By the time the Yankees purchased Ernie Johnson off waivers just before June of the 1923 regular season, this Chicago native was already 35 years of age and had eight seasons of big league baseball under his belt. The Yankees were looking for a better offensive player to take over for Mike McNally as their infield utility guy and though Johnson was not a great hitter, he had averaged .295 as the White Sox starting second baseman just two seasons earlier.
He had then ticked off that team’s owner Charley Comiskey, when he demanded a salary increase, Subsequently, when his batting average fell forty points in 1924, he lost his starting job to a guy named Hervey McClellan and Comiskey gladly put Johnson on the waiver wire.
It actually turned out to be a great move for both the infielder and the Yankees. Over the two-and-a-half seasons he played for New York skipper Miller Huggins, Johnson appeared in 159 games and averaged a very robust .327. He also won his one and only World Series ring in 1923 against the Giants and scored the go-ahead run as a pinch runner in the final Game of that Fall Classic.
Its too bad Johnson didn’t get to put on the pinstripes much earlier in his career because by 1925, he had already turned 37-years-old. The Yankees decided to go with some much younger blood. The veteran infielder was one of three players New York traded to the St. Paul Saints in exchange for a 20-year-old shortstop named Mark Koenig. Johnson played four more seasons of minor league ball before hanging up his glove for good. He later became a scout for the Red Sox until he passed away in 1952 at the age of 64. His son Don followed the old man to the big leagues and was a starting second baseman for the Cubs during and after WWII.
|CHW (4 yrs)||319||1439||1311||190||355||47||11||1||113||45||73||66||.271||.312||.326||.638|
|NYY (3 yrs)||159||356||327||60||107||10||10||9||37||7||20||18||.327||.368||.502||.869|
|SLB (3 yrs)||183||539||469||64||112||16||5||2||39||30||42||41||.239||.309||.307||.617|
|SLM (1 yr)||152||581||512||58||123||18||10||7||67||32||46||35||.240||.305||.355||.661|
Marv Breuer thought he had blown his chance to get signed by the Yankees. He was pitching for an unaffiliated D-level team in Rogers, Arkansas in 1934 and Yankee scout Johnny Nee was in the stands for one of the right-hander’s starts. Breuer not only lost the game 7-0, his team was no-hit by the opposing team’s pitcher. At dinner that night, a disappointed Breuer figured it would be the pitcher he faced that day who would be getting a visit from Nee. But when he looked up from his plate, Nee was standing there ready to offer him a Yankee contract. A disbelieving Breuer thought the scout had made a mistake and reminded his unexpected visitor it was the other guy who had thrown the no-hitter. Nee told him “You’ll be pitching in the American League when everyone has forgotten about that no-hitter.”
So Breuer signed on with the Yanks and spent the next six years trying to climb up the crowded ladder of baseball’s best farm system and there were plenty of missteps along the way. His first breakout year came with Binghamton in 1936, when he went 18-9 in the A-level NY-Penn League. But when he was promoted to double A, the following season, his record plummeted to 5-19 and the Rolla, Missouri native gave serious thought to quitting the game.
It was the midst of the Great Depression and Breuer had earned a degree in civil engineering after graduating from high school. Every off-season, he was hired to do engineering work. But he stuck with pitching and when he went 17-9 for the Yank’s, Kansas City Blues farm team in 1939, Joe McCarthy brought him to spring training and announced he would open the 1940 season as a member of the Yankees’ starting rotation.
Now remember, that Yankee team Breuer was joining had won four consecutive World Championships and the pitching staff on their 1939 club boasted seven guys with at least 10 winning decisions. But Lefty Gomez was faltering badly, Red Ruffing was getting old and Spud Chandler was hurting. McCarthy found himself forced to revamp one of the deepest mound staff’s in the history of the game.
It looked as if Breuer was certainly one of the answers as the 1940 regular season got under way. The 26-year-old rookie pitched well and the Yankees won 9 of his first 13 starts. But the tide turned in late July and Breuer started getting hammered. By the end of his first full season in New York, his record was a disappointing 8-9 and his ERA in the mid-four’s and the Yankees finished in second place.
He pitched better in 1941, putting together what would be his only winning season for New York, finishing 9-7 and lowering his ERA by half a run. He then turned in his most memorable moment in pinstripes during Game 4 of that year’s World Series against Brooklyn. McCarthy called on him to relieve starter Atley Donald in the fifth inning with the Yankees trailing Brooklyn, 4-3. He pitched three scoreless innings and New York came back to win the game.
He would spend two more years with the team but when it became clear he would never become the 20-game winner the Yankees thought he would, the pitcher nicknamed “Baby Face” quit the game for good and became a civil engineer for the US Geological Survey for the next 31 years. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 76.
|162 Game Avg.||12||12||.490||4.03||40||28||7||11||0||1||226||227||115||101||19||72||105||1.323|
Long before Karaoke made its way from Japan to our shores, big league pitcher Mickey McDermott loved to sing in bars. Perhaps the biggest reason he loved to sing in bars was because he had to be in a bar in order to do it which meant he could drink and if their was one thing old Mickey liked to do in bars more than sing in them, it was drink in them. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY on April 29, 1929 and raised in New Jersey, his full name was Maurice Joseph McDermott. Big league scouts drooled over his fastball and the Red Sox won the race to sign him by doing so when he was just fifteen years-old. His shifty father actually forged a birth certificate that claimed his talented son was 18 years old. The elder McDermott than pocketed $5,000 of his son’s bonus money. Mickey made his big league debut for Boston when he was just 19 and by 1949 he was splitting his time between the team’s starting rotation and its bullpen.
I’ve found testimony from great big league hitters like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams that indicate this guy could be very impressive on the mound. He showed many moments of brilliance in his early career and seemed to be putting it all together in 1952 when he went 10-9 in Beantown and then followed that up with an 18-10 1953 season that included 4 shutouts. Making him even more valuable was the fact that he was an extremely gifted hitter who averaged .252 lifetime and was frequently used as a pinch hitter.
McDermott’s achille’s heel was his desire to party, which is what made Tom Yawkey’s decision to approve trading him after his great 1953 season an easy one. It turned out to be one of the best deals Boston ever made because in return for McDermott, they got a gifted, ex-Yankee outfielder from Washington by the name of Jackie Jensen. By 1958, Jensen would become an AL MVP winner and McDermott would find himself pitching back in the Minor Leagues.
Mickey would start for the lowly Senators for two seasons, compiling a 17-25 record in our Nation’s capital. The Yankees then acquired him in a seven player trade in February of 1956. New York had just lost the 1955 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers and Yankee GM George Weiss and Manager Casey Stengel both knew the team needed to get some pitching. Weiss and Stengel had been the beneficiaries of one of the greatest starting rotations in the club’s history when Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and then Whitey Ford had pitched the team to five straight World Series wins between 1949 and ’53. With Reynolds, Raschi and Lopat now all gone from the team, Weiss knew he had to replace them with quality arms but the thrifty GM was determined to do so as cheaply as possible. That was his goal when he agreed to send a five player package of Yankee subs and prospects to the Senators for McDermott, figuring that lot’s of mediocre bodies for one quality pitcher would end up being a steal. Weiss thought the vaunted Yankee offense combined with McDermott’s talent would make him a big winner in New York. Instead, even though none of the five players the Yankees gave up became stars in Washington, the Senators still were the big winners in the McDermott deal.
That’s because instead of taking advantage of New York’s powerful lineup when he got to the Big Apple, Mickey McDermott took advantage of the City’s vibrant night life. He would finish 2-6 during his only season in pinstripes and then become part of a thirteen player deal with the A’s in February of 1957 that brought Clete Boyer to New York. McDermott did get a chance to pitch in his only World Series as a Yankee and Stengel let him take an at bat in that 1956 Fall Classic as well. Mickey uncharacteristically took advantage of an opportunity by singling in the eighth inning of Game 2 so that he finished his career with a 1.000 postseason average.
McDermott was out of the big leagues for good by 1962 and back in the minors, where he continued his hard-partying lifestyle. After hanging up his glove for good, his self-destructive ways continued. Ironically, his old drinking buddy with the Yankees, Billy Martin hired Mickey as a coach for the Oakland A’s but both were fired in 1982. McDermott then became a player agent until his affinity for alcohol ruined that career too. He hit rock bottom in 1991, when he was sent to jail for multiple DWI offenses. That’s when he became sober. That same year, he and his wife hit the Arizona Lottery for $7 million.
McDermott decided to chronicle his crazy life in a book. He did so in his well received autobiography “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cooperstown,” which was published in 2003. He died of cancer at the age of 73, just as his book went on sale.
|BOS (6 yrs)||48||34||.585||3.80||153||97||36||34||9||8||773.2||647||359||327||47||504||499||1.488|
|WSH (2 yrs)||17||25||.405||3.58||61||46||11||19||2||2||352.1||312||170||140||17||210||173||1.482|
|KCA (2 yrs)||1||4||.200||6.15||33||4||15||0||0||0||74.2||82||59||51||9||60||32||1.902|
|STL (1 yr)||1||0||1.000||3.67||19||0||13||0||0||4||27.0||29||17||11||3||15||15||1.630|
|NYY (1 yr)||2||6||.250||4.24||23||9||11||1||0||0||87.0||85||46||41||10||47||38||1.517|
|DET (1 yr)||0||0||9.00||2||0||0||0||0||0||2.0||6||4||2||0||2||0||4.000|