Dick Whitman was the birth name of the character known as Don Draper on one of my all-time favorite shows, Mad Men. Coincidentally (or not), Dick Whitman was also the name of a major-league outfielder who made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.
That debut came after serving in a war, which both the real and fictional versions of Whitman had in common.
Left-handed hitting outfielder Dick Whitman signed as an amateur free agent with the Brooklyn Dodgers by scout Tom Downey shortly after graduating from the University of Oregon in 1942. The speedy outfielder played with two teams his first year out, hitting .313 in 85 games. Like so many others of the era, his baseball career was put on hold by World War II. Dick was in the infantry for three years (1943-1945), seeing action in the Battle of the Bulge and being awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Dick came out of the Army and hit .260 in 104 games for the Dodgers in 1946, and then divided the next three years (1947-1949) between Brooklyn and the Montreal Royals. Although he was hitting .291 in 60 games for the Dodgers in 1948, he was sent down to Montreal by General Manager Branch Rickey, who wanted to bring up Duke Snider. Whitman then hit .327 the rest of the year in helping Montreal to the International League pennant and Little World Series championship. Whitman appeared for the entire 1949 season with the Brooklyn pennant winners, getting into 23 games in the regular season. He also did get into one World Series game with no hits in one plate appearance.
That one World Series plate appearance, in fact, was the final out of Game 4 in ’49.
Whitman, a teammate of Jackie Robinson and the Boys of Summer, passed away in 2003 at age 82. The fictional Whitman served in the Korean War, and he (aka Don Draper) would be in his 90s today if still alive.