George Springer and Walt Dropo – two baseball names in Connecticut sports annals, are now a one-two tandem as home run hitters from UConn
There is a baseball goal that is a distinct possibility to be reached during the few weeks left in the Major League season that we at Sportsedge and many of our readers should be following with interest. Yet, it will probably receive scant notice outside of Connecticut.
The achievement, though relatively minor in the general scheme of things, would belong to George Springer of the Houston Astros. It is based on the number of home runs hit in an MLB season by someone who played his college ball at the University of Connecticut.
If Springer hits his 34th, and as of this writing he has 32, he will tie Walter Dropo, who did it in his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox in 1950. Number 35 would move Springer ahead of Dropo.
Walter Dropo regarded as UConn’s greatest athlete
Dropo is regarded by many as the greatest all-around athlete in UConn history. After serving in World War II in Italy, France, and Germany, he finished college where he starred in baseball, basketball and football. He was a two-time All-New England court selection and totaled 848 points in 41 games, an average of 20.2.
He was drafted by Providence of the Basketball Association of America and could have gone pro in the game of his choosing, deciding on baseball. Besides Boston, he played with Detroit, Chicago and Baltimore, all in the American League, and Cincinnati in the National over a 13-year career.
The Moosup Moose
Dropo was dubbed the Moosup Moose by New York Yankees’ immortal play-by-play announcer Mel Allen. The name came from the Connecticut village in which he was raised in Windham County. In case you didn’t know, Moosup is within the Town of Plainfield in the eastern part of the state where for many years there was a dog racing track.
Son of immigrant parents
His parents, Savo and Mary Dropo, came from Mostar, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) in the 1920s. They would live on a hill above Moosup and Savo worked at a local textile mill while running the family’s small farm.
Growing up, Walt played sandlot baseball with his brothers, Milton and George, and attended Plainfield High School before enrolling at UConn.
By the time he graduated in 1947 he was the University’s all-time scoring leader in basketball, with offers to play professionally with the Providence Steamrollers of the Basketball Association of America, which was the forerunner of the NBA.
He was a tight end in football and drafted by the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. In baseball, he was a first baseman, perfectly suited to his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame.
Dropo received his college degree despite having his academics interrupted by three years of military service during World War II. Then he went back to complete his education before beginning a career in baseball.
He hit 34 home runs when named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1950. He led the league in RBIs (144) and total bases (326) while batting .322.
The following year he fractured his right wrist on his batting hand and was traded to Detroit in 1952. That summer he collected 12 consecutive hits (5-for-5 against the Yankees, 4-for-4 against Washington in the first game of a doubleheader and three his first three times up in the second game before he popped out.
But he came back with another hit to finish the game 4-for-5, to match another league record of 16 hits in three straight games. Altogether he went 16 for 17, a truly amazing performance.
George Springer is from a baseball background
Now to the latest diamond pride of UConn, the current home run basher who was born George Celston Springer III in New Britain. Unlike Dropo, he came from a sports background. His grandfather was from Panama and also played baseball at the State Teachers College in New Britain.
His father, George Springer Jr., played in the 1976 Little League World Series and paved the way for his son at UConn, where he was on the football team. After graduation, he became an attorney.
George Springer III attended New Britain High School for one year where he played baseball for Coach Ken Kezer. Then he transferred to Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school near Hartford.
In college Springer was a teammate of Matt Barnes, currently a relief pitcher for the Red Sox. He received numerous baseball honors at UConn, including being named the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2009 and the Conference’s Player of the Year in 2011.
The Astros drafted him as the 11th pick of the 2011 draft after his junior year in college.
Springer close to what Dropo did 67 years ago
In the next two weeks, with a little luck, Springer could reach or exceed the 34 home run total for a season which would equal or exceed what Dropo did 67 years ago. Right now he needs two to tie.
No disrespect to the popular George Springe III, but he did not gain the success in three sports that Dropo did at the University of Connecticut. However, he is right up there on the list of the all-time great athletes from UConn.
It’s just that it is not his fault the name of Walter Dropo is on the top of that list.