Pete Gray played outfield for the St. Louis Browns for one season in 1945. Although he batted only .218 on the year, Gray remains a hero to this day and an inspiration to many because he only had one arm. Gray developed an ingenious method of catching the ball in his glove, and in one smooth motion, dropping the glove and transferring the ball to his hand to throw. At the plate, he learned to choke up on the bat and hit the ball to the opposite field. By all accounts Gray was a fine defensive outfielder with decent speed and range and a solid arm.

Although he likely only made it to the majors because of World War II and the desperation of the Browns to draw fans, Gray's remarkable accomplishment should not be diminished. He is a fine example of the idea that "You can do anything if you set your mind to it."

A Major League Baseball outfielder with the St. Louis Browns in the 1945 season despite only having one arm.

Gray, born March 6, 1915, lost his right arm just below the shoulder when he slipped off the running board of a truck and his arm got caught in one of the wheels. He was born a right-hander but taught himself how to be a left-handed baseball player. However, he spent most of his career in the minor leagues.

Except for 1945. During World War II, major-league rosters were depleted by the war effort, which allowed many minor-leaguers to earn trips to the majors. Moreover, baseball attendance was down as Americans spent less money on leisure, forcing clubs to go to extra lengths to convince fans to pay for tickets. Gray, who was obviously unfit for military service, was just the PR boost that the St. Louis Browns needed.

But Gray was not unanimously cheered (unlike golfer Casey Martin in contemporary times). This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act, and handicapped people were often looked down upon. "If they insulted me, I didn't pay attention," Gray told The Citizens' Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 1995. "I mostly kept to myself. That's why I got the reputation of being tough to get along with. But, I've mellowed."

Gray played with a specialized baseball glove made by a cobbler. It had most of the padding removed so that Gray could take it on or off quickly. In the field, Gray would only put his fingertips in the glove; if a soft line drive was hit to him, he'd drop his glove and field with his bare hands. If he needed to catch with the glove, he'd quickly transfer the glove to his right armpit while pulling the ball out with his left hand and then throw to his target. Stastically, he was a good fielder — his range factor of 2.70 was 0.43 better than the American League outfield average in 1945, though he had more errors than the average outfielder.

He was not a good hitter, however. In 234 at-bats, Gray hit .218, scoring 26 runs and driving in 13. That's not good enough to make it in the majors, and Gray returned to the minor leagues.

Gray died on June 30, 2002, at the age of 87.

Associated Press

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