Iowa History Daily: On June 17, 1952, Iowan John Douglas “Jack” Dittmer stepped to the plate for the Boston Braves. The sweet-swinging second baseman from Elkader went on to hit for a .232 average over six seasons for the Boston/Milwaukee Braves and the Detroit Tigers.
Born in northeastern Iowa’s Clayton County, Dittmer showed signs of athletic prowess at an early age. Dittmer racked up all-state honors in football and basketball while amassing twelve varsity letters during his high school days. Recruited to the University of Iowa, Dittmer officially arrived on campus in Iowa City to play baseball, football, and basketball for the Hawkeyes.
Over an impressive career for the Hawks, Dittmer became one of only six Iowa athletes to rack up nine (four baseball, four football, one basketball) varsity letters over his playing career. A key component of a Big Ten Champion Iowa baseball team in 1949, the smooth-handed infielder committed only one error on 107 chances during a senior season which led to a second team All-American award.
Dittmer’s incredible hand-eye coordination also translated to success as a wide receiver for the Hawkeyes. An honorable mention All-American in football, Dittmer set five University of Iowa records for receiving over his collegiate career. His slight frame, only packing 160 pounds, kept Dittmer from chasing his dream of playing professional football.
However, professional baseball came calling and he signed with the Boston Braves for a contract including a $6,000 bonus after offers from a dozen teams. Complementing his sure-handed fielding with some pop at the plate, Dittmer hit .373 for the Class A Western League Denver Bears during his first professional season. An elevation to Atlanta’s AA Southern Association club saw Dittmer hit .334 while leading the league in doubles (42).
Sent up to Boston’s top minor league club in Milwaukee, Dittmer also dominated American Association pitching to scorch a .356 average over 57 games before getting his call to the show less than two years after signing. Although Dittmer’s reputation in the big leagues stemmed from his fielding, Dittmer hit .265 with nine home runs, 22 doubles, and 63 runs batted in during his first full season in the show. After a successful six-year career, Dittmer returned to Elkader to take over his father’s car dealership.
Known as an involved and valuable community member for the rest of his life, Dittmer stands out for his life on and off the field. Dittmer joined the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar