerfielder on Baltimore’s roster, and he was expected to battle Sam Mele for the job during spring training.  A tough position battle got even tougher when veteran Gil Coan was acquired in a trade shortly before exhibition season. 

Coan got most of the starts in center when the regular season opened, but he didn’t hit and Cal Abrams took over for a short spell.  Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium was a vast ballpark at that time, 446 feet to straight away centerfield, so eventually Diering’s superior glovework earned him a shot to play.  Abrams moved over to right after ten days.

Diering made the most of his chance, batting over .400 in June to take over the team lead in hitting.  Though The Sporting News said “Diering’s speed is more apparent when he is chasing flies than running the bases”, it made him an exciting player on offense as well as defense. 

In one particular game that drew raves against the Senators in DC, Diering skillfully executed a hook slide to score on a squeeze play, and later raced into right-center to make a one-handed grab to rob Jim Busby of a possible triple.

New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel said of Diering in July, “That fella sure can go get ’em”.  In case Stengel forgot, Diering ran down 400-foot drives by Yogi Berra and Irv Noren when the Bronx Bombers visited Baltimore in September, helping to preserve Joe Coleman’s one-hit, 1-0 win for the Orioles.  So it was dazzling, crowd pleasing defense that made Diering “most valuable” in 1954.

The Orioles had an astute new manager in Paul Richards the following year, and Richards remarked that Diering was “undoubtedly one of the best fielding centerfielders in baseball”.

To prove the point, Diering ran into the hedges bordering deepest centerfield on May 27, 1955 to rob Mickey Mantle of an extra-base hit.  The Orioles 1974 yearbook said “old Orioles fans are still talking about it”.

Diering stayed with the ballclub longer than any other members of the 1954 team.  His offensive production was about the same in 1955, but he demonstrated his versatility by playing 34 games at third base, and another 12 at shortstop.  Diering found playing time harder to come by in 1956 though, and his major league career came to an end when the Orioles purchased powerful Joe Frazier from the Redlegs in late-June and released Diering. 

Now 84-years-young, the original Most Valuable Oriole is still alive and well in St. Louis.

By MALCOLM ALLEN

onetoughdominican47@hotmail.com

NOTES:  Charles Edward Allen Diering was listed at 5’10”, 165 lbs. during his playing days.  For the Orioles, he wore uniform #32.  He played 315 of his 752 major league games for Baltimore and batted .249.

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8 Responses to “CHUCK DIERING in 1954 – The First MOST VALUABLE ORIOLE”

  1. Dig your articles! I am glad someone wrote about Chuck Diering. Whatever happened to the MVP of teams? When I was a kid it seemed team MVPs were common, now I can’t find them, or even figure out who voted for them – fans, media, teammates? I also like from that team: Cal Abrams (.400 OBP) and Bob Turley (181BB 185K, or the otherway around).

  2. First of all, thanks for reading.

    I don’t know what happened to team MVP’s. The Orioles still do it, as far as I know, voted on by the local press corps mostly.

    If other team’s have stopped, the cynical part of me imagines it because club MVP used to be a “we can’t give you a raise, but here’s some recognition” type thing. Now, it’s more like “don’t give the player any ammunition they can use to ask for a raise”

    Chuck Diering. We salute you.

  3. Chuck is still a great guy. He is a character and one of my neighbors. He is still a fun person.

  4. Chuck Diering is a fine person, I got to meet him about 7 years ago when i moved into his heighborhood. One of things that you dont see here is the love he has for old cars when he worked for Ford in Alton Ill. I have had the pleasure to be able to work on these restored mustangs and T-birds and now he has pasted them down to his sons. Thanks Chuck for the memeries and the fun.

  5. I met Chuck Diering about a month ago, (Sept, 2011). Chuck is as wonderful as ever. I’m sure not many people know that his beloved late wife adored Dollhouses. Chuck built his wife several Dollhouses over the years, each more beautiful than the last. His work is amazing! I run the only dollhouse store in the greater St. Louis area, and I have the pleasure of selling 4 of his hand built house for him. I have never seen such meticulous work! At 88 years old, he is still restoring cars, cuts his own grass on an acre lot, plays 18 holes of golf 2-4 times a week, and has more of a social life than I do! I love ya Chuck, never change!
    Barbara

  6. I had the pleasure of meeting Chuck Diering July 8,2012. What a great man to talk with. I could listen to his stories all day. It felt like I ran into an old friend I havn’t seen in years and wanted to spend the day with him. He offered to sign my baseball and the jersey I was wearing and much more. Even took some pictures with him too. Thank You Chuck…..Leesa

  7. CHARLES EDWARD ALLEN ” CHUCK ” DIERING DEAD AT 89

    ( 5 February 1923 – 23 November 2012 )

    He was a former Major League Baseball outfielder, playing all or part of nine seasons in the major leagues, between 1947 and 1956, with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants and Baltimore Orioles.

  8. I am sad to hear of his passing. I posted an interview I did with him in 2011. A great man as everyone who said.

    http://www.examiner.com/article/chuck-diering-former-new-york-giants-outfielder-passes-away-at-89


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