James Barton “Mickey” Vernon who was born on April 22, 1918 in Marcus Hook, PA, made his Major League and Washington Senator debut on July 8, 1939. In his first game Vernon went 1 for 5 at the plate and played first base as the Senators beat the Philadelphia Athletics 6-3. During the rest of the ’39 season Vernon played in 76 games and ended the season with a .257 batting average. During the 1940 season Vernon only appeared in five games for the Senators and spent the rest of the season playing for Jersey City of the International League.
From 1941 to 1943 Vernon became the Senators starting first baseman. During Vernon’s first two full seasons with the Senators he became a good hitter and a very good fielder. On October 16, 1943 Vernon was inducted into the United States Navy. During the next two years Vernon spent most of his time in the South Pacific. On October 4, 1945 Vernon was discharged from the service.
During spring training in 1946 Vernon beat out Joe Kuhel for the starting first baseman position. The ’46 season turned into Vernon’s dream season as he led the American League with a .353 batting average. The next two seasons Vernon saw his batting average drop to .267 in ’47 and .242 in ’48. On December 14, 1948 the Senators trade Mickey Vernon and Early Wynn to the Cleveland Indians for Joe Haynes, Ed Klieman and Eddie Robinson.
After one and a half seasons the Indians trade Vernon back to Washington for a 23-year old pitcher named Dick Weik. After three solid seasons with the Senators Vernon found his hitting stroke again during the ’53 season as he edged out Al Rosen of the Indians .337 to .336 to win his second American League Hitting Title.
The Gentleman First Baseman will have two more very productive seasons in ’54 and ’55 with the Senators before being part of a nine player trade between Washington and Boston on November 8, 1955. The 38-year old Vernon hit for a .310 batting average in 119 games for the Red Sox in 1956. In 1957 Vernon’s numbers start to decline as he played in only 102 games and ended the season with a .241 batting average. The Red Sox let Vernon go after the ’57 season.
Mickey Vernon was picked up by the Cleveland Indians for the ’58 season where he played in 119 games and produced a .293 batting average. In 1959 the Indians traded Vernon to Milwaukee where Vernon was used sparingly. The Braves released Vernon after the ’59 season. On September 1, 1960 Vernon signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and played in what ended up being his last 9 games of his career as the Pirates released the 42-year old Vernon on September 30, 1960.
In total Mickey was selected to the all-star team seven times and still holds the major league record for the most double plays at first base (2,044). It was also known that Mickey Vernon had some very influential fans. The most influential of those fans was the 34th President of the United States of America, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
After Mickey’s playing days were over he came back to the Nation’s Capital in 1961 to manage the new Washington Senators franchise. In two plus years as the Senators manager Vernon could only win 135 of 362 games.