Zernial with Philadelphia.
June 27, 1923|
|Died: January 20, 2011
|April 19, 1949, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 25, 1959, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Runs batted in||776|
|Career highlights and awards|
Gus Edward Zernial (June 27, 1923 – January 20, 2011) was a professional baseball outfielder. A right-handed batter, he played eleven seasons in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox (1949–51), Philadelphia Athletics (1951–54), Kansas City Athletics (1955–57) and Detroit Tigers (1958–59), primarily as a left fielder. He was billed as the "New Joe DiMaggio."
Nicknamed "Ozark Ike" after the popular comic strip character, Zernial was one of the most feared sluggers in the 1950s, joining hall of famers Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby in the American League for most home runs in the decade.
Before being called up to the major leagues, Zernial played in the Pacific Coast League, the highly successful minor league circuit. In the HBO series When It Was a Game, Zernial states that he took a pay cut to come to the majors.
After he hit 29 homers for the White Sox in 1950, Zernial was sent to the Athletics in a trade that brought Minnie Miñoso to Chicago in 1951. That year Zernial led the league in home runs (33), runs batted in (129), extra base hits (68), and 17 assists in the outfield. In 1952 he hit 29 homers with 100 RBI, 42 and 108 in 1953.
Zernial was the first major leaguer to hit four home runs in the month of October during the regular season, which he accomplished during a doubleheader on October 1, 1950. Ron Kittle would become the second player to do this in 1985.
Zernial and Al Zarilla and teamed up in April 1951 to become the only players whose last names started with "Z" to play together in the same outfield. Zernial and Zarilla and played left and right field, respectively, as part of a White Sox outfield unit in four games before Zernial was traded to the Philadelphia A's at the end of April.
An aggressive fielder, Zernial twice (1949 and 1954) broke his collarbone while making diving catches. He finished his career in Detroit, primarily as a pinch hitter, hitting .323 with 10 home runs in his new role.
Zernial is featured in one of the most unusual baseball cards of all time. His 1952 Topps card shows Zernial holding a bat that has six baseballs attached to it. This photo recognized that he had tied an American League record by hitting six home runs in three consecutive games from May 13–16, 1951. The day after the picture was taken, he hit his seventh home run in a fourth consecutive games.
In a postscript to his acclaim noted above as the "new DiMaggio," Zernial figured, coincidentally, in Joe DiMaggio meeting his legendary future wife Marilyn Monroe. The "handsome" young Zernial was chosen to pose with rising star Monroe in a movie-studio publicity shot. DiMaggio was so struck by Marilyn in the photo, as well as so envious of Zernial's opportunity, that he asked the rival outfielder how to reach Marilyn.
When the Oakland Athletics played the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time in interleague play in June 2003 at Veterans Stadium, the Phillies invited former Philadelphia A's Eddie Joost and Zernial to the games and recognized them prior to the first game.
Zernial was diagnosed with cancer in 1990. He died at a Fresno hospice care center from the effects of congestive heart failure. "When my dad passed away he had his entire family around him," said his daughter, Lisa Pearlstein. "For the past year he'd been in and out of the hospital quite a bit. But he fought the whole way."
- List of top 300 Major League Baseball home run hitters
- List of Major League Baseball home run champions
- List of Major League Baseball RBI champions
- "Ex-Major Leaguer Zerinal Dies". The Fresno Bee. Fresno, CA. January 21, 2010.
- "'1952 Topps Baseball Cards, Page 6'". 1952toppsbaseballcards.com. 2001. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- Hunt, Ryan (August 31, 1999). "Statitudes: Homers from A to Z". =CNN/SI. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- "Elias Says...". ESPN.com. Retrieved 9 October 2012.
- Cramer, Richard Ben (2000). Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 320–321. ISBN 0-684-85391-4.
- Santoliquito, Joe (2003-06-03). "For some, A's still live in Philly; Philadelphia A's Historical Society fondly recalls past". MLB.com. Retrieved 2009-05-22.