Tag Archives: Pete Gray

A STORY FROM FEB 19 IN BASEBALL HISTORY – DIFFICULT EVEN FOR TED WILLIAMS

TODAY IN BASEBALL TAKES US TO SEOUL, KOREA FEBRUARY 19, 1953. Ted Williams told the Associated Press (AP) on this date that trying to find a target with a Marine Panther jet “is harder than trying to hit that ball.” It was difficult even for Ted Williams.

The Boston Red Sox slugger had just returned from his sixth combat mission into North Korea. He was on the second military tour of his major league career. He served three years during World War II, and two more in Korea.

Williams was not alone among major league stars to interrupt some of their most productive years to get involved when the country was at war. Detroit Tiger slugger Hank Greenberg and Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller were some of the first to enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 ushering the United States into World War II.

Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor if major league baseball should cease operations for the duration of the war and FDR said no, it would be good for morale.

While baseball continued during World War II, quality of play diminished significantly. If you were able-bodied enough to play baseball you were able-bodied enough to be drafted. Most players who hadn’t enlisted here.

By 1945, the last year of World War II, teenagers such as Joe Nuxhall of the Cincinnati Red-Legs and men with conditions which kept them out of the service, such as one-armed Pete Gray of the St. Louis Browns were filling up MLB rosters. After June, 1945 many of the players began to return from military duty, which was difficult even Ted Williams, and get back to what they knew best – baseball.

Contributing sources:
David Whitley, ESPN.com on Ted Williams
David Hornestay, Baseball Survives World War II, January 7, 2008

MAY 20 – One-armed outfielder

*1945 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURIPete Gray may have had his best day on this date in 1945. He helped the St. Louis Browns sweep a doubleheader from the New York Yankees 10-1 and 5-2. Gray had three hits and two RBI in the opener. He scored the winning run in the second game, and hauled in three great catches in the outfield. Maybe not the stuff of legend, except Pete Gray had one arm.

He was born Peter J. Wyshner in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania in 1915. He lost his right arm in a farm accident at age six. He played two solid seasons for the Class A Memphis Chicks in 1943 and ’44. The St. Louis Browns purchased his contract and brought him up to the big leagues in 1945. Gray’s major league career was just 77 games. He hit just .218 but had a .959 fielding percentage playing mostly left or center.

If not for World War II, which was still going on when the season started, when many regular players were in the military, it’s quite certain Gray would never have stepped between the lines during a major league baseball game. Still, Peter Gray made it to “The Show,” something millions can only dream about.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCE:
One-Armed Wonder: Pete Gray, Wartime Baseball, and the American Dream, by William C. Kashatus, McFarland & Company, 2001