St. Louis Browns’ outfielder Pete Gray played one season in the major leagues. He batted .218, had a .259 on base average, and slugged a mere .261, in 1945, but Pete Gray might have been the most unique individual to have ever donned a uniform.
Pete Gray didn’t have a right arm.
When he was 12 years, Pete, who was a promising young athlete, slipped while doing farm work. He fell of the running board of his father’s pickup truck, which ran over his right arm, completely crushing it. The arm was amputated at the shoulder.
Pete Gray would not give in. He learned to catch and throw with his left hand,
After catching a fly ball, Gray would tuck his glove under his stump, roll the ball across his chest, and throw, all in one fluid motion. It was an amazing feat.
Professional baseball ranks were depleted during World War II, which worked to Pete’s advantage.
In 1944, Pete played for Memphis of the Southern Association. All he did was hit .333 and steal 68 bases, which tied the league record. He was named the league’s MVP and was honored as professional sports most courageous athlete by the Philadelphia sportswriters.
Opponents treated Gray as they would any other adversary once they realized that he was a force to be reckoned with.
Pitchers in the Southern Association were timid about throwing to Pete, who batted leadoff. Finally, one manager ordered his pitchers “to loosen him up.” Pete was brushed back, an act which delighted him. Gray not only didn’t want any favors – he resented them.
Following the 1944 season, the American League champion St. Louis Browns purchased Gray’s contract from Memphis.
He played both center field and left field during the 1945 season, but it didn’t take long for pitchers to realize that Gray couldn’t hit a breaking pitch because once he started his swing, he couldn’t check it without a second arm.
In 1946, the players returned and Gray was sent to the minors, where he played until the early 1950s.
It is too bad that Pete Gray isn’t eligible for the Hall of Fame since he didn’t play the necessary 10 seasons in the majors, but Pete Gray exceeds one of the most important of all voting guidelines.
“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Pete Gray at Baseball Library
To Honor Pete Gray. (1945, January 22). New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 13. Retrieved September 9, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 88184321).
Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. By ARTHUR DALEY. (1945, May 27). Sports of the Times :Gray Eagle Handy Man Retort Discourteous. New York Times (1923-Current file),38. Retrieved September 9, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 94853461).