April 4, 1937|
Sand Ridge Township, Illinois
|Died: April 24, 1996
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|April 15, 1958 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 10, 1970 for the Houston Astros|
|Runs batted in||283|
Gary Merle Geiger (April 4, 1937 – April 24, 1996) was a major league outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, and Houston Astros from (1958 - 1970). He was born in Sand Ridge, Illinois. His offseason home while a major leaguer was Murphysboro, Illinois. His wife Lyn's parents were St. Louis, Missouri residents.
His career batting average was .246, with 77 home runs and 283 runs batted in. He was a weak hitter against left-handed pitching. He fielded 985, with 24 lifetime errors. He was a fast runner, once timed at 3.5 seconds from home plate to first on a bunt. Geiger ranked 8th in stolen bases in 1959 & 1961 with 9 & 16 steals respectively, but as high as 2nd in 1962 with 18 steals although he was caught 11 times. Geiger is one of three Red Sox to hit an inside-the-park grand slam home run at Fenway Park. His came in 1961. The others to accomplish the feat are Don Lenhardt (1952) and Mike Greenwell (September 1, 1990).
He was signed as an amateur free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954. Cleveland drafted him as a pitcher from the Cards' Rochester Red Wings top farm club on December 2, 1957. He was 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), but weighed only 168 lb. He liked to keep his weight between 171 & 175 lb, but was often unable to and even dropped below 135 lb following an ulcer operation. He batted left and threw right, and in July 1958 was accidentally beaned by Camilo Pascual of the Washington Senators.
Boston Red Sox (1959 - 1965)
On December 2, 1958, the Indians received Jimmy Piersall from the Red Sox for Geiger and veteran slugger Vic Wertz (no money was involved) after Geiger had hit .231 in 91 games as a 21-year-old Cleveland rookie.
In late March 1959, late in spring training, Geiger collided with teammate (shortstop) Don Buddin chasing a foul ball in left field, in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was knocked unconscious and severely bruised. But he recovered to play left field later that year.
On July 29, 1960, he was operated on for a collapsed lung at Sancta Maria Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was advised to rest fully afterwards. Doctors said Geiger would miss the remainder of the season.
In March 1961, during spring training, Geiger made a game-saving catch in Palm Springs, California for the Red Sox against the new expansion Los Angeles Angels, robbing Julio Becquér of a sure double in deep right center field in an 8–7 Boston win. Earlier in the game, he had collected three hits and scored three runs.
Batting second and playing center field on April 17, 1961, early in the regular season, he hit a game-winning home run into the Fenway Park right field bullpen in the 7th inning of a 3-2 Boston win over the Angels. But then he dropped a fly ball hit by Brooks Robinson with two outs in the 9th inning of a 5–4 Red Sox loss to the Baltimore Orioles on May 27. It should have been an easy catch, but Geiger bobbled it when he and two other Red Sox players tried to glove it. The error was the first by Boston in ten games. He had accounted for a Red Sox run in the 5th by doubling and scoring on a single by Wertz.
He broke up what might have been a second consecutive shutout by 18-year-old $125,000 bonus baby Lew Krausse Jr on June 23 with a game-winning three-run home run in the 7th inning after a walk to Pete Runnels and an error on Chuck Schilling's sacrifice bunt. Krausse had pitched a 4-0 shutout of the Angels in his major league debut for the Kansas City Athletics the week before.
Geiger and Jackie Jensen launched home runs in the late innings of a 9–4 Red Sox win over the new expansion Washington Senators on August 23. In the second game of a doubleheader Geiger pinch-hit for Carroll Hardy, connecting for a triple off Cal McLish which scored Pumpsie Green to earn Boston a split with the Chicago White Sox.
In November, it was reported that Geiger, Schilling and star pitcher Bill Monbouquette were likely to be lost to Boston for military service after Geiger had led the Red Sox with 18 home runs in 1961, but it didn't happen. (Catcher Jim Pagliaroni was 2nd with 16.)
On June 9, 1962, Geiger crashed directly into the center field wall at Fenway Park attempting to catch a Tito Francona drive as the Red Sox lost to his old team Cleveland in 13 innings. He ventured back on the dirt track and looked as if he were going to come up with the ball. He made a sudden leap for it but struck the wall, and the ball caromed back onto the field. He landed on his feet, clapped his head with his arm, sank slowly to his knees and fell flat on the ground. He was removed on a stretcher and taken to a hospital.
But on February 27, 1964, Geiger underwent surgery for a bleeding ulcer at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis after having been stricken en route to training camp. Doctors advised him to remain in the hospital for 7–10 days before returning for spring training in Arizona. He was placed on the voluntary retired list at his own request on May 13, and was expected to be sidelined for at least 40 days. He ended up taking the rest of 1964 off because of general fatigue, lack of stamina and an underweight and weakened constitution, but returned the next year.
On June 8, 1965, he sustained a triple fracture of the left hand diving for a Tom McCraw double in the 8th inning of a game won by the White Sox 7–3, after racing in from deep center field and diving for the shallow fly ball. That October, the Red Sox sold him along with seven other players to their Triple-A affiliate Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League.
Atlanta Braves (1966 - 1967), Houston Astros (1969 - 1970)
In May 1966, the newly relocated Atlanta Braves were reportedly desperate for pitchers. Geiger, Rico Carty and Gene Oliver were outfielders mentioned as possible "trade bait". But Geiger was still with the Braves on July 28, 1967 when they rose to 3rd place in the National League. Filling in for an injured Mack Jones, he was a whiz in center field with a fine catch in the 6th inning to help the Braves out of a bases-loaded jam and then, the next inning, caught a fly ball against the fence.
He overcame his pronounced fear of flying, making every trip with the teams he played with, albeit reluctantly. According to his younger sister Linda and his lifelong friend Jack Shepard (quoted in another Internet article), he did so in a way that ultimately cost him his life, by "taking a few drinks" (Linda) or "getting drunk" (Shepard) before every flight. His inability to stop drinking led to his premature death of cirrhosis at 59.
- Gary Geiger, http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/geigega01.shtml, Page 1.
- Hard-Luck Gary Geiger Sidelined, Washington Post, Times Herald, June 9, 1965, Page D2.
- Ulcer Operation Will Sideline Geiger 10 Days, The Washington Post, Times Herald, February 25, 1964, Page D2.
- Shortage Of Bat Power Hurts Flag Hopes Of Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Daily World, April 3, 1962, Page 2.
- Bob Addie's Column, Washington Post and Times Herald, May 28, 1958, Page D2.
- Red Sox, Burks Stay Hot; Rangers Top A's, September 2, 1990, Page C4.
- Orioles Draft Hamric; Churn Chosen By Red Sox, Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1957, Page C2.
- Bob Addie's Column, Washington Post and Times Herald, July 26, 1958, Page A14.
- Indians Obtain Piersall From Red Sox and Send Avila to Orioles in Trades., New York Times, December 3, 1958, Page 48.
- Piersall Goes to Indians in Wertz Trade, Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1958, Page C1.
- Gary Geiger Injured As Bosox Beat Tribe, Washington Post and Times Herald, March 31, 1959, Page A21.
- This Morning...With Shirley Povich, Washington Post and Times Herald, August 24, 1959, Page C3.
- Geiger Improved, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1960, Page G3.
- Sports Datelines, Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1960, Page C2.
- Gary Geiger Undergoes Lung Surgery, Atlanta Daily World, July 29, 1960, Page 7.
- Angels Lose To Red Sox in Ninth, 8-7, Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1961, Page C1.
- Red Sox Triumph Over Angels, 3-2, New York Times, April 18, 1961, Page 46.
- Geiger's Error Costly, New York Times, May 28, 1961, Page S2.
- Red Sox Set Back Athletics, 5-4, New York Times, June 24, 1961, Page 13.
- Red Sox Rout Senators, New York Times, August 24, 1961, Page 33.
- White Sox Split at Boston, New York Times, September 27, 1961, Page 46.
- Chief Yankee Foes Lose Top Talent, Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1961, Page C3.
- The Bull Pen, Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1962, Page B3.
- Geiger Hits Wall, Taken To Hospital, Washington Post, Times Herald, June 10, 1962, Page C2.
- Clutch Homers Salvage Split For Red Sox, Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1963, Page C4.
- Geiger Operated On for Bleeding Ulcer, February 25, 1964, Page B5.
- Reds Purchase Reliever Duren From Phillies, Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1964, Los Angeles Times, Page B7.
- Red Sox Sell Gary Geiger, Washington Post, Times Herald, October 22, 1965, Page D1.
- Let It Be War, Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1966, Page G3.
- It Only Hurts Atlanta's Aaron When He Doesn't Hit Solidly, Washington Post, Times Herald, July 29, 1967, Page E1.
- Astros 7-Run Inning Wrecks Dodgers, 7-5, Washington Post, Times Herald, April 15, 1969, Page C2.
- Wilson Leads Astros Past Padres, 4-2, Washington Post, Times Herald, June 29, 1969, Page C2.
- Astros Continue Streak, Knock Off Giants, 9-3, June 24, 1969, Page D2.
- Astros Purchase Geiger, Washington Post, Times Herald, June 27, 1970, Page E2.
- Cards Name Former Players, Washington Post, Times Herald, December 8, 1971, Page D3.
- Bob Addie's Column, Washington Post, September 2, 1959, Page C3.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Muir, Jim. "Family, community remember baseball player Gary Geiger," The Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, IL), Monday, May 1, 2006.