May 4, 2015

Former Italian / American World War II Hero: Mickey Grasso (19465/ 1950-1955)

Newton Michael Grasso was born on May 10th, 1920 in Newark New Jersey. At the age of 21 he was signed by the New York Giants by former player Goose Goslin. Grasso originally a second baseman, was then converted into a catchers position.

When World War II broke out he reported to Fort Dix, New Jersey, soon getting sent to North Africa the next year. He worked his way up to making sergeant. His infantry was captured by the Germans troops & Grasso became a Prisoner of War. He remained in German custody for four years, attempting to escape three times. He was caught & then beaten after each attempt. To keep themselves entertained he & his fellow POWs invented a baseball game they played with playing cards.

By 1945 the Germans were losing the war & their resistance was falling apart. Grasso & nine of his fellow prisoners finally escaped successfully. Although they had met up with German soldiers during their escape, one of the POWs spoke German & tricked them into believing they were working detail. Eventually they met up with an America G.I. Unit who fed them & informed them thatthe War was almost over. Grasso had lost sixty pounds at the time but regained his strength upon coming home to made it back to baseball.

In 1946 he was assigned near his hometown with the AAA Jersey City Giants team. He batted .228 there, but that September he got a chance to start behind the plate in the big leagues.

He made his MLB debut on September 18th at the Polo Grounds catching Giants pitcher Marv Grissom. Grasso went 0-4 that day. He would play in just seven games with the Giants, going 3-22 (.136 average). He spent the next season back at AAA Jersey City, eventually getting a large contract to play in the Pacific Coast League with Seattle.

He became the PCL’s best defensive catcher and was very popular with fans due to his friendly personality. The one problem he had was with umpires. He said he hated them because they reminded him of German prison guards. He would constantly pick fights with them & was ejected some 23 times in two seasons with Seattle.

By 1950 he was back in the majors playing for the Washington Senators. In 1951 he hit a HR in the American League's Opening Day night game. It was just one of three HRs he hit in 228 games as a Senator. That ’51 season he played in a career high 115 games, batting just .216. He led all AL catchers in errors (17) but threw out 43% of would be base stealers. In his career with his strong arm, he nailed 46% of runners trying to steal on him.

In 1954 he would get traded to the Cleveland Indians but broke his ankle. He played in just four games on an A.L. Champion Indians team that won 111 games. He made one appearance in the World Series against the New York Giants. In his final season he played in eight games back with, the New York Giants.

In his seven season career he batted, 226 with 216 hits 5 HRs & 87 RBIs. Grasso retired to Miami Beach, Florida passing away at age 57 in 1975.

No comments: