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Hartselle Enquirer

Here's a short lesson for the youngsters

By Staff
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
In a time when it seems everyone has an excuse, it's good to remember some of those that overcame great obstacles to achieve great things.
Most of all, their dreams.
Such was the case in the early 1940's when America was at war. The military had dipped into the ranks of Major League Baseball, and seemingly cleaned out the clubhouse.
Before Jolting Joe DiMaggio left for the service, he made his last public appearance in the 1942 World Series. A series he and the Yanks lost to St. Louis and the greats like Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial.
Hank Greenburg of Detroit had been drafted into the Army in 1940, and many other careers were interrupted by service to their Country.
Others like Leo Durocher, Joe Cronin, Pepper Marin and Jimmy Foxx sought to carry on as Franklin D. Roosevelt had ordered– That the great American pastime, baseball, would be played.
During these dark days of war and rationing, with so many major league players in the service, it was difficult to field a team that measured up to the standards fans expected.
But the games had to go on, and so it did.
Of course, there was a twist here and there. Some of the "old-timers" were recalled, like Babe Herman at the age of 42, to fill the line-up.
There were a few underage appearances, also, like that of Joe Nuxall.
Nuxall pitched two-thirds of an inning for Cincinnati when he was just 15. He left with an ERA of 67.50. In all fairness to Joe, it should be noted he returned to the majors eight years later to continue a very respectable career.
Although the ranks of the majors had been severely weakened, onto the scene came a young man by the name of Pete Gray.
Pete was a shy, small-town boy who grew up playing baseball and dreaming of the majors.
An accident caused Pete to lose his right arm when he was in his teens, and along with it seemed to go his dream of playing baseball.
Sometimes it is impossible to predict one's reaction to such a tragedy, and this was the case to those who knew Pete Gray.
After a bout with depression, a bout some thought he may never recover from, determination to overcome welled within. He made up his mind that he was not only going to play the game he loved, but be the best he could be.
Sometimes it seems fate plays a greater role for those who have determination to overcome great obstacles.
This, it could be said, was the case for Pete.
With the war raging and major leagues looking high and low for quality talent, Pete got his chance to be the best.
In 1945, Pete appeared in 77 games for the St. Louis Browns, playing outfield with his glove on his one arm, running down fly balls, catching them in his glove, instantly tossing the ball in the air, slinging off the glove, catching the ball in mid-air and throwing runners out at home plate. It truly was a sight to see.
A man no one would have given a chance of playing Major League Baseball, overcoming not just a handicap, but conquering a mountain to play the game he loved.
*Jim Grammer contributes a weekly column for The Hartselle Enquirer. If you have a comment, call 773-6566.

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