Matthew C “Max” Surkont
was born in Central Falls,
Rhode Island on June 16, 1922. At 16, he
signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 1938 and played for the
Cambridge Cardinals of the Eastern Shore League his rookie year.
He was 9-10 that year and advanced to the Portsmouth Red Birds
of the Mid-Atlantic League in 1939 where he had a 14-13 record
and a 3.63 ERA.
He was the ace of the
Decatur Commodores (Three-I League) pitching staff in 1940. He
won 19 and lost 5, led in ERA with 2.50 and had 212 strikeouts.
With the Rochester Red Wings of the International League in 1941
he had a 2-hit, 9-inning shutout of Toronto
in which only 27 batters faced him on May 21, and on August 20
he pitched a 7-inning no-hitter against
Still with Rochester in 1942, Surkont was 10-18 and
entered military service with the Navy
in the fall. He served in the Pacific aboard a tank
(LST-459) as a gunner's mate, participating in many landings and
not throwing anything but a softball for two years. "We've
hauled many Jap prisoners back to our advanced bases,” he
explained in a letter to National League president Ford Frick in
1944. “I started a conversation with one who talked fairly good
English. I mentioned baseball and he was all smiles. He said he
attended many games in
before the war and misses the game very much. They are
interesting people to talk to when you can find one who can
Second-Class Surkont was at Norfolk NTS in 1945, ostensibly to
board a destroyer, but was asked to join the baseball team. He
became a gunner's mate instructor and lived in the trainer's
room underneath the grandstand of the ballfield.
|A tank landing ship in WWII. Surkont
served as a gunner's mate on LST-459 in the Pacific
Surkont was back with
the Rochester Red Wings in 1946 and remained with them until
drafted by the Chicago White Sox in November 1948. He made his
major league debut with
on April 19, 1949 and was 3-5 in 44 appearances as a relief
pitcher. The White Sox assigned him to
of the Pacific Coast League for 1950 where he won 18 games
before being purchased by the Boston Braves. Spending the next
five seasons with the Braves, Surkont won a career-high 12 games
in 1951 and again in 1952.
In 1953, while pitching
for the Milwaukee Braves, he struck out eight consecutive
batters against the Cincinnati Reds, a record since surpassed by
Tom Seaver. He continued to pitch in
the major leagues through 1957 with the Pirates, Cardinals and
Giants. He ended his minor career in 1963 after five seasons
with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League.
Max Surkont, who
owned Surkont's Cafe in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for 21 years
before retiring in 1984, passed away
October 8, 1986, aged 64.