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Gus Dugas

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Augustin Joseph Dugas
(Lefty)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 165 lb.

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[edit] Biographical Information

Outfielder Gus Dugas played parts of four seasons in the majors, hitting just .206, but batted .327 during his minor league career. With the 1940 Nashville Vols, he hit .336 and tied for the Southern Association lead with 22 homers and 118 RBIs.

Although born in a village in Quebec, he moved to Connecticut with his family at age 2, settling in the Taftville neighborhood of Norwich, CT, where his father worked in a textile mill. After playing amateur ball for local teams, he had a two-week trial for the Hartford Senators of the Eastern League in 1928 but didn't stick and went back to playing semi-pro ball around New England. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of the 1929 season and was assigned to the Wichita Aviators of the Western League in 1930 where he had a tremendous season, hitting .349 and slugging .565 with 24 doubles, 12 triples and 26 homers in 143 games. The Pirates gave him a look late in the 1930 season and he did well, hitting .290 in 31 at-bats. In his big league debut on September 17th, he went 3 for 5 in a 12-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. On September 28th, he was the first player to face the St. Louis Cardinals' Dizzy Dean in the future Hall of Famer's big league debut, drawing a walk and scoring the Bucs' only run of the game. The French Canadian press took notice of him at that point, and he would become a regular subject of coverage in his native province over the next two decades, even if he never became a household name in the United States.

Dugas started the 1931 season with the Pirates, but a day before the team's home opener, on April 16th, he collided with SS Ben Sankey during practice and suffered a broken jaw and a likely concussion. When he was ready to play again on June 15th, he was assigned to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association where he tore the cover off the ball for 93 games, hitting .419 and slugging .636, with 25 doubles, 11 triples and 8 homers, driving in 73 runs. He was obviously still considered a top prospect by the Pirates, but they already had an outfield filled with top-notch players, the Waner brothers, RF Paul and CF Lloyd, both future Hall of Famers in their prime, and LF Adam Comorosky, who was an slightly easier man to beat for a job. Still, manager George Gibson decided to go with Comorosky in left field at the start of the 1932 season, perhaps because he did not want to overload his line-up with lefthanders. Comorosky hit only .140 in April while Dugas rode the bench, prompting Gibson to state he would platoon Dugas and righty Dave Barbee from that point forward. After four games, though, Gibson changed his mind and went with Barbee exclusively, sending Dugas back to the bench. He got all of 97 at-bats that year, hitting .237. 33 of those at-bats were as a pinch-hitter, a role he was always awful at - he was one of those hitters who got better the more he played, and coming cold off a bench to get a key hit was not part of his skill set.

On December 12, 1932, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a three-team deal that also involved Freddie Lindstrom and Chick Fullis. Alas, there was not really any more playing time to be got in the City in Brotherly Love. The outfield was set with Hal Lee in left, Fullis in center and Chuck Klein in right. He got a sort of break when 1B Don Hurst left spring training before the start of the 1933 season in a contractual dispute, opening a spot in the line-up. He had never played first base before, and at 5'9" did not really have the body type for the job. He hit only .150 before Hurst returned and reclaimed his spot at the end of April, and by then had lost his chance to push one of the other outfielders out of the picture. Back to the bench he went, and he was hitting only .169 in 37 games when he was sent down to the Albany Senators of the International League on August 5th. Given some playing time, he hit .379 in 38 games, showing he still had a potent bat. He had offers from other International League teams after the season, including the Montreal Royals, but chose to sign with the Washington Senators for 1934, as he still had dreams of making it in the big leagues.

The Senators were the defending American League champions in 1934, and their outfield was set with John Stone, Fred Schulte and Heinie Manush. Thus, he rode the bench once again, not getting a single start in the outfield and going 1 for 19 as a pinch-hitter. He played his last big league game on June 28th and in mid-July found himself back in Albany, where he hit .371 the rest of the way. This time, disillusioned about his chances in The Show, he accepted the offer from Montreal. In a publicity stunt, he signed a contract written in French, the first written in the language in the history of Organized Baseball, although there was also an English copy for him; while he did speak French fluently, he had done all of his schooling in English, so reading and writing French were a bit harder. Dugas immediately became a huge star in Montreal, as he hit .308 with 29 doubles, 22 homers and 97 RBI to lead the Royals to the International League title (but they lost the Governor's Cup to the Syracuse Chiefs). The Royals drew 300,000 fans to Delorimier Downs, more than a number of major league teams. The team finished only 6th in 1936, but Dugas continued to hit, with a .308 batting average, 26 doubles, 15 triples and 18 homers. Dugas suffered a heel injury on June 29, 1937, followed with a collapsed lung, the result of a baserunning collision on August 3rd. He ended the year with a .324 average, 28 doubles, 11 homers and 62 RBI as Montreal finished 2nd and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in his absence.

A fully recovered Dugas started the 1938 season red-hot for Montreal, but then he began to slip. Concerned about his long-term health prospects, the Montreal brass traded him to the Baltimore Orioles on June 22nd; he proved management wrong as he hit .330 in Baltimore, finishing the year with a combined .314 average, 35 doubles, 16 homers and 81 RBIs. However, as 1939 started, Dugas got into a feud with Orioles manager Rogers Hornsby, who was not an easy man to get along with, and on June 20th was traded to the Nashville Vols of the Southern Association. After hitting .291 with 22 homers in 1939, he would dominate the circuit over the next few years. In 1940, he led the league with 118 RBIs combined with a .336 average. He hit .320 in 1941, although he missed half the season with a broken leg, then .309 with 35 doubles and 19 homers in 1942. In 1943, he was back in the International League with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he hit .283 in 48 games. He then had to give up the game for a few years because of World War II, working those years at Hamilton Standard, a war plant manufacturing aircraft propellers in Connecticut. The Royals were reportedly interested in bringing him back as their manager in those years, but the call of Uncle Sam was stronger. When the war was over in 1946, he played a few games for the Providence Chiefs of the New England League at age 39, hitting .260, then hung up his cleats for good.

Dugas worked for a number of years as an extrusion operator for the Plastic Wire and Cable Co. in Norwich before retiring in 1972. He was a frequent visitor to Quebec in those years, including as a guest of the Montreal Expos when they began play in 1969 and again when they inaugurated Stade Olympique in 1977. The city of Norwich honored him by naming a street in the vicinity of Dodd Stadium "Lefty Dugas Drive". He suffered a stroke shortly after his 90th birthday and died less than a month later, on April 14, 1997, at a nursing home in Colchester, CT, a suburb of Norwich.

Dugas' great grandson, Andrew Carignan, made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics in 2011.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Yves Chartrand: "Augustin (Gus) Dugas", in Gilles Janson, ed.: Dictionnaire des grands oubliés du sport au Québec, 1850-1950, Les éditions du Septentrion, Quebec, QC, 2013, pp. 150-152. ISBN 978-2-89448-725-9

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