Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Mickey Owen


Date and Place of Birth: April 4, 1916 Nixa, Missouri

Died: July 13, 2005 Springfield, Missouri

Baseball Experience: Major League
Rank: Unknown
Military Unit: US Navy

Area Served: United States

Arnold M “Mickey” Owen was born on April 4, 1916 in Nixa, Missouri. He was signed by the St Louis Cardinals in 1935 and played with Springfield of the Western Association his rookie year, batting .310 with 78 RBIs in 119 games.

In 1936, Owen jumped from Class D to Class AA with Columbus of the American Association. In only his second season of professional baseball, and aged just 20, Owen batted .336 in 125 games, ensuring another leap – this time to the major leagues in 1937.

Owen made his big league debut with the Cardinals on May 2, 1937 against Chicago. As a backup to Bruce Ogrodowski, the young catcher played 80 games and batted .231. He became the Cardinals’ starting catcher the following season and remained so until he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers in December 1940.

This was the beginning of a new era for Owen. In four pre-war seasons with the Dodgers he was named to the all-star team each year and in 1941 he committed just three errors all season for a .995 average. But despite being a solid defensive catcher, Owen will always be remembered for mishandling a Hugh Casey pitch in game four of the 1941 World Series that started the Yankees on their way to a comeback victory against the Dodgers.

Owen played 24 games in 1945 before entering military service with the Navy in May. Based at Sampson Naval Training Station, New York, Owen played his first game for the Sampson team on June 10, 1945, collecting two singles, a walk and two stolen bases in helping beat Cornell University, 13-1.

On June 19, 1945, he collected three hits – half his team’s total – in leading Sampson to a 6-3 victory over the Curtiss-Wright team of Buffalo. It was Sampson’s ninth win in twelve games.

Owen was discharged from service on April 12, 1946, and expected to return to Brooklyn, but he failed to reach an agreement with the Dodgers and signed a contract to be a player-manager with Veracruz in the Mexican League. There were others several big leaguers that fled to Mexico, including Alex Carrasquel, Danny Gardella, Max Lanier, Sal Maglie, Luis Olmo and Vern Stephens, attracted by good salaries. Owen spent just one season in Mexico and batted .256 for Veracruz.

In retaliation for the defections, Commissioner Happy Chandler sought a lifetime suspension for all the players involved, but the penalty was later reduced to three years and Owen returned to organized baseball – aged 33 – with the Chiacgo Cubs in 1949. He remained with the Cubs as a backup receiver until released at the end of  1951.

In 1952, Owen played for Kansas City of the American Association and was with Norfolk of the Piedmont League in 1953. He signed as a free agent with the Boston Red Sox in 1954 and made 32 appearances as a defensive backup. Owen played his final major league game on September 11, 1954 at the age of 38.

Following his retirement as a player, Owen spent two seasons (1955-56) as a Red Sox coach and managed briefly in the minor leagues. He later worked for the Cubs as a scout before founding the Mickey Owen Baseball School near Miller, Missouri in 1959. The school still bears his name even though he sold it many years ago.

In 1964, Owen ran for Greene County sheriff and won. He also won three more elections, serving in the office until 1981. Owen ran for Lieutenant Governor of Missouri in 1980 and finished third with 13% and 79,038 votes.

Mickey Owen lived the last years of his life in the Missouri Veterans Home in Mount Vernon. He passed away on July 13, 2005 in Springfield, Missouri. He was 89.

Created May 9, 2008.

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.