Wertz, who split his career between first base and the pasture, is now best remembered as the masher who slugged the soaring flyball that Willie Mays made his famous, over-the-shoulder-catch on. But Wertz was more than a woeful historical footnote: he was a top-notch run-prodcuer in the years after World War II.
Wertz had a brief taste of minor league action before he was inducted into the military during WWII. Once Vic got out of service, he returned to baseball and put up some hearty numbers in Buffalo–the Tigers’ AAA affiliate. The Tigers called up Vic in 1947 but he didn’t enjoy his breakout season until 1949. That year, Wertz led Major League right fielders with 133 RBI. Named to his first All-Star team, Vic paced AL right fielders in hits, runs, walks, batting average and slugging average.
Just as good in 1950, Vic raised his homerun output to 27, attached four more points to his batting average and led AL right fielders in homeruns, RBI, runs, hits, doubles, walks and slugging average. By 1950, Vic had established himself as the junior circuits best right fielder. Named to the All-Star team in 1951, Vic duplicated his homerun output of 1950 with an equal 27 long balls in ’51(best among ML right fielders). Wertz was the lone right fielder in the bigs to slug over .500.
When Vic got off to a slow start in 1952, he was packaged in a trade to the Browns with slugger Don Lenhardt and a couple other players for pitcher Ned Garver, outfielder Jimmy Delsing and two other players. Vic righted his course with the Browns and paced AL right fielders in homeruns during the 1953 season. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, Vic packed up and went with them, but after a slow start in the new city, he was dealt to the Indians for Bob Chakales.
Cleveland was the land of Vic’s greatest success. Although his run production wasn’t as high as it was with the Tigers, he enjoyed his best homerun output in Cleveland and made his only World Series appearance with the Tribe. The Indians shifted Vic to first base and in the 1954 World Series, Vic was on fire. The left-handed hitter hit an even .500 in 16 at-bats with one of the most famous hits-taken-away of all-time in the Classic by The Say Hey Kid.
Vic contracted polio in 1955 but when he returned in 1956, he was stronger than before. Wertz led AL first basemen with 32 homeruns and 106 RBI. For his fine season, he finished ninth in MVP voting. Vic was just as good the next year. Named to the All-Star team, Wertz led AL first basemen in homeruns and RBI again while also pacing his position peers in runs, walks and slugging average.
Vic was limited to 25 games due to injury in 1958. The Indians, afraid that Vic had become too frail, shipped him off to Boston for Jimmy Piersall and Vic rebounded nicely with the Red Sox in 1960. He enjoyed his final 100 RBI season that year–he was the lone 100 RBI first baseman in the Majors. Relegated to pinch-hitting duty in 1962, Vic hit a lusty .326 as a part-timer that year. He played one final year before calling it quits.
G 1,862/R 867/H 1,692/2B 289/3B 42/HR 266/RBI 1,178/BB 828/SO 842/BA .277/SA .469