Beverly, Mass. - Walter "Moose" Dropo, 87, former Boston Red Sox first baseman and 1950 Rookie of the Year, passed away peacefully Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, at the Ledgewood Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing facility in Beverly, Mass., after a brief illness.
Born in Moosup on Jan. 30, 1923, to the late Mary and Savo Dropo, Walter attended Plainfield High School graduating in 1941, winning athletic letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track.
He attended the University of Connecticut the following fall and remained there until 1943 when he entered the U.S. Army. He saw service as a combat engineer in Africa, Italy, France, and Germany.
Honorably discharged in 1945, Walter returned to the collegiate ranks at UConn and went on to star in football, basketball, and baseball. He graduated in 1947 and signed with the Boston Red Sox. Still considered the best three-sport athlete ever to come out of UConn, Walter was also drafted by the Providence Steamrollers of the NBA and the Chicago Bears.
After spending two years in the Red Sox farm system, Walter was called up to the big leagues in 1950, where he stayed for 13 years, retiring with a lifetime batting average of .270. During his rookie season, and hitting right behind Ted Williams, Walter batted .322 with 34 home runs and a league leading 144 RBIs, earning him the honor of American League Rookie of the Year. He was also voted in as an American League All-Star.
In June of 1952, Walter was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of a nine player deal that included Johnny Pesky. Less than two months after joining the Tigers, he tied a major league record of 12 consecutive hits, collected over a two day-three game stretch which was originally set by Pinky Higgins in 1938. The record still stands today and the ball for his 12th consecutive hit is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
In 1951, he married Elizabeth Wise and together they had three children, Jeffrey, Carla, and Christina. Sadly, Jeffrey passed away in 2008 after a two year journey with brain cancer. Elizabeth and Walter made their home in Marblehead, Mass. as Walter began careers in the financial services industry and then in the import-export business dealing primarily with fireworks. He was passionate about supporting UConn athletics, keeping a strong connection to his Serbian heritage through his affiliation with St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, and spending many long, enjoyable days golfing at celebrity golf tournaments and with his friends at the Portsmouth Country Club.
Walter is survived by Elizabeth; his daughters, Carla and her husband, Tom Welch, of Beverly, Christina and her husband, Vladian Hogea, of Calif.; and a daughter-in-law, Susan Dropo of Sandwich, Mass. He is also survived by two sisters, Emily and her husband, Roger Harrington, of Dayville, Conn. and Zurka Alfieri of Groton.
He was predeceased by his beloved son, Jeffrey; brothers Milton and George; and brother-in-law, Nicholas Alfieri.
Walter also has five grandchildren, Jennifer, Elizabeth, and Alexander Dropo of Sandwich, and Sarah and Nicole Welch of Beverly; four nieces, Cindy Alfieri of New Jersey, Joanne Alfieri and her husband, Eric Wolfe, of Conn., and Sandy and Dianne Wise of Seattle, Wash.; three nephews, Carl of Dayville, and Paul Harrington of Brooklyn, Conn., and William Wise of Alaska; and a grand nephew, Nolan Harrington.
His funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church, 41 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, Mass. Relatives and friends are invited to attend. Visiting hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, at the Campbell-Lee, Moody, Russell Funeral Home, 525 Cabot St., Beverly. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Walter's name to the National Brain Tumor Society, 124 Watertown St., Suite 2D, Watertown, MA 02472, http:// www.braintumor.org or the Jimmy Fund, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, 10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor, Brookline MA 02445, http://www.JimmyFund.org.
Information, directions, and condolences at www.campbellfuneral.com
Published in The Day on Dec. 21, 2010