Pete Gray

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For other people named Peter Gray, see Peter Gray (disambiguation).
Pete Gray
Left fielder
Born: (1915-03-06)March 6, 1915
Nanticoke, Pennsylvania
Died: June 30, 2002(2002-06-30) (aged 87)
Nanticoke, Pennsylvania
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 17, 1945 for the St. Louis Browns
Last MLB appearance
September 30, 1945 for the St. Louis Browns
Career statistics
Batting average .218
Home run 0
Runs batted in 13
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Notable achievements

Peter J. Gray (March 6, 1915 – June 30, 2002) was a professional baseball player best known for playing as an outfielder in the major leagues despite having lost his right arm in a childhood accident.[1]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Pete Gray was born as Peter Wyshner in the mining town of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. He was right-handed until he lost his right arm at age six, when he got into a truck accident. The arm had to be amputated above the elbow.[1] Gray's enthusiasm for baseball led him to learn to bat and field one-handed, catching the ball in his glove and then quickly removing his glove and transferring the ball to his hand in one motion.

Career[edit]

1945 Newsreel about Pete Gray

His speed and placehitting ability made him a successful minor league outfielder. Gray attained a batting average of .333 and a stolen-base record of 63; as a result, he was named the 1944 Southern Association's Most Valuable Player.

During his career, Gray played for teams including the Trois Rivières Renards of the Canadian-American League, the Memphis Chicks of the Southern Association and the Brooklyn Bushwicks.

The St. Louis Browns purchased his contract in 1945 from the Chicks. Wearing uniform number 14,[2] Gray played left and center field for the Browns. He appeared in 77 games, batting .218 with a .958 fielding percentage in center field. He played competently in the outfield, transferring the ball from glove to hand with remarkable speed.

He collected his first major league hit (a single) against the Detroit Tigers on April 17, 1945. On May 19, he played in Yankee Stadium,[3] collecting five hits and two RBI as the Browns swept the Yankees. Gray also proved himself an accomplished bunter. In order to bunt, he planted the knob of the bat against his side, and then slid his hand about one-third of the way up the shaft of the bat.

As the season progressed, it became apparent that Gray could not hit breaking pitches. Once he started his swing, he could not change his timing because he had no second hand to check the swing. Opposing pitchers discovered that fact and threw curve balls.

Gray's on-field exploits set an inspirational example for disabled servicemen returning from World War II, as was portrayed in newsreels of the period. He visited army hospitals and rehabilitation centers, speaking with amputees and reassuring them that they too could lead a productive life.

Later years and death[edit]

Gray’s major league career ended that same year when many of baseball’s stars returned from the battlefront and assumed their previous positions on the diamond. From 1946 to 1949, he played on as a journeyman minor leaguer with the Toledo Mud Hens, Elmira Pioneers and Dallas Stars. Gray returned home to Nanticoke where, although a local hero/celebrity, he struggled with gambling and alcohol, and lived in near poverty. [4]

The 1986 television-movie A Winner Never Quits, starring Keith Carradine and Mare Winningham; and the publication of Gray's biography, One-Armed Wonder: Pete Gray, Wartime Baseball, and the American Dream written by William C. Kashatus, published in 1995 by McFarland & Company, renewed public interest in Gray.

He died on June 30, 2002.[1]

Legacy[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • Bill Gilbert, They Also Served: Baseball and the Homefront (New York: Crown, 1992).
  • Richard Goldstein, Spartan Seasons: How Baseball Survived the Second World War (New York: Macmillan, 1980).
  • William C Kashatus, Baseball's One-Armed Wonder: An Interview with the Late Great, Pete Gray Pennsylvania Heritage (Spring 2003).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Goldstein, Richard (July 2, 2002). "Pete Gray, Major Leaguer With One Arm, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-21. Pete Gray, who became a major league outfielder despite the loss of his right arm in a childhood accident, appearing with the St. Louis Browns for a single season during World War II, died Sunday at a nursing home in Sheatown, Pennsylvania. He was 87. 
  2. ^ The editors of the Sporting News (1992). Baseball A Doubleheader Collection of Facts, Feats, & Firsts. St. Louis, Mo.: The Sporting News Publishing Co. ISBN 0-88365-785-6. .
  3. ^ Video: Air Forces Come Home Via Bomber, 1945/05/28 (1945). Universal Newsreel. 1945. Retrieved February 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Pete Gray Wyshner". explorepahistory.com. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 

External links[edit]