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Central Clarksville Russellville
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Backroads and Ballplayers: Paul “Daffy” Dean Weds Miss Russellville

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Wedding bells have rung many times for interesting couples in the past year, but perhaps none so loud as the ones Thursday evening when one of Russellville’s prettiest girls became the bride of one of the sports world’s most talked about favorites. Courier Democrat 12-27-1934

First of three stories about Arkansas’ legendary Dean Baseball Family

1934 was a banner year for colorful brothers, Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean and his less boastful brother Paul Dee “Daffy” Dean. Born at Lucas in Logan County, the Deans were a reporter’s dream with flamboyant personalities to match their baseball accomplishments. In the “Cardinal Country” of 1930s Arkansas, the brothers were revered celebrities.

Dizzy liked the limelight. Paul was forced into it. Dizzy not only embraced his colorful nickname, but he also used it as his chosen first name. His more modest brother preferred to be called Paul rather than Daffy. Dizzy bragged and included Paul in the boasts. The more reserved Paul preferred to let his performance speak for itself, but he was often compelled by Dizzy’s notoriety to go along with the headlines Dizzy created.

Regardless of his inclination toward celebrity, or his aversion to it, Paul Dean, was an Arkansas hero in 1934. He had a dream year for the chosen team of most Arkansans and his list of accomplishments was well known by local fans. Perhaps his most significant victory of that memorable year, however, was not in a St. Louis uniform, but came when he won the hand of a striking Russellville beauty queen in late December.

Paul Dee Dean was born in 1913 and spent some time around 1920 living near Chickalah in Yell County, where his father Ab sharecropped for the Coffey family. The Deans later moved to Oklahoma where Paul and Dizzy were stars in local semi-pro games. The brothers both signed with the Cardinals, and by 1934 Paul had become a 22 game-winner in the minors and was ready to join Diz who was already a star with the Gas House Gang.

Before the season, Dizzy boasted that “me and Paul will probably win 40 games.” They won 49. Paul had a rookie year beyond expectation. Even with Dizzy setting what seemed like unreachable goals, Paul responded with 19 wins, a no-hitter in September, and two wins in the World Series. 1934 was indeed the “Year of the Deans.”

Meanwhile in Russellville, Arkansas, Dorothy Sandusky was a college student who had recently been crowned Miss Russellville. Dorothy had grown up in southeast Arkansas but moved to the River Valley when she graduated from high school. Her father was a prominent local businessman, and Paul Dean had worked in the Sandusky lumber business during the baseball offseason. Paul had apparently had his eye on her for some time. “Aw, I been seeing her around since she was a skinny little kid going barefoot,” Paul confided to the press.

Regardless of their history, Paul Dean surprised both his fans and Dorothy when he proposed in mid-December and suggested they set the date for the next day, Dec. 20, 1934. A wedding that would certainly have gotten national coverage from both society writers and the sports page would come as a surprise to both.

Paul awoke on his wedding day and realized he had neglected a few details. A bridegroom needs a nice suit, a professional shave, a ring, and, of course, a marriage license. Paul headed off to Fort Smith to attend to these few minor details, and a calm and collected Dorothy was left to handle a curious press that had gotten wind of the plans. While Paul, with his new suit and other essentials, was dashing into the Franklin County courthouse just before closing time for the license, Dorothy reassured those waiting for the groom to appear for a 5 p.m. ceremony. “He’ll be here,” she said. “Paul told me to get ready,” she said laughing. “He said he would be back soon, we would get married, and start right off on our honeymoon.” Although Paul Dean had faced baseball’s best hitters in front of thousands of people, a college girl from Russellville, Arkansas was the calm one on their wedding day.

After seeing to the last minute details, Paul arrived back at the Sandusky home on 4th Street about 8:30 p.m. and, as Dorothy had predicted, the wedding began immediately. The minister, eight guests, and a handful of reporters had waited patiently. After all, according to the local paper, this was the wedding of one of Russellville’s prettiest girls and the great Daffy Dean. When one of the reporters asked Paul what he thought Dizzy’s reaction to his marriage would be, he replied, “That‘ll be alright with Diz, it’s none of his business anyhow.”

The next day The Associated Press distributed the story, and Russellville, Arkansas, was in the national headlines. Daffy Dean weds Miss Russellville, was on the front page of most big-city papers. One enterprising reporter, in a back story theme that would become the norm by the turn of the next century; found Paul’s ex-girlfriend for a comment. An Ohio State co-ed named Betty Jane, previously linked romantically to Paul, was quoted as “wishing them luck.” Chicago Tribune, 12-24-1934

Paul “Daffy” Dean would have one more outstanding year with the Cardinals before his overused arm failed him. He won 19 games again in 1935 for a St. Louis team that finished four games behind the Cubs. Dizzy Dean had more good years after 1934, but an injured toe that altered his delivery led to arm problems for him also.

Despite premature ends to promising careers, the Deans are household names in Arkansas baseball lore. Dizzy was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953, and both brothers are members of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

While Dizzy spent his last years in Mississippi, Paul returned to Arkansas, managed several businesses and lived out his life with his large extended family in Western Arkansas. Paul Daffy Dean and his beloved Miss Dorothy are buried in Clarksville. They were teammates for almost 47 years.

Coming in August…Dizzy Dean’s Last Game.

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Jim Yeager is a baseball historian who resides with his wife, Susan, in Russellville. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Robinson-Kell Arkansas Chapter of SABR, Yeager is a frequent presenter on the history of rural baseball in Arkansas. His book titled Backroads and Ballplayers features stories of more than 50 rural Arkansans who played professional baseball in the first half of the 20th century. More information on Backroads and Ballplayers – www.backroadsballplayers.com

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2 responses to “Backroads and Ballplayers: Paul “Daffy” Dean Weds Miss Russellville”

  1. Anita F Geiger says:

    This is an amazing story! What a fabulous beginning to a beautiful family!

  2. Anita F Geiger says:

    What a great story!

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