Friday, May 28, 2010

Gray of the Browns

Pete Gray is proof that true stories are much better than fiction. Like millions of American boys, he dreamed of becoming a big-league ballplayer. That dream took a terrible blow when Pete lost his right arm in an accident. Incredibly, Pete kept playing baseball. He would catch a ball with his gloved left hand, deftly switch his glove to the stump of his right arm, then throw the ball to the infield.

During World War II, so many able-bodied young men were in the service that Pete Gray managed to make the roster of a number of minor-league teams. In early 1945, he took the field wearing the uniform of the then-American League Champion St. Louis Browns. Gray only lasted one season with the Browns, but he managed to hit .218 in spite of his seeming inability to hit a curveball.

Pete Gray’s life after baseball was no fairy tale; he struggled with alcoholism for many years. He died in 2002, at the age of 1987. However, there’s no way to calculate the value of the good he did off the field. After his playing days, he was a regular visitor to VA hospitals, where he was no doubt an inspirational character to people trying to get their lives back on track after losing a limb.

p.s. Another ballplayer who bears mentioning is Jim Abbott. Even though he was a star athlete at the University of Michigan, he was still a remarkable player. Born without a right hand, Abbott overcame infinite obstacles and accumulated 87 wins while pitching with the Angels, Yankees, White Sox and Brewers.

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