Married to the Minors—and the Mob

Promising upstart Maury Lerner watched his baseball career fizzle as he dove into organized crime
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2016 5:09 PM CDT
The Man Who Wielded a Bat for Baseball— and for the Mob
He used his bat for more than one profession.   (Getty Images)

After Maury Lerner would carry out a killing for the New England mob, he'd detail his own stats for the day, including the people he knocked off and how quickly he'd done the job. Almost like a baseball player would rattle off his RBIs and homers—which makes sense, the New York Times explains, because before his turn to organized crime, Lerner had been one of baseball's brightest future prospects. The deep dive into Lerner's life is a fascinating one, chronicling first his love for the all-American sport that earned him the nickname "Pro" at his Brookline, Mass., high school. Lerner had an unimpressive year with the Washington Senators after signing with them at 18, but after a few years in the Marines, he came back to baseball with renewed vigor, first playing for the minors with the Milwaukee Braves franchise, then for the Pittsburgh Pirates, then for the Nicaragua League, where he hit close to .400.

But along the way, something went wrong, and Lerner turned to crime. During his time playing for the Macon Peaches in 1961, a teammate says, Lerner was polite "like a priest"—but he'd often leave to tend to "personal matters," the Times notes. He was arrested for armed robbery that summer, and the spiral quickened from there, as he started to hang out with known criminals and fell under the FBI's watch. He was suspended from a Senators franchise in 1963, and that was his final affiliation with baseball. But Lerner was apparently able to wield a bat for violence as well as for sport, and his reputation soon made him a well-known hit man within the Patriarca crime family—or, as the Times calls it, the "Boston Red Sox of the underworld." Read the entire piece on Lerner, who died in 2013 at the age of 77, including how he fared in prison after his murder conviction at the age of 34. (More Longform stories.)

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