#RIPMLB: Mickey Kreitner

Mickey Kreitner never gained fame as a Major League ballplayer. However, as a restauranteur in his hometown of Nashville, be became a beloved character in a city filled with characters.

Kreitner broke into pro baseball when he was 18, following an honorable discharge from the Army. In two seasons as a teenage minor leaguer, he didn’t do much to impress any big league team. He hit .232 with the Americus (Ga.) Pioneers in 1941 and .173 with the Nashville Volunteers the following season.

How did he end up getting signed by the Cubs? Curiosity.

According to the Long Beach Independent, Kreitner went from Nashville to Chicago one day to watch the Cubs play the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field. The Cubs General Manager, Jim Gallagher, asked Kreitner why he was there, and the youngster said he wanted to watch how big leaguers play the game.

Gallagher was so impressed by the response that he called the Vols, acquired the catcher and had Kreitner sign a contract before the end of the game. Kreitner batted .248 for the Vols that season, hit .500 in the playoffs and was a Southern League All-Star. The Cubs brought Kreitner to the Majors in September, and he got three hits in eight at bats with two RBI.

Kreitner played in 39 games for the Cubs in 1944 and hit just .153, but his fielding was quite excellent. He had a .992 fielding percentage and threw out 46% of base runners. He spent 1945 with the Los Angeles Angels, then a minor-league team, and hit a strong .277 in what ended up as his final season. Kreitner’s obit states that he was struck on the head by a baseball bat, ending his professional baseball career at the age of 22. His totals were a .172 average with two doubles and three RBI.

Following his baseball career, Kreitner returned to Nashville and got into the restaurant business. According to Bill Lee, the Baseball Undertaker, he owned and operated 39 restaurants in 43 years. In 1964, he was involved in a trial of Davidson County Sheriff Leslie Jett and denied under oath that he gave Jett protection money in exchange for leaving his mixing bar alone. Kreitner stated that his bar had been raided by Jett’s men three times and had almost driven him out of business.

Despite that brush with the law, Kreitner’s business prospered. Sports legends routinely stopped by his restaurants. His 55th birthday party included guests like Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks. On one occasion, Don Zimmer and Kreitner drank more than a few before Zim had to fly to Little Rock. Zimmer was worried about missing his flight, but Kreitner assured his friend that he’d make it. Sure enough, Kreitner got Zimmer to the airport and put him on a plane – to Louisville.

Kreitner ran the Captain’s Table on Printer’s Alley in the era before Nashville became sanitized for tourists’ protection. The Nashville Scene wrote a tribute to the street’s gritty roots, noting that you could find an upscale restaurant like the Captain’s Table right next to country music clubs and burlesque shows. Kreitner was a part of the larger-than-life group of businessmen who found the right formula for success in Music City: “a combination of fine dining, live music and artful appreciation of female flesh.”

Mickey Kreitner died on March 6, 2003 following heart surgery. He was 80 years old. He is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Nashville.


Sam Gazdziak writes about baseball-related gravesites and baseball deaths on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.