Baseball in the 40s and Monty Stratton
We didn't have much baseball in Brownwood in the 1940s except when our local American Legion team would have a game with some guys from Brady, Bangs or places as far away as Ranger and Eastland.
We had lots of slow pitch and fast pitch softball. We had a church league for men and boys that played on the field that was where the Austin Avenue Church of Christ now stands. Right where Avenue B runs into Austin Avenue. We never had games on Wednesday night because everybody wanted to go to the church prayer meetings.
I moved away from Brownwood in 1951 but still remember the first time I left home to work and saw my first professional major leaguer. It was during the summer of 1949. I was an installer's helper with the Southwestern States Telephone Company. I worked with a fine fellow named Dehay.
We were working out of the south Texas town of Bryan and one night took in a baseball game between some semi-pro ball players. One of the pitchers had an artificial leg. I thought that pretty strange for a team to have a player with only one good leg.
The guy next to me said, "Don't you know who that pitcher is?" I admitted my ignorance. My neighbor, between bites on his huge hot dog, proceeded to tell me about this former major league all star, named Monty "Gander" Stratton. His nickname was Gander because he had a trick pitch called "the gander" during his best years.
It seems Stratton was a pretty good right-handed pitcher with the Chicago White Sox from 1934 to 1938. During his career Stratton won 36 games and lost 23. He had an earned run average of 3.71. He was on the All Star team of 1937.
His major league career was tragically cut short after the 1938 season. Stratton was rabbit hunting outside of Greenville, Texas. His pistol accidentally discharged, sending a bullet into his right knee, severing the femoral artery. The leg was amputated the next day. He was only 26 but his major league career was over. Monty Stratton was born in 1912 and died in 1982
Stratton could still pitch but was unable to transfer his weight effectively to the artificial leg. After coaching for the White Sox, he was given a minor league contract and in 1946 he posted an 18-8 won-lost record in the East Texas League. Knowing these things made the ball game a great deal more interesting.
Stratton's story was made into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson that same year. Doug Morrow, who wrote the story, won an Oscar for this 1949 box office smash. "The Stratton Story" can be seen in the original black and white or in a colorized version on video. It has the usual amount of fiction Hollywood puts in all film biographies.
So being back in Brownwood has brought back many memories. The good ones are fun to share. Baseball and summer go together. Another memory of Brownwood summers half a century ago was about an American Legion baseball pitcher, a high school buddy. In those days few high schools played baseball and this Brownwod High School student was a fine pitcher. His dad had been a pretty good pitcher himself. My classmate had one strange trait: he sucked his thumb between pitches! Nuff said about that dear old friend lest someone guess who he is and I have to go into hiding.
----- June 23, 2000Previous Menu Next