Look closely at the photo of the 1949 Techny baseball team and note the emblem each player sports on the shoulder of his uniform. It has a close resemblance to the Chicago White Sox emblem of the day—but it’s different.
Father Joe McDermott, SVD—now retired after 30 years on mission in Papua New Guinea and another two decades working in the development office at Divine Word College—was sports senior at the time. Among his duties were to schedule games, recruit players for the different sports teams and look after equipment.
He showed initiative. He worked with three other seminarians to make bats for the baseball team. After contacting the Louisville Slugger company to find out how to make a bat, they got permission to cut down a large ash tree on the Techny grounds, rough cut the wood and dry the four-inch-by-four-inch, six-foot-long pieces in a sub-basement.
(Back Row standing)
Fr. Joe McDermott, SVD; Fr. Robert “Bob” Stiller, SVD; Fr. Gene Sherzinger, SVD; Fr. John Donaghey, SVD; Fr. Joseph “Joe” Coyle, SVD; Fr. Lawrence “Dutchy” Thornton, SVD; Fr. Frank Bures, SVD
(Front Row kneeling)
“Stubby” Walsh; Fr. Pat Barder, SVD; Bishop Raymond “Zeke” Kalisz, SVD; Fr. Henry “Hank” Schumacher, SVD; Fr. Donald Ehr, SVD; Fr. Leon Marks, SVD; Don Day
About a year later, they took the lengths to the Techny wood shop and turned them into dozens of bats of various weights and lengths, and burned in the name “Techny Slugger.”
Then he got the idea to ask the Chicago White Sox for a donation.
“I wrote to Mrs. Grace Comiskey, owner of the Chicago White Sox, and asked her if perhaps she could send us some used baseballs and maybe some gloves,” Father Joe said. “She wrote back and said that she’d given my letter to a man named Johnny Mostil, a former baseball player, who worked in the office.”
Some months passed but eventually he got a note from Mostil, who said that the timing couldn’t be better. The team was changing uniforms and they’d be throwing away the old ones, so the Techny team could have them.
|Fr. Joe McDermott, SVD
About two weeks later, two large boxes arrived at the office of the prefect of St. Mary’s Seminary, Father John Musinsky, SVD,* who was none-too pleased with his sports senior.
“What in the name of God is this?” Father Musinsky said. When Father Joe told him about his letter to Mrs. Comisky, he was even more miffed. “You shouldn’t be doing that. You didn’t ask me about it first for permission.”
Luckily, Father Musinsky was a big sports fan. When he opened the boxes, he got an eye-opener.
“In these boxes were eighteen White Sox uniforms complete with caps, stockings, and maybe 10 bats, and about 20 balls.” Father Joe said. A note inside from Mostel said that Mrs. Comisky had told him to, “…send something to the seminarians.”
Prefect Father Musinsky soon lost his anger.
“His heart melted when he saw this stuff and he was OK with me after that,” Father Joe said.
The White Sox emblem on the shoulder—a large “S” with a small “O” and an “X” in the open loops—got the seminarian to think of an alteration. He went to Brother Egilhard in the seminary’s tailor shop and asked if he would remove the smaller letters and replace them with a “V” and a “D”, to make the emblem “SVD” on each uniform. The White Sox emblem on the caps was also switched out for a “T” for Techny.
Though they didn’t always fit the Techny players, no one was complaining. Inside the collars of the uniforms were the names of players like Luke Appling, Billy Pierce, Cass Michaels, and so many others who had gotten hits and fielded grounders on the diamonds of major league baseball.
“As a young boy, like so many others, I aspired to one day be a major leaguer,” Father Joe said. “That never came to be, but for a short time, I wore a major leaguer’s uniform.”
* In 1967, Father Musinsky became the seventh superior general of the Society of the Divine Word. He was the first American to be elected to the post, which he held for ten years.