Dazzy Vance: In the strike zone

In our sport, the "Strike Zone” is the place where a bass is most likely to attack a lure. In baseball, it’s where every player, umpire and fan focuses their attention as the ball crosses home plate.

For some, the two interpretations can have equal significance.

Take big league baseball player Arthur “Dazzy” Vance, for example — the Hall of Fame pitcher. Vance loved fishing and baseball equally, and he made finding the strike zone in both his preoccupation.

In the early part of his career, Dazzy moved from team to team in both pro and semi-pro leagues. He eventually found some stability in 1917 with the New Orleans Pelicans — a semi-pro team that was part of the Southern League. He remained there until 1922 … when he finally got the call he had long been waiting for.

Through a forced, combined deal that included Pelican’s catcher Hank DeBerry, the Brooklyn Robins (later becoming the Dodgers) reluctantly bought out Vance’s contract. Unlike DeBerry and other young recruits, Vance was 31 years of age when he finally secured his spot in the big leagues. 

Aware his age was working against him, Dazzy quickly found a way to beat the odds. Through the help of a supportive coaching staff, Vance was able to tame his wild fastball and develop a reliable curveball — two pitches that soon brought him fame.

In 1924, he achieved a record 24 wins, seven losses — striking out 262. He was named the National League’s “Most Valuable Player” that year — besting Cardinal’s homerun hitter, Roger Hornsby for the title. (Hornsby, as many baseball fans know, posted a .424 batting average — a modern record that stands to this day.) 

Pitching to anglers 

Shortly after receiving the league’s MVP award, Vance became baseball’s highest paid player — knocking down a whopping $45,000 per year. That was big money back then, and Vance was looking for ways to invest it.

Throughout his pro career, Dazzy made Homosassa Springs, Fla., his permanent residence. There he could unwind from the pressures of professional baseball, while wetting a line for largemouth bass and the many species of saltwater gamefish inhabiting Florida’s Gulf Coast.