Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My favorite auctioneer remembers Mickey Owen: "I guess he was some kind of celebrity."

Pepper Martin, Mickey Owen. and Lon Warneke. St. Louis Cardinals, 1939

Earlier this month, Cory deVera profiled Billy Long for an article that was published in the October 3, 2010 edition of the Springfield News-Leader.

In that story deVera recounts how Long related to her this story of how he first got involved in politics:

Auctioneer Billy Long learned back in 1964 not to take it for granted that Republicans always win in this area of the state.

At age 9, he rode his bike around handing out bumper stickers for Glen Hendricks, the Republican candidate for Greene County Sheriff, who was also the brother of a family friend.

"No way in the world was a Republican incumbent sheriff going to lose -- we are in Republican territory," recalled Long. "But what happened? He lost. Who'd he lose to? Mickey Owen."

Owen had been a professional baseball player.

"I guess he was some kind of celebrity," said Long. "He ran as a Democrat and won."
"I guess he was some kind of celebrity," said Long.

Billy, I'm throwing the BS flag on this one.

You know damned good and well who Mickey Owen was. Before I even moved to Springfield I knew who Mickey Owen was and what he was famous (or infamous-depending on your pov) for.

Every kid in Springfield knew Mickey Owen. Well, correct me on this one, apparently every kid in Springfield SAVE one knew who Mickey Owen was.

I find it as hard to believe that Long didn't know who Mickey Owen was as I do that Long didn't know what kind of parties went on at the Metropolitan Grill.

During his tenure as Greene County Sheriff, Mickey Owen bought non-operative automobiles, painted them in Greene County Sheriff's department colors, and parked them at various places in the county as a deterent to speeders and scoff-laws.

Anyone else remember that? I specifically remember one car was a 1956 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.

For someone who claims he was involved in politics since a young age, I find it difficult to believe that Long guessed Owen was "some kind of celebrity."

Apparently the reporter didn't know who Mickey Owen was either. If she had, she could have called him out on his statement. But that is to be expected when the local papers have reporters who have no sense of local history.

But I ain't gonna go down that street.

It just seems to me that Long is so used to bull sh*tting people at his auctions that he thinks he can do the same if he gets elected to congress.

I think Vance Randolph was speaking of the ilks of Billy when he said, "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."

When Owen died in 2005, the New York Times' Richard Goldstein wrote this story:
Mickey Owen, the Brooklyn Dodger catcher remembered for a misadventure in the 1941 World Series that propelled the Yankees to the championship and overshadowed his All-Star career, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Mount Vernon, Mo. He was 89.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, his son, Charles, said.

Owen played for 13 seasons in the major leagues and was an outstanding catcher with a strong, accurate arm. But he has been linked in baseball history with figures like Fred Merkle, Ralph Branca and Bill Buckner, all outstanding players defined by a single moment of misfortune.

On the afternoon of Oct. 5, 1941, the Yankees were trailing the Dodgers, 4-3, at Ebbets Field in Game 4 of the World Series and were down to their final out with Brooklyn about to tie the Series at two games apiece. Tommy Henrich, the Yankees' star outfielder, was at the plate facing the ace reliever Hugh Casey, with nobody on base and a full count.

Casey threw a pitch that broke sharply, and Henrich swung and missed. The home-plate umpire, Larry Goetz, signaled a strikeout and the game was seemingly over.

But the pitch hit the heel of Owen's glove and skipped away for a passed ball. As Owen chased the ball near the Dodgers' dugout, Henrich raced to first base. Joe DiMaggio followed with a single to left, then Charlie Keller hit a ball high off the right-field screen, scoring Henrich and DiMaggio and giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead.

After Bill Dickey walked, Joe Gordon doubled to make the score 7-4. The Dodgers went down quickly in the ninth, and the Yankees had a lead of three games to one. They captured the World Series the next day, inspiring the enduring headline in The Brooklyn Eagle, "Wait Till Next Year."

Vindication was a long time coming for the Dodgers, who lost to the Yankees four more times in the World Series before defeating them in 1955 for their only championship in Brooklyn.

Owen dismissed speculation that Casey's fateful delivery was a spitball.

"Casey had two kinds of curveballs," he told Dave Anderson of The New York Times in 1988. "One was an overhand curve that broke big. The other one was like a slider, it broke sharp and quick. But we had the same sign for either one. He just threw whichever one was working best. When we got to 3 and 2 on Tommy, I called for the curveball. I was looking for the quick curve he had been throwing all along. But he threw the overhand curve, and it really broke big, in and down. Tommy missed it by six inches."

As Henrich remembered the moment: "As soon as I missed it, I looked around to see where the ball was. It fooled me so much, I figured maybe it fooled Mickey, too. And it did."

Owen feared he would be a pariah for Brooklyn fans, but he was evidently forgiven. "I got about 4,000 wires and letters," he told W. C. Heinz in The Saturday Evening Post on the 25th anniversary of the passed ball. "I had offers of jobs and proposals of marriage. Some girls sent their pictures in bathing suits, and my wife tore them up."

Arnold Malcolm Owen, a native of Nixa, Mo., made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937 and was traded to the Dodgers before the 1941 season. He handled 476 consecutive chances without an error in 1941, setting a single-season National League record for catchers, and he was an All-Star for four consecutive years before entering the Navy early in 1945.

After leaving military service, Owen jumped to the Mexican League in 1946 and was among more than a dozen major leaguers suspended from organized baseball until 1949 for doing so. He later played for the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox and had a career batting average of .255.

After his playing days, he founded the Mickey Owen Baseball School in Miller, Mo., and served as sheriff of Greene County in Missouri.

In addition to Charles Owen, of Mount Vernon, Mo., he is survived by three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Gloria, died in 1994.

Owen maintained that he was not bothered by the barbs over his World Series miscue. As he put it long afterward, "I would've been completely forgotten if I hadn't missed that pitch."
Billy Long, I call on you to apologize to Mickey Owen fans everywhere. Your statement that you "guess he was some kind of celebrity" denigrates the memory of Mickey Owen. My little brothers Ed and John attended Mickey Owen's baseball camp in Miller and have great memories of the catcher and sheriff. They didn't have to 'guess' he was some kind of celebrity, they knew he was.

"I guess he was some kind of celebrity." You can bet he was!

btw- I see from your twitter posts, Auctnr1 aka BillyisFEDUP, that you started your education tour today. Did you tell the schools you were visiting that you want to abolish the Department of Education?

Or did that slip your mind like you forgot to tell the farmers who came to your farm tour you want to eliminate farm subsidies?

Oh Billy, Billy, Billy. You had such promise when this picture was taken of you with Chula and Little Bear. Look, you've got your pistol on your hip. Ahh. (Who were you channeling then? Wild Bill or Jingles?).(photo courtesy Billy Long)

Look at you now. What happened? (TFJ photo Natalie Preston)


Anonymous said...

Uncle Mic wouldn't wipe his ass (or his feet) with the likes of Billy Long. He put better men than BL behind bars.

Anonymous said...

as an 8 year old raised in Greene County and Lawrence County, I knew who Mickey Owen was because He WAS an outstanding man....his baseball career only made him famous...makes me wonder what kind of person, especially a young boy raised during that era, who doesn't know his local history can be....
"some kind of celebrity"????
what an insult to a culture!!!!
what an insult to a heritage!!!!
no wonder Billy is doing it wrong.
who is he trying to impress with his false ignorance????
comes across to me as just another fat man with no dicipline, can't move back from the table after one serving so he keeps eating, trying to impress people better than he is...oh, been to the circus's the CLOWNS are mostly fat big mouthed men that can't get a real job...
Come on're doing it wrong....

Anonymous said...

I can remember my folks talking about Sheriff Owen and the painted cars. It only took about a week for the drivers to figure what was happening and zoom-zoom-zoom; back to the races.

Mickey used to come to the old store in Cave Springs and would buy a soda pop for the kids.

My folks were Republicans but they always scratched his name for Sheriff. One of his deputies was Helen Farmer who handled gun permits. Another was George Wester who had Blood Hounds that were used throughout Missouri on man hunts and to find lost people.