Born: April 29, 1929
Died: August 7, 2003
Maurice Joseph McDermott was born April 29, 1929 in Poughkeepsie, NY. The McDermotts moved to Elizabeth when “Mickey” was in junior high and he joined the St. Patrick’s High School varsity. An extraordinary schoolboy athlete, Mickey attended a tryout camp for the Dodgers at age 13 and scout Mule Haas wanted to ink him on the spot—only to find out that he was three years short of being eligible to sign. Instead, Mickey pitched semipro ball, often facing major leaguers playing under assumed names. His left arm was nothing short of electric.
Mickey was unhittable as a high-schooler. He once struck out 27 batters in a game. In 1944, his father tweaked his birth certificate to make him 16 and he signed with the Red Sox for $5,000. Mickey was a strikeout machine in the minors, averaging almost a K per inning. The only thing keeping him from the majors was his inability to control his fastball, though he hurled a pair of no-hitters. Mickey made his Red Sox debut in 1948, but was sent back down in July. He threw his third minor-league no-hitter in 1949, earning a return ticket to Boston.
In Mickey’s second start after his recall, he twirled a three-hit shutout. He won four more times and pitched a second shutout, and was hailed as the next big thing in major league baseball. Mickey continued to progress over the next three seasons, but at times it was obvious he was enjoying his off-field celebrity a little too much. In 1953, Mickey put it all together and went 18–10 with a 3.01 ERA. Like so many fastball artists, he found success when he took a little bit off his heater. He threw four shutouts and gave up the second-fewest hits per nine innings in the league.
The stats, unfortunately, did not tell the complete story of Mickey's 1953 season. In, September he punched a sportswriter and cursed in front of owner Tom Yawkey’s wife. That December he was exiled to the Washington Senators. He turned in two decent years in the nation’s capital before a trade brought him back home, to the New York Yankees. He went 2–6 for the Bronx Bombers and was gone in a year, as part of a multi-layer deal with the Kansas City A’s.
Mickey’s pitching continued to decline in KC. He was dealt to the Tigers after the 1957 season but pitched all but two innings in the minors in 1958. He tried to revive his career over the next few seasons without much luck. He pitched briefly in the majors again with the Cardinals and a second go-round with the Athletics. The A’s released him in August after he walked six and threw a pair of wild pitches in a relief appearance.
Mickey pitched for three more years in the minors and worked odd jobs hoping to find his way back to the majors. He did, briefly, in 1969 as a batting practice pitcher for the Angels. He scouted for the A’s in the late 70s and early 80s, and recommended a high school slugger named Mark McGwire to the team. He worked as a player agent for a time but his drinking led to the end of that career. In 1991, just when he had hit rock bottom, Mickey won $7 million in the Arizona lottery. He sobered up and wrote his autobiography A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Cooperstown. It was published in 2003, the same year he passed away from congestive heart failure.