Who was the sensation of the 1945 baseball season?
Pete Gray, the one-armed wonder of the baseball without doubt. Despite his handicap Pete had some skills no favors standing right up there with the best of them. He played two years for Memphis came to the big leagues on his own merits.
He lost his arm was lost when he was six. But, that didn’t kill his spirit nor his dreams of making it to the big leagues. 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.
In 1945, Pete Gray played in seventy-seven games for the St. Louis Browns. Most sportswriters and baseball historians credit Gray’s professional career to the fact that all the best players were serving in the U.S. military during World War II. Major league owners, therefore, were forced to hire men who were exempted from the draft such as older players, youngsters and those who received a 4-F status due to some type of disability. Some say that the St. Louis Browns bought Gray as a gate attraction or public relations ploy to divert the attention of a war-weary nation. But, you cannot deny the fact that Gray compiled his batting average of .218 and a fielding average of .959 as the only one-armed man to ever play major league baseball!
His batting average was good. Most of his hits were singles. Even when he grounds out he gets applauded to the crowds. In left field he really shines. And base runners were often weary of the speed with which he discards his glove and throws the bases. His pluck and determination is an inspiration to all.
The 1986 television movie A Winner Never Quits and the publication of a biography in 1995 renewed public interest, got positive reviews restoring a sense of integrity to his baseball career.
Gray’s exploits on field set an inspirational example for disabled servicemen returning home for 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. He used to tell them:
Boys, I can’t fight, and so there is no courage about me. Courage belongs to the battlefield, not on the baseball diamond.