ST. PETERSBURG — In April 1942, the University of Pennsylvania varsity baseball team was down in the ninth inning against Harvard when Art McQuillen came to bat. The 20-year-old Penn senior knocked one past the outfield to win the game.
The next day, the Penn Quakers were losing yet again in the ninth inning against Villanova University, a team that had bested them for the past nine years. Once again, McQuillen came to bat. And once again, he hit a home run. A day after that, McQuillen again seized a victory for his team in a game against the Navy.
The triple win garnered Mr. McQuillen national press attention. The next month he was playing first base for the New York Yankees after getting drafted to their farm team, the Amsterdam (NY) Rugmakers.
In July 1942, Mr. McQuillen helped drive a game into extra innings against the Yankees before Joe DiMaggio and the Bronx Bombers defeated the Rugmakers in the 10th.
McQuillen rarely spoke about his baseball feats. Nor did he say much about the years he spent in the Navy or as a well-known St. Petersburg businessman.
"Humble is the way," he told his youngest son, John.
Mr. McQuillen died Feb. 22 of natural causes at the Bon Secours Maria Manor rehabilitation facility. He was 90.
He was an old-time Pinellas guy — one of the people who "built up St. Pete," his son said. Mr. McQuillen hardly ever went unrecognized when he visited a local restaurant or public place.
A 1938 graduate of St. Petersburg High School, Mr. McQuillen was always known for his athleticism. Locals still talk about various baseball and fast-pitch softball games in which he played.
World War II interrupted his baseball career. Entering the Navy in 1942, Mr. McQuillen commanded landing craft during fierce battles in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and the invasion of the Philippines. After the war, he entered the reserves, continuing for 31 years before retiring as a captain.
Between playing with the Yankees and entering the service, he found time to marry his longtime sweetheart, Margaret Carey, a fellow St. Petersburg High alum. They raised four sons: Art, Laurence, Nin and John.
Others knew Mr. McQuillen through his long career as a businessman. He worked for Merrill Lynch as a financial adviser until 1982. In the 1970s, he was twice appointed to the St. Petersburg Planning Commission, at one point serving as chairman.
"He was always willing to do his duty," John McQuillen said. "Always ready to serve."
But above all other titles, the most important to him was that of a devoted Catholic. Every day, he rose at 6 a.m. to attend Mass at St. Paul's Catholic Church. He carried a Holy Card with an image of Our Lady of Lourdes in his wallet for more than 70 years. His son estimated he attended Mass at St. Paul's more than 18,000 times.
When he left Merrill Lynch, he served for 15 years as the financial adviser to the bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
"I think guys were better back then," John McQuillen said. "They were good guys. They wanted what was best for their country."
Reach Dan Sullivan at (727) 893-8321 or [email protected]