Abington’s Mike Driscoll Gets His Shot at Baseball StardomBy John Galluzzo
The 1916 Philadelphia Athletics were going nowhere when Mike Driscoll of Abington stepped onto the diamond on July 6. They would end up (through no fault of Driscoll) with the weakest winning percentage in American League history, a record that has stood firm for the last century.
Michael Columbus Driscoll was born to Irish-born parents in Rockland, on October 19, 1892. Jeremiah Driscoll, his father, was first a hotel keeper and then after moving the family to North Abington, he worked in real estate. Michael Driscoll, born during the quadricentennial of the discovery of the New World, sported the explorer’s surname as his middle name.
The third of six children, Driscoll grew up tall and strong and could throw a baseball with the best of them. He attended the University of Maine, at Orono, playing for the Black Bears. When he arrived as a freshman in 1912, he focused on economics and on his new living quarters at the Theta Epsilon House. His college career would be rife with change, however. During his sophomore year, he moved into the Sigma Nu House (a fraternity known for its anti-hazing stance) and switched to the study of romance languages in his junior year. He graduated in in 1916 with a degree in French, and on Tuesday, June 13, of that year the university played Colby College in a baseball game on Alumni Field.
Ever since the Black Bears began playing baseball in 1881 (the first sport played at the school) player-coaches had run the teams. But in 1916 that changed, when the school hired its first dedicated coach, Monte Cross, who had played in the big leagues and who knew a major leaguer when he saw one. More importantly, for Driscoll’s sake, he had played for the Philadelphia Athletics and a manager named Cornelius McGillicuddy, better known as Connie Mack.
Cross brought a touch of professionalism to the Black Bears program, and led the team to a record of eight wins, four losses and two ties. (In a world before stadium lighting, sundown often halted games before they could be concluded properly on the scoreboard). Cross’ impact on the program was immediate. Within a month of graduation, three players from the 1916 team would be in the major leagues – all with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s. Third baseman Harland “Hypie” Rowe debuted at third base against the Boston Red Sox on June 23. Five days later, second baseman “Rabbit” Lawry struck out in a pinch hitting appearance during his first game, against the New York Yankees. Just over a week later, on July 6, 1916, Driscoll would get his chance.
Although the season was only a couple of months old, it was already over for the A’s. Mack’s men took the field at Philly’s Shibe Park against the Detroit Tigers with a record of 17 wins and 47 losses, dead last in the American League. The starting pitcher, Tom Sheehan, would start 17 games in 1916, and win only one. After two innings on this day, he was done. At the start of the third inning, Driscoll strolled up to the mound to make his Major League Baseball debut—100 years ago this month.
Unfortunately, Driscoll was outmatched from the start. The Tigers were led by future Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford. Cobb, in particular, feasted on young players. At that game, Cobb collected three hits in four at-bats, including two infield singles. He stole three bases and made a dramatic and demoralizing one-handed catch of a Napoleon Lajoie line drive. Driscoll pushed on for five innings, giving up six hits and five runs, though two scored as a result of fielding errors. When he left the game after the seventh inning, his team was down 8-4. He had no idea at that moment that his Major League Baseball career was over.
But so it was. Driscoll returned to the South Shore and later served with the 101st Engineers with the American Expeditionary Force in France in World War–where his bachelor’s degree certainly came in handy–got married, raised a family and passed away at Foxborough State Hospital on March 22, 1953. He never achieved superstardom on the baseball diamond, but at least he took his shot.