Handy Andy Pafko didn’t come by his nickname because it sounded catchy. No, Mr. Pafko was indeed a handy fellow to have on a ballclub. Andy was able to fill more spots on the field than most players–handling every outfield position with expertise while also holding his own at third base. He was a manager’s dream: versatile, hard-working and a terrific hitter.
Pafko got his start as a youngster with the war era Cubs. He made his debut in 1943 and played regularly in ’44 but didn’t enjoy his breakout year until the Cubs NL pennant winning season of 1945. That year Handy Andy drove in 110 runs (tied for third in the NL) and carried the Cubs to the World Series. In the ’45 Fall Classic, the Cubs locked horns with the Tigers of Detroit and Pafko scored five runs in the Series but the Tigers, led by the stout hitting of Hank Greenberg, punched the Cubs ticket back home to The Windy City; losers of yet another World Series.
The 1946 season was a wash for Pafko, due to injury, but he rebounded to make the NL All-Star Team in 1947. Patrolling center field for the Cubs, Andy and Harry “The Hat” Walker were the only two NL center fielders to hit .300 during the ’47 season. Skipper Charlie Grimm shifted Andy to third base in 1948 and he didn’t miss a beat, making the All-Star team at his new position. He had a terrific year manning the hot corner for the Cubs, swatting 26 homers and driving in 101 runs. Pafko paced National League third basemen in base hits, doubles and batting average.
Handy Andy had his best year for power in 1950. That year he made his fourth straight All-Star appearance and blasted 36 balls over the fence: tops among Major League center fielders. He was at the top of his game in ’50. He drove in 92 runs, scored 95 runs, had 69 walks compared to 32 strikeouts and was the runner-up in slugging average in the senior circuit. Pafko liked hitting for authority so much he did it again in 1951.
Despite twelve homers in 49 games, the lowly Cubs packaged Andy in a deal with the Brooklyn Dodgers in June of 1951. Joining Andy in The Windy City exodus were pitcher Bear Tracks Johnny Schmitz and utility infielder Wayne Terwilliger while the winds blew role players Bruce Edwards, Gene Hermanski, Joe Hatten and Eddie Miksis to the Cubs. All Andy did for the Dodgers was slug 18 homers for them, giving him a combined 30 for the season. The following season Handy Andy drove home 85 runs for the Dodgers, who captured the NL crown but lost the World Series to the Yankees in seven games.
Just before the 1953 season Andy was traded to his home state Milwaukee Braves. Pafko hit .297 playing in his native land his first year with the Braves. He slugged .427 in 1954 then began a lengthy run as a reserve given his advanced age; 34 was old in an era not obsessed with gym face time and backside injections. At the age of 36 he finally won his World Series ring, playing with the thunderous offense of Aaron, Mathews and Adcock. He was also a member of the losing squad in the 1958 World Series but nevertheless posted a .333 average in his last Fall Classic appearance. Pafko retired after the 1959 season.
G 1,852/R 844/H 1,796/2B 264/3B 62/HR 213/RBI 976/BB 561/SO 477/SB 38/BA .285/SA .449