1950 Pacific Coast League MVP: Catfish Metkovich

The 1950 MVP lived an interesting life. Metkovich was a fisherman, actor, airplane inspector, one of Casey Stengel's "Nine Old Men," and he went on to become a manager and a scout.

Anybody who is known as "Catfish" must have a good story to tell. Catfish Metkovich certainly did. The 1950 Pacific Coast League (PCL) MVP got his nickname the hard way, according to the book Baseball Goes to War by William B. Mead:

He had flunked a spring training trial with the Boston Braves in 1940 because of a bizarre fishing accident that gave him his nickname. Metkovich caught a three-foot catfish off a bridge, put his foot on its back while trying to extricate the hook, and was badly hurt when the catfish raised a sharp fin that cut through the crepe sole of Metkovich's shoe and through most of his foot. The fin was removed by surgery.

"I've got a young first baseman by the name of Metkovich who's in the hospital" Casey Stengel, manager of the Braves, said at the time. "Do you know how? He was attacked by a catfish!"

Incidentally, Metkovich was one of Stengel's "Nine Old Men" who played for the 1948 PCL champion, Oakland Oaks.

Metkovich, who was born George Michael Metkovich, hit .315/.380/.480 for the unaffiliated Oaks in 1950 with 24 HR and 141 RBIs in 184 games. The 6-1, 185-pound left-handed hitting outfielder and first baseman also stole 23 bases that year.

The Oaks were declared the PCL champions that season after winning the regular season pennant. The Championship Series wasn't played, according to MiLB.com, due to financial hardship.

That same year, Metkovich played a role in the movie Three Little Words. One of the movie's reviewers on the IMBb website describes his part this way: "Red Skelton's antics were confined to some scenes on the baseball diamond where his good friend, the clown prince of baseball Al Schacht played by infielder George Metkovich provided some good humorous moments for Skelton."

Metkovich had parts in three other movies as well: The Stratton Story (1949), Love is Better Than Ever (1952) and The Winning Team (1952).

The fisherman, turned actor, who was also an "airplane inspector" during the offseason, played with four PCL teams: the San Francisco Seals (1943), Oakland Oaks (1948-50, '55), Vancouver Mounties (1956) and San Diego Padres (1957). He also managed the Padres for four seasons and then scouted for the Washington Senators.

Some of his minor league numbers are unavailable, but what we do know is, he hit .305/.351/.458 in eleven minor league seasons with 115 HR and 447 RBIs. RBI totals are not available for the some of the lower level teams he played for.

Catfish spent at least portions of ten seasons in the big leagues between 1943-54, logging time with Boston, Cleveland, both Chicago teams, Pittsburgh and the Milwaukee Braves, hitting a collective .261/.322/.367 with 47 HR and 373 RBIs. He got two at-bats in the 1946 World Series for the Red Sox, going 1-for-2 with a double.

Much later in his career, he was part of the 1953 trade between the Pirates and the Cubs that sent him, along with Ralph Kiner, Joe Garagiola and Howie Pollet to the Cubs for Toby Atwell, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, George Freese, Bob Addis and Gene Hermanski.

Metkovich was one of three players selected to go into the PCL Hall of Fame in 2013. He passed away in 1995 at the age of 74.

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