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Walt Dropo, ’50 AL Rookie of the Year and Sox first baseman

Mr. Dropo batted .322 with 34 home runs and a league-best 144 RBIs his first season. A broken wrist slowed him the next year. Mr. Dropo batted .322 with 34 home runs and a league-best 144 RBIs his first season. A broken wrist slowed him the next year. (Associated Press/ File 1950)
Associated Press / December 19, 2010

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STORRS, Conn. — Walt Dropo, who played 13 seasons in the majors and won the 1950 American League Rookie of the Year award with the Boston Red Sox, has died. He was 87.

Mr. Dropo died Friday of natural causes, the University of Connecticut said yesterday in a statement. Mr. Dropo, who lived in Peabody, Mass., was a three-sport star at the university in the 1940s and one of the greatest athletes in school history.

In 1950, Mr. Dropo beat out New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford to win AL Rookie of the Year honors after batting .322 with 34 home runs and a league-best 144 RBIs in 136 games. He also made his only All-Star team that year.

“Walt Dropo was one of the greatest players the Red Sox had in the post-World War II era,’’ said Dick Bresciani, the team’s vice president of publications and archives. “He was an outstanding gentleman and did a lot of good things for our organization in the community when his playing days were over. The Red Sox send their condolences to his family.’’

A broken wrist slowed Mr. Dropo in 1951, and he was never able to match his outstanding rookie numbers. The first baseman batted .270 with 152 homers and 704 RBIs during his career. He was traded by Boston to the Detroit Tigers in 1952, and also played for the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, and Baltimore Orioles.

Shortly after being traded to Detroit in 1952, Mr. Dropo tied a major league record that still stands when he got hits in 12 consecutive trips to the plate. During that streak, he also tied another big league mark that’s still in place when he totaled 15 hits in a four-game span.

Born on Jan. 30, 1923, Mr. Dropo was raised in a small Connecticut village and was affectionately nicknamed “The Moose from Moosup.’’ He played football, basketball, and baseball at the University of Connecticut in a career that was interrupted by three years of military service during World War II.

He graduated in 1947 as the university’s career scoring leader in basketball, but turned down offers to play professional football and basketball to sign with the Red Sox.

“Walt Dropo was the forerunner of all the great student-athletes we have had here at UConn,’’ said Dee Rowe, the school’s special adviser for athletics. “Wherever he went, he had UConn on his jersey. People around the country knew of UConn because of Walt Dropo.’’

“He was a giant of a man and very proud of his family and heritage. When he walked into a room, he had this great presence. You knew he was there and he just captured everyone,’’ Rowe said.

Mr. Dropo leaves two daughters, Carla and Tina. His son, Jeff, died in 2008.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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