James B “Mickey” Vernon was
born on April 22, 1918 in Marcus Hook,
Pennsylvania. He attended
Villanova University before signing with Easton of the Eastern Shore League in 1937.
The 6-foot-2, left-handed hitting first baseman batted .287 his
rookie year with 10 home runs in 87 games.
He played for
of the South Atlantic League in 1938 and batted .328, moving up to Springfield of the Class A
Eastern League in 1939. Batting .343 by July of that year, Vernon was called up by the Senators and made
his major league debut on July 8.
played 76 games for the Senators in 1939 and batted .257. He played
for Jersey City of the
International League in 1940, and joined the Senators as their
starting first baseman in 1941.
On October 16, 1943,
was inducted into the Navy at Sampson Naval Training Station in New York. He was at
Norfolk Naval Air Station, Virginia, in 1944 where he regularly
played ball. Vernon arrived in
in October 1944. On the voyage to
Honolulu, he was sick and so weak he couldn't
shave. So he let his beard grow and his teammates took to calling
him "Abe". Vernon
took part in the Navy’s Western Pacific Tour, playing for the Fifth
Fleet team at islands including Kwajalein, Saipan and
Guam. Following the tour, he was sent to Ulithi Atoll,
where he refereed basketball and umpired softball games.
was discharged from service on October 4, 1945, and returned to the
game in style the following season. He led all American League
batters with a .353 average and made the first of seven all-star
selections. Vernon played in the major leagues until 1960
with the Senators, Indians, Red Sox, Braves and Pirates. He was the
American League batting champion for the second time in 1953 when,
aged 35, he hit .337.
In 1961, one year after he retired as a player, Vernon was given the job of
managing the expansion Senators in their first year of existence. He
also served as a coach for the Pirates, Cardinals and Yankees,
managed at Triple-A and Double-A levels in the minor leagues, and
served as a batting instructor in the Yankees' farm system before
retiring from baseball.
On September 20, 2003, Vernon’s
hometown of Marcus Hook honored their hero by unveiling a life-size
statue of him at renamed