Michael Arthur Degerick was a teen pitcher for the Chicago White Sox in the early 1960s whose career was cut short by a line drive while pitching batting practice.
Born 01 April 1943 to Art and Pauline (Bylant) Degerick, it was his father, a semi-professional pitcher, who taught Mike to pitch – including showing him how to properly throw a curve ball at the age of 11. “The right way is breaking the wrist and not bending the elbow,” the elder Degerick explained. In addition to pitching for his school, Degerick was a regular in American Legion and Connie Mack tournament baseball programs.
At Teaneck High School, Mike DeGerick went 12 – 2, including a no-hitter in a county tournament (his second no-hitter of the season), striking out 127 batters in 95 innings in his junior year. He might have been better as a senior, but didn’t get the offensive support (he had an 0.49 ERA). Based on his play, he was offered a scholarship to attend Duke University – both as a student AND as a baseball player.
The White Sox, led by scout Morris “Dutch” Deutsch, signed DeGerick out of high school, giving him a bonus “in excess of$50,000” and was dispatched to Class D Harlan (KY) in the Appalachian League. In his first start there, the Harlan Smokies pitcher fanned 17 Kingsport Pirate batters. After four starts, he was deemed ready to try pitching in A Level Charleston of the South Atlantic Leauge, but before he left he tossed a no-hitter against the Morristown Cubs, striking out a dozen hitters. By the end of August, Degerick was called to the major leagues by the Sox. Among those who got a September call included Herb Score, Gary Peters and Joel Horlen. He made his major league debut on Labor Day – and then enrolled for classes at Duke University. (He didn’t go – he played winter ball instead.)
Art Degerick (L) and Morris “Dutch” Deutsch (R) smile with Mike Degerick as Mike signs his first professional contract out of high school.
When he went to spring training in 1962, the still 18-year-old pitcher was put under the wing of the oldest player still hurling – Early Wynn. Dispatched to Savannah, he and Dave Debusschere tossed one-hitters to beat Asheville in the same doubleheader on 07 August 1962. Degerick followed up his 9 – 2 record in Harlan with a 12 – 8 record with a fine 2.89 ERA in his second professional season. Score, DeBusschere, J.C. Martin, Ken Berry, Gary Peters and Degerick got called up to the majors for September of that season. For the second straight fall, he appeared in just a single game for the White Sox, though this time he held his opponent scoreless.
Early Wynn (R) with teen prospects Degerick (L) and Steve Selsky.
After spring training in 1963, Degerick was dispatched to Indianapolis – one of many young starters who didn’t make the White Sox major league roster. (Another was Dennis McLain, who was sold to Detroit for the waiver price of $25,000.) From Indianapolis, he was sent to Lynchburg, VA.
White Sox manager Al Lopez was happy with the way Degerick pitched but said he was sent to the minors to work on a couple of flaws. First, he didn’t hold runners on first base very well. And, he wasn’t necessarily very good at fielding his position. Lopez said, “When Mike joined us out of high school, he would drop his arms to his sides after delivering. We worked hard with him, but these are faults difficult to break after it becomes a habit.” Lopez would say this after Degerick’s season would end abruptly.
Each time Degerick was called up to the majors, he was called up alongside Herb Score. He and Score have something else in common. Degerick was tossing batting practice on 12 April 1963 when a line drive off the bat of Billy Davidson hit Degerick behind the left temple, leaving a half-inch dent in Degerick’s skull. According to those who saw it, Degereck “had no chance to deflect the drive with his glove…” He was immediately taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where surgery was performed to help repair the damage. He quickly recovered enough to respond to questions, but it was obvious that his season was over.
To Degerick’s credit – he didn’t quit. He returned to work through spring training with the White Sox minor league program in 1964. He then pitched three games in relief for Sarasota and Clinton that season. In 1.2 innings, he allowed two hits and six walks. He allowed five runs, three earned, and his career ended. His life didn’t however. He’d play catch with his friends while completing a business management degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He was already married – he married Joan Jalbert, his high school sweetheart, before spring training in 1962 and they had four children. He became the freshman baseball coach at Fairleigh Dickenson by 1968, then after college became a respiratory therapist in Livingston, New Jersey. He later remarried Elizabeth Odeven in 1974.
New Jersey Marriage Index
US Baseball Questionnaire, 1964.
Fein, Jack. “Degerick Tosses 2-0 No-Hit Game”, Hackensack Record, 06 May 1960, Page 5
Kurland, Bob. “Degerick Blanks Hackensack, 1-0”, Hackensack Record, 1961, Page 36.
Newman, Rudy. “Degerick Signs With Chisox, Receives $50,000 Plus Bonus”, Hackensack Record, 24 June 1961, Page 11. (Also Hackensack Photo of Signing.)
“Degerick Gets Bonus”, Bridgewater Courier-News, 24 June 1961, Page 15.
“Kingsport Loses, 7 – 2, at Harlan”, Kingsport Times, 07 July 1961, Page 7.
Neuman, Rudy. “High School Stars Fail to Impress At Tryouts”, Hackensack Record, 10 July 1961, Page 28.
Degerick Ready For Promotion to Sally Loop”, Hackensack Record, 29 July 1961, Page 9.
“Mike Degerick No-Hits Cubs”, 26 August 1961, Kingsport News, Page 6.
“White Sox Recall Score, 4 Others”, Fort Myers News-Press, 31 August 1961, Page 31.
Hengen, Bill. “ChiSox Student Passes Test on Way to Duke”, Minneapolis Star, 05 September 1961, Page 36.
Photo from 1962 with Early Winn was a UPI photo appearing in the Ottawa Citzen on 27 February 1962, Page 11.
(Mike Degerick with Early Wynn and Steve Selsky)
“Chisox Sign Talent for Farm Affiliates”, Wilmington Morning News, 26 October 1961, Page 38.
“Tourists Victims of 2 One-Hitters, 6-0, 2-0”, Ashville Citizen-Times, 08 August 1962, Page 14.
“Sox Recall Herb Score and 13 Others”, Chicago Tribune, 30 August 1962, Page F-2.
“White Sox Drop 7 To Reach 28 Limit”, Baltimore Sun, 09 April 1963, Page 22.
“Teaneck Ballplayer Injured in Florida”, Hackensack Record, 12 April 1963, Page 2.
“Bad Habit Leaves Degerick Open for Skull Fracture”, Casper Morning Star, 12 April 1963, Page 14.
Delliquanti, Don. “Days As Player Over at 23 For Teaneck’s Mike Degerick”, Hackensack Record, 15 July 1966, Page 24.
Marmo Ben. “Strictly Local”, Paterson News, 17 April 1968, Page 51.
Rowe, John. “Former stars’ dreams have faded”, Hackensack Record, 28 July 1974, Page C7. (Photo of Degerick with Sox on this same page.)
“Best of the Century”, Hackensack Record, 03 January 2000, Page 43 (discusses local high school baseball legends).