Answer Man: Why Dizzy Dean couldn't sue Dizzy Deans

News-DemocratMarch 21, 2014 

Well, I was half right.

In my recent column on Dizzy Deans Tavern in East St. Louis, I guessed that because the place was in business so long, the St. Louis Cardinal baseball player never sued them for profiting on his name.

I mean, can you imagine the legal brewhaha you might start today if you named your pub Bud Wiser's? But back then, I boldly speculated, people weren't as lawsuit-happy -- or else because James Deans spelled his last name with an "s," he got away with it.

Turns out it was indeed the latter reason.

As soon as she read my answer, Deans' daughter, Patricia, called to set the record straight. Now 76 and living in O'Fallon, she said the Hall of Fame hurler did try to sue her family, but failed because of the variation in their last names.

Besides, she said, her dad really wasn't capitalizing on the strikeout king's odd nickname. James Deans really was called Dizzy, too.

"He lived in Alabama for a while," said Deans, who, unfortunately, does not have a landline so that I could have found her first. "They used to call him Dizzy all the time, so he just kept that name. Even now everyone who remembers him will say, 'I remember your dad 'Diz.'"

He eventually wound up in East St. Louis, where he became a milkman for Niederer Dairy. But in his early 30s, he apparently was having so much fun at his part-time job of tending bar that in 1946 he bought the tavern at 1332 N. 13th from Robert Milner and renamed it Dizzy Deans Tavern.

"It was really a nice place," Deans said. "My grandpa used to open it up at 5 in the morning for the guys in the stockyards and the railroad guys. They'd all come and get their boilermaker drinks and cash their checks and buy their cigarettes -- everything that wasn't good for you, I guess. We even had spittoons then. I can hardly believe that now, but I remember them."

Growing up, Patricia would trade off between living with her folks above the tavern and with her grandma a couple of blocks away across from Sedlack Funeral Home on North 15th. But she was always at the tavern rolling up her sleeves to keep the place going with her parents, grandpa and Aunt Doris.

"Oh, yeah, I learned to cook and tend bar at an earlier age than I should have," said Deans, who figures she started serving up the suds at about 13. "And we had a big bench on the side of the building. On Fridays, Doris would have to go outside and take orders from people waiting to come in, it would be so busy."

She says she remembers when Sam and Mugsy Andria were still dating and would walk from Granite City to eat at Diz's. Later, of course, the Andrias opened their popular steakhouse restaurant in Fairview Heights -- where Deans worked for 34 years before retiring just two years ago.

"So it wasn't hard for me to get a job with them," she said, laughing.

But Deans figures she would have had an easy time hiring on with anyone who remembered her father. She thinks they lived up to their motto, "You tried the rest, now try the best."

"That place was one of the best-known places in East St. Louis for fish, hush puppies, chicken and the tavern," said the mother of two. "The other day, a man stopped me in Aldi's and said, 'Every time we fix fried chicken, we just wish we could cook it like your dad.' And I run into people all the time like that."

But all she and the former customers have are memories now. When her mother, Marie, became ill, Dizzy sold the tavern in 1961 and moved to Nutwood. He would lose a home there to the flood of 1973 and then a mobile home in Hardin in the flood of 1993.

The Belleville native died in 2006 at age 92. His tavern burned to the ground years ago. But here's the good news: there apparently were no lasting hard feelings between him and the Cardinal great.

"My Aunt Doris and I once worked as hostesses in the dining room at Fairmount Park," she said. "Well, Dizzy Dean, the ballplayer came in there and he gave me an autograph.

"I cannot find it now, but it's on a 'reserved' card from the Black Stallion room. He wrote, 'To Dizzy Deans from Dizzy Dean, and it's dated. I can see it just as plain as day. It's weird, but I just can't find it."

Still in doubt: Thanks to Jeri Hohrein, of Belleville, for suggesting that the Davis Cup (earlier Ray's Restaurant) at 29 Public Square next to the bus depot was the downtown Belleville restaurant with the tabletop jukeboxes. Unfortunately, Norman Davis moved his cafe to Freeburg in about 1962 and nothing seemed to replace it. Meanwhile, an anonymous caller backed my answer that the restaurant my reader frequented in the 1970s was the Capitol/Green Parrot at 15 E. Main.

Today's trivia

What commonly used word made its "initial" appearance in print 175 years ago today?

Answer to Thursday's trivia: I can't promise how scientific this is, but Time magazine recently examined more than 400,000 Instagram photos that were tagged "selfie" and included geographic coordinates. As a result, they ranked 459 cities in order of most selfies per capita. The selfiest? Makati City and Pasig in the Philippines with 258 selfies per 100,000 residents. They were followed by Manhattan (202), Miami (155), Anaheim and Santa Ana, Calif. (147) and Petaling Jaya, Malaysia (141). St. Louis came in 139th with 24 per 100,000 -- but it topped Chicago, which ranked 157th with 20.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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