Friday, June 3, 2011

McDermott punched his way off Red Sox

Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

On Dec. 8, 1953, the Boston Red Sox traded pitcher Maurice "Mickey" McDermott along with outfielder Tom Umphlett to the Washington Senators for Jackie Jensen. It was a trade that was six months coming.

In early June, McDermott had been involved in a clubhouse fist fight with Boston Globe baseball writer Bob Holbrook. (Ted Williams wasn't the only Red Sox player who feuded with the Boston press in those days.)

Witnesses agreed that McDermott had thrown the first punch. When he asked manager Lou Boudreau to be traded, Boudreau said, "If anyone will take you, I'll trade you." Boudreau was later quoted as saying, "We all felt McDermotto was wrong when he swapped punches with Holbrook."

No trade was immediately forthcoming, and McDermott went on to win 18 games that season. During the year he acquired some control to go with what writer Shirley Povich said was "the most fiery left-handed fast ball in the league."

McDermott's fast ball was especially effective after dark. He won 10 straight games under the lights during the 1953 season.

He also batted .301 that season. Throughout his career, McDermott was often used as a left-handed pinch-hitter.

Suddenly, he was marketable.

What caused the fight that led to McDermott's exile from the Red Sox. Observers said it was remarks Holbrook made about the pitcher's singing.

McDermott often sang in Boston night clubs, and in 1952-53 had an off-season gig as a lounge signer at Steuben's, a popular Boston night club.

According to Chicago Daily News writer John P. Carmichael, McDermott had a "rich tenor" voice and specialized in Irish ballads.

Following the trade to Washington, McDermott never had another winning season in the major leagues, until he was 1-0 in his last year, 1961, with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City A's.

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