Elmer Dean had several nicknames during his life. Some nicknamed him "Dopey" to go along with his brothers' nicknames of Dizzy and Daffy. Others called him "Goober", a product he sold as a peanut vendor and characterized him well. Still others nicknamed him "Elmer the Great Dean", which either played on the name of the 1933 baseball movie "Elmer, the Great" or the cartoon character "Elmer the Great Dane".
Elmer Dean was the oldest son of Albert Dean to survive childhood. Some have suggested he was born was mild mental impairment. This would explain Elmer's peculiar antics which won him much popularity in the baseball realm. Among these antics was a fascination with elevators, a fascination that led Elmer to regularly ride the elevators in downtown Houston (8).
Around 1928, Elmer became disconnected with the rest of the Dean family. He was not reunited with his family until late 1931 when his brothers found him working on a farm in Atkins, AR (6).
Elmer's lack of skill as a baseball player are well documented. The Milwaukee Journal note that he "Throws like a girl and catches flies like a rookie Mexican matador trying to take a bow". Nevertheless, in 1933, Elmer tried to draw off the success of his famous brothers by trying out with the Houston Buffs as an outfielder (3). However, the Dean was unsatisfactory as an outfielder and the Buffs tried to turn him into a pitcher instead (4). When it became clear Elmer was not the ballplayer his brothers were, but was every bit the eccentric, Dean was offered a position as a bat boy instead (5). Dean denied the offer but took a job as a peanut vendor instead, a position he with with he achieve considerable success and held for many years. In 1934, Dean was offered a position as a peanut vendor at Sportsmans Park in St. Louis, but ultimately opted to return to Houston (8).
In the spring of 1935, Elmer attended the Ray Doan Baseball School in Hot Springs, AR where both his brothers were working as instructors (7). Ray Doan, head of the baseball school, noticed Elmer's antics and realized he had potential to draw crowds. Consequently, Doan signed Elmer to played with the House of David baseball team. Dean only had a brief stint with the club, but it was as close to playing professional baseball as he came.
Dean died September 24th, 1956 in Dallas, TX (1). He was buried in Beggs Cemetery in Beggs, OK (2). He was depicted in Kevin King's 2007 baseball novel All the Stars Came Out That Night.
1) The Sporting News, 10/3/1956
2) Dallas Morning News, 9/25/1956
3) Dallas Morning News, 3/13/1933
4) Dallas Morning News, 3/16/1933
5) The Sporting News, 4/20/1933
6) The Sporting News, 11/12/1931
7) Times-Picayune, 1/11/1935
8) Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/28/1934