Walter "Moose" Dropo (born January 30, 1923 in Moosup, Connecticut; died December 17, 2010 in Peabody, Massachusetts) was a former Birmingham Barons star and 13-year Major League first baseman, known for his phenomenal 1950 rookie season with the Boston Red Sox.
Dropo's parents were Yugoslavian immigrants from what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina. His father farmed and worked in a textile mill in the village of Moosup, on the Moosup River in northeastern Connecticut (now part of the town of Plainville). Walter and his younger brothers, Milton and George, played sandlot baseball and continued to play sports at Plainfield High School and the University of Connecticut. His college career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served three years in Europe.
The 6'-5", 220 pound Dropo starred at Connecticut in football and basketball as well as baseball. He was drafted 74th by the Chicago Bears in the 1946 National Football League draft and 4th overall by the Providence Steamrollers in the 1947 Basketball Association of America draft. He decided, instead, to play baseball and signed with the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent.
Dropo debuted professionally for the Single-A Scranton Red Sox of the Eastern League. He appeared in 87 games and got 100 hits in 337 at bats for a .297 average with 12 home runs. In 1948 he joined Fred Walters' Barons in the AA Southern Association, then in the first year of a five-year contract with the Red Sox. In 118 games with the Barons, he hit .359 with 163 hits in 454 at bats and 17 home runs. He was called up to the AAA Louisville Colonels of the American Association for the final 28 games of the season, but only hit .202 there, with 22 hits in 109 at bats and three homers. He returned to the Barons for the 1948 Dixie Series championship, and his two home runs in the final game on October 7 sealed the Barons' victory over the Fort Worth Panthers. One of those, a 467-foot shot, is marked with a large "x" on the original outfield wall at Rickwood Field.
Dropo made his Major League debut with the Red Sox on April 19, 1949, and played in 11 games that season, going 6 for 41 (.197) before being sent down. He played the rest of the 1949 season with the AAA Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League and returned to form with 138 of 481 (.287) hitting and 17 home runs. He started the 1950 season with Louisville, hitting .255 in 11 games before being called up again to take the injured Billy Goodman's place at first base.
Dropo's 1950 season with the Red Sox was sensational. He tied with teammate Vern Stephens for the league's highers RBI total at 144, and claimed the crown for total bases with 326 while batting .322 with 34 home runs (2nd to Al Rosen's 37 in the home run race). He trailed only Joe DiMaggio in slugging percentage and extra bases and came in 6th for that year's American League MVP award. He did win Rookie of the Year (the first Red Sox player to do so) and played on the league's All-Star team. On a club that combined for a team batting average of .302, pitchers were forced to give everyone pitches, especially the rookie. The short left-field wall helped the right-handed Dropo put together a stunning debut season in Boston.
Dropo broke his right wrist in 1951 and never regained the form he displayed in his rookie season. He rehabbed with the San Diego Padres, then in the AAA Pacific Coast League. In his 99 games with the Sox, he batted .239 with 86 hits and 11 home runs. Though he showed signs of regaining some of his power, and tied a record with hits in 12 consecutive at bats, Boston included him in their June 3, 1952 multi-player trade with the Detroit Tigers. Dropo finished the 1952 season with a total of 29 home runs and a .276 average.
In 1953 Dropo's numbers faded again. The season started with an exhibition game in Hartford, Connecticut, for which the city declared "Walt Dropo Day". Perhaps distracted by the fanfare, he went 0 for 6 at the plate and committed three errors at first during the game.
Dropo batted only .248 in the 1953 season, but drove in 96 runners. In 1954 his average increased to .281, but his RBI total dropped to 44. He was traded in the off season to the Chicago White Sox. In his first season in Chicago, he drove in 79 runs while batting .280, but saw his power dwindle again over the next two seasons. 28 games into the White Sox' 1954 campaign, in which he was hitting only .192, Dropo was placed on waivers. The Cincinnati Redlegs picked him up on June 24, 1958. The change of scenery again helped him find his power and he hit .290 with 31 RBI and 7 home runs over the last 63 outings. 1959 saw his batting suffer once again, as he hit only .103 in 26 games before he was traded on June 23 to the Baltimore Orioles.
In Baltimore, Dropo once again found new life, hitting .278 in 62 games with 21 RBI and 6 home runs in the second half. He maintained his value in 1960, hitting .268 and driving in 21 with 4 home runs over 79 appearances. He played only 14 games in 1961 before Baltimore decided to let him go. His final Major League appearance was on May 17, and he was released on May 24.
In his 13-year Major League career, Dropo batted .270 (1,113-for-4,124) with 152 home runs, 704 RBI, 478 runs, 168 doubles, 22 triples and five stolen bases in 1,288 games. He was part of the inaugural 2007 class of the "Huskies of Honor" at the University of Connecticut, and was named to the Birmingham Barons Hall of Fame the same year.
After retiring from baseball, Dropo went into business, becoming a regional manager at an investment firm before leaving in 1972 to join other family members with the Washington Fireworks Company in Washington, D. C. After retiring her moved to Boston's North Shore, where he died in 2010. He was survived by two daughters, Carla and Tina. His son, Jeff, who was an executive for TNT Fireworks in Florence, died of brain cancer in 2008.
- Montville, Leigh (July 19, 1993) "What Ever Happened To...: Walt Dropo." Sports Illustrated
- Amore, Dom (December 18, 2010) "Walt Dropo Dies; 1950 AL Rookie Of Year With Red Sox, 3-Sport UConn Star." The Hartford Courant
- Walt Dropo at baseball-reference.com