Victor Woodrow Wertz (February 9, 1925 – July 7, 1983) was a Major League Baseball first baseman and outfielder. He had a seventeen-year career from 1947 to 1963. He was signed as a free agent by the Detroit Tigers in 1942 and played for the Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins, all of the American League.
Wertz finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting five times: 1949 (10th), 1950 (10th), 1956 (9th), 1957 (6th), and 1960 (14th).
Wertz was among the Top 10 in the American League in home runs in 1949 (20), 1950 (27), 1951 (27), 1952 (23), 1953 (19), 1956 (32), and 1957 (28). His 1956 total of 32 home runs was 2nd best in the AL. For his career, he hit 266 home runs and 1,178 RBIs with a .469 career slugging average and a .364 career on-base percentage. He hit for the cycle on September 14, 1947 while in his rookie season with Detroit.
He was elected to the American League All-Star team four times (1949, 1951, 1952 and 1957). He missed part of the 1955 season when stricken with a nonparalytic form of polio but returned in 1956.
Wertz hit the long fly ball that Willie Mays caught in the 1954 World Series (see The Catch). It went over 450 feet to dead center of the Polo Grounds in New York, and a sportswriter said, "It would have been a home run in any other park, including Yellowstone."
He was a World War II veteran, worked in the Detroit area beer distribution business during and after his baseball career, was known for his baldness, and was very well liked by fans because of his winning personality.
When he retired to Mt. Clemens, Michigan, he formed "Wertz Warriors," a group of sportsmen who raised millions for the Special Olympics Winter Games. Wertz also was a major contributor to the Easter Seals, March of Dimes, and Boys and Girls Clubs, to name just a few. He was the founder of the Macomb to Mackinac, 900 Mile snowmobile endurance test, run each year to benefit the Special Olympics.
Wertz died during heart surgery at Detroit's Harper Hospital on the morning of July 7, 1983. Surgeons were performing a coronary bypass and replacing a valve in his heart after he had suffered a heart attack the previous day. He is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.
By Dean Hanley
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