The Rookie

Morrie McDermott, a 19-yr.-old rookie, proudly donning the uniform of the Boston Red Sox. Life Magazine, March 1948

Pitchers and catchers report today, which means that spring officially has sprung.

If you have as discerning a taste for 1946-era Red Sox ballcaps as the Jury Box, you will appreciate the picture above of Mickey McDermott, whose fresh-faced appearance was deceiving.

McDermott’s taste for the high life was prodigious, according to Tales from the Red Sox Dugout by Jim Prime and Bill Nowlin:

The Red Sox sent McDermott to live with Johnny Pesky, hoping that the stability of family life would have a calming effect on the young pitcher. It didn’t work. “They gave him a car one time as a tribute on Pesky Day,” recalls Mickey. “I borrowed it that night and I got some broad, and I kicked the window out trying to get laid in the back seat. He was going to kill me. I said, ‘Why didn’t you have it open? I’m 6’3’’; you’re only 5’11’’.

* * *

McDermott was like a son to manager Joe McCarthy. Proud Irishmen both, the wayward pitcher and stern disciplinarian established an immediate rapport. One day, McCarthy called the 18-year-old McDermott into his office. “Maurice, do you have a girlfriend?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” replied the young southpaw. “Did you ever hear of Lefty Gomez?” the manager continued. Again McDermott replied in the affirmative. “Well,” said McCarthy, “don’t become Lefty Gomez! He left his fastball in the sheets.” McDermott was puzzled. “I was only 18; I didn’t know what he was talking about. I wondered what the hell he’d leave his fastball in my sheets for. I was looking for it for three days.”

* * *

Boston’s ace left-hander Mel Parnell was McDermott’s roommate on the Red Sox. Parnell once confided to manager McCarthy: “We’d been on the road for a year, and I haven’t seen him yet. I’m rooming with his suitcases.”

* * *

After six years in Boston and two with the lowly Washington Senators, McDermott was traded in 1956 to the New York Yankees where he played under the legendary Casey Stengel. On a road trip to Boston, McDermott was quick to return to his old watering holes. Returning to the Kenmore Hotel at four in the morning, McDermott thought he could use his intimate knowledge of Boston hotels to sneak past his ever-vigilant manager. More than a little inebriated, he sneaked into the basement of the hotel and used the service elevator to reach his floor. Unfortunately, McDermott forgot that Stengel had managed and played in Boston and also knew the city like the back of his hand. When the elevator door opened, there stood Stengel. The two faced each other eyeball to eyeball. Finally Stengel said in disgust: “Drunk again!” Staggering past him down the hallway, McDermott hiccuped loudly and replied: “Me too, Skip!” Stengel was so amused he allowed the infraction to go unpunished.

2 responses to “The Rookie

  1. But, but he LOOKS so innocent!

  2. Old Dominion Tory

    Those are the ones with whom you must be the most vigilant.

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