The Obit For Mickey Owen

Baseball legend and long time sheriff dies


Mickey Owen had been in failing health for several years.

By: Ned Reynolds and Gene Hartley, KY3 News

SPRINGFIELD – Mickey Owen, a native of Nixa who played major league baseball and was the second longest serving sheriff in Greene County ever, died on Wednesday. He was 89 years old.

Owen lived the last years of his life in the Missouri Veterans Home in Mt. Vernon. He suffered a stroke about four years ago.

To those familiar with memorable major league moments, Owen earned a place in baseball lore for a passed ball during the 1941 World Series. Owen was catching for the Brooklyn Dodgers in game four of that series against the New York Yankees. The Yankees had a 2-games-to-1 lead but the Dodgers were leading 4-3 in the ninth inning at their home, Ebbets Field.

On a 3-2 pitch with two outs, New York’s Tommy Henrich swung and missed for the third strike and third out but Owen let the ball get by him and Henrich reached first base safely. The Yankees then scored 4 runs in that inning, won the game 7-4, and won the next game of the series to take the World Championship. The Dodgers didn’t get back to the World Series until 1947 and didn’t win the series until 1955.

Even though Owen was born in Nixa in 1916, he developed his baseball skills in California. He started his professional baseball career in 1935 with the Springfield Cardinals, then a minor league Class D affiliate, who paid him $125 a month, making him their highest paid player that season. He played 80 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937 and spent the next three full seasons in St. Louis before being traded to Brooklyn for two players and $60,000. During the 1941 National League championship season, he set a record for most errorless fielding chances by a catcher with 508 perfect attempts.

After the infamous passed ball, he played for Brooklyn until the end of the 1945 season. He then served in the Navy at the end of World War II.

When he returned, he failed to reach a contract agreement with the Dodgers and joined a few other players in the upstart Mexican League, playing for more money than their teams offered them. The Major League Baseball commissioner, in retaliation for the defections, banned the players from MLB for five seasons, a penalty that was later reduced to three years.

Owen played for the Chicago Cubs in 1949, ’50 and ’51 and finished his 13-season major league playing career with the Boston Red Sox in 1954. His career batting average was .255, with his high year being 1944 when he batted .273.

After his playing days, he worked for major league teams as a scout. He returned to the Ozarks and founded the Mickey Owen Baseball School on Route 66 near Miller in 1960. That academy 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 the end of 1980. That was the year he ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor with a highly publicized campaign in which he jogged across the state. John Pierpont won the Greene County sheriff’s race that year and went on to serve five terms in the office before losing a race for a sixth term in 2000.

Even though the passed ball was an anomaly in a fine career, Owen never shied away from talking about it. He was always gracious and a great baseball fan.

Owen is survived by a son, Charlie, and other family members. Visitation will be Friday night at Greenlawn Funeral Home South on Battlefield Road in Springfield from 6 to 8. Funeral services will be at 1 on Saturday, also at Greenlawn South.