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Bunny Mick

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Malcolm F. Mick

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[edit] Biographical Information

Bunny Mick played for nine years in the minor leagues for the New York Yankees organization from 1946 and 1954. A World War II veteran, he spent parts of three seasons in AAA, but never made it to the majors having been blocked by Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. He managed in the minors and was a specialty hitting instructor at the end of his playing career.

Mick hit over .300 eight times and was a Most Valuable Player of the Canadian-American League in one season. He was such a popular player for the Rugmakers of Amsterdam, NY that David Pietrusza wrote in Baseball's Canadian-American League (1990): "To this day in Amsterdam, if you say the word 'Rugmakers' people will respond in some Rorschach test-type reflext: 'Bunny Mick.'"

Mick got his nickname because his mother thought he wiggled his nose like a rabbit when he was a baby. In high school when the United States entered into World War II in December 1941, Bunny enlisted in the military on December 27, 1942 after a term of college. While in the service the Yankees scouted him and he was signed by Frank Lane to a contract within a month of his release from the military on the first of December, 1945. He was signed following a tryout under Paul Krichell, which Mick bicycled 21 miles from Tampa to St. Petersburg, FL to attend the session.

Mick began his baseball career in 1946 with the Norfolk Tars of the Class B Piedmont League. In his brief ten-game stint with the club he batted .172/~.294/.207. In mid-May, he was sent to the Yankee's Class C Can-Am League Amsterdam affiliate. As a Rugmaker, Bunny hit .299/~.465/.402 and led the league in walks (130) and runs (115) and tied for third in steals (33). He also tied for second among outfielders with 17 assists. He was possibly second in the CAL in OBP. Also during the year he completed his studies at the University of Tampa.

Mick either hurt his arm playing college basketball or during a 1947 exhibition against the Yankees (having told both versions of the story) and never was able to throw all the way to home plate as a result. In 1947, he once again began the season with the Tars. After six-weeks, Bunny was batting .252 with 1 HR and 8 RBI, but then Amsterdam needed an outfielder. The Rugmakers contacted the Yankees front office, which said Mick was available, but had a sore arm. Nevertheless, they said to send him up to the Mohawk Valley anyway. Back in New York, Bunny batted .357 to lead the league, and hit a career-high 12 home runs to place second on the leader-boards. He stole 31 bases, scored 98 runs - both fourth in the league. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player by winning seventeen "Star of the Day," two "Star of the Week," and one "Star of the Month" honors. Bunny bested runner-up Wade Tate of the Pittsfield Electrics by two daily awards and a single weekly award.

In 1948, Mick was promoted to the Triple-A Kansas City Blues in the American Association to start the season. He was batting .152 in mid-May when he was demoted to the Class A Eastern League's Binghamton Triplets. Over the remainder of the season, Bunny played in 82 games for the Triplets hitting .274/~.273/.228. He had 81 hits in 296 at-bats, with 12 doubles and 2 triples. He also had a 10/59 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 44 runs scored, 14 runs batted in, and six stolen bases. He was also Binghamton's top fielder in the outfield with a .975 fielding percentage.

Mick hit .200 in a brief time with Binghamton to start the 1949 season, but was soon sent down to the Belleville Stags of the Class D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. He won another batting title, with a .354 mark, and managed the Stags for a stint starting on June 15. Mick replaced Joe Yurkovich who had taken over the team for Les Mueller - Addie Nesbit would soon become the team's fourth manager of the year.

In 1950, Mick was first baseman and manager of the Independence Yankees in the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League until August 4 when he was promoted to Kansas City. He hit .320/~.451/.397 and finished with an average .0001 behind league leader Stan Gwinn and also scored 76 runs in 85 games. Bones Sanders became the Yankees manager when Bunny went up to AAA; with the Blues he hit a solid .305/~.406/.381 in 38 games.

Mick was again a player-manager in 1951, whis time with the Ohio-Indiana League's Newark Yankees. He batted .340/~.515/.445 to lead the club's offense. In his last look at AAA, he went 2-for-4 in 5 games for the Syracuse Chiefs. Bunny was in the now familiar player-manager capacity in 1952 with the Olean Yankees. He hit .307/~.472/.433, stole 35 bases in 40 tries, drew 120 walks while striking out only 22 times and scored 97 runs in 118 games. He was third in the PONY League in runs and tied for fourth in steals; the leader in both was Maury Wills (108 R, 54 SB). He was also third in walks and near the top of the OBP leader-board. His .992 fielding percentage at first led all players with sixty or more games there.

The minor league veteran was player-manager of the 1953 Joplin Miners of the Western Association. In reduced playing time, Mick hit .246/~.476/.269, as drawing walks remained his main ability. He concluded his career in 1954, as player-manager of the McAlester Rockets in the Sooner State League, batting .327 with 8 HR and a career-high 77 RBI.

After the 1954 season, Mick headed an ownership group that sought to bring a Florida State League franchise to Tampa, FL. The city was without a team after the Florida International League folded. On March 21, it was announced that the group's bid had been approved (along with one from Sanford). Mick was the likely appointee to manager. However with the season starting on April 13 and without a working agreement with a major league club the bid was withdrawn at the start of April with the franchise going to the West Palm Beach.

Mick was out of baseball for the next two decades. From 1967 to 1971, he was the Sports Director of Florida under Governor Claude Kirk. He returned to baseball in the late 1970s as a bunting and special batting coach for the Houston Astros under Bill Virdon until 1982.

In 1989, Bunny was hired by the St. Louis Cardinals to teach their lead-off hitter Vince Coleman how to bunt better and be more selective. The speedster didn't have a bunt single until his fourteenth hit of the exhibition schedule, including four doubles and three triples. At the end of June, with Coleman in a 0-for-16 slump, Mick returned to give him a refresher course. In the first two games he attended, the Cardinal went 3-for-6 with three walks. Micks returned to the Astros later in the season as a specialty coach under Art Howe, who he had coached in his previous stint with the Houston club. He remained with the team until Howe was fired in 1993.

Mick retired to Keystone, FL after and bought a house on a lake where he fished and helped maintain a Boy Scout Camp that was on the north border of his property. His brother, Mitchell, was the owner of the Florida State League's Tampa Tarpons from 1966 to 1988. Bunny died on September 14, 2005 at the age of 82. He was survived by his two daughters and brother.

Sources: 1947, 1951-1955 Baseball Guides, Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database, Baseball's Canadian-American League by David Pietrusza, The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright, The Sporting News, Oral history from USF website, Rootsweb.com

[edit] Year-by-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs notes
1949 Belleville Stags Mississippi-Ohio Valley League 6th New York Yankees replaced Addie Nesbit June 15
1950 Independence Yankees Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League -- New York Yankees -- replaced by Bones Sanders August 5
1951 Newark Yankees Ohio-Indiana League 49-31 -- New York Yankees Team won 1st half, then withdrew July 17
1952 Olean Yankees PONY League 70-55 3rd New York Yankees Lost in 1st round
1953 Joplin Miners Western Association 71-68 4th New York Yankees Lost in 1st round
1954 McAlester Rockets Sooner State League 76-64 3rd New York Yankees Lost in 1st round

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