PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Mickey Vernon, a two-time American League batting champion with the Washington Senators and seven-time All-Star first baseman during a 20-year career in the major leagues, has died. He was 90.
Vernon died Wednesday at Riddle Memorial Hospital in Media, hospital spokeswoman Jackie Woolfall said Thursday. He had a stroke last week, according to Jim Vankoski, Vernon’s friend of 25 years.
Vernon played from 1939-43 and 1946-60 with Washington, Cleveland, the Boston Red Sox, the Milwaukee Braves and Pittsburgh, winning batting titles in 1946 and 1953. He went on to become the first manager of the expansion Senators in 1961, after the original team moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.
He was career .286 hitter and finished with 2,495 hits in 2,409 games, including 490 doubles and 120 triples. He had 172 homers and 1,311 RBIs.
As a manager, he led the Senators to a 135-227 record.
Vernon made his big league debut with the Senators in 1939, and the 21-year-old left-handed first-baseman hit .267 in 79 at-bats. He spent most of the next season in Jersey City and returned to Washington in 1941, when he began establishing himself as one of the league’s solid first basemen.
He missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons due to military service in the Navy during World War II.
When Vernon returned to baseball in 1946, he had arguably his finest season, winning his first batting title with a .353 average. He had a career-high 207 hits in 587 at-bats and finished with 51 doubles, eight triples, eight home runs and 85 RBIs.
He won his second batting title in 1953, batting .337 and edging Cleveland’s Al Rosen by .001. Vernon had 205 hits in 608 at-bats, including 43 doubles, 11 triples, 15 homers and a career-high 115 RBIs, and he finished third in MVP voting behind Rosen and Yogi Berra.
He closed out his career with the 1960 World Series champion Pirates, spending most of the season as a coach before being activated late in the season and becoming one of a few players to compete in four decades.
After his stint managing the Senators, Vernon became a coach with the Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. He also managed at the Triple-A and Double-A levels.
Vernon is among 10 players whose careers started before 1943 on a Veterans Committee ballot for induction to the Hall of Fame. Results are to be announced Dec. 8. Born April 22, 1918, in Marcus Hook, Pa., James Barton “Mickey” Vernon attended Villanova University. He returned to area after retiring from baseball and made his home there until his death.
His hometown of Marcus Hook dedicated a life-size statue of Vernon in September 2003 on the very sandlot fields he played as a child, one block from his former home. Vernon is survived by his daughter, Gay.
Funeral arrangements were pending.