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One-Armed Outfielder Gray Dies

July 01, 2002|From Associated Press

NANTICOKE, Pa. — Pete Gray, who became a major league ballplayer despite losing his right arm in a childhood accident, died Sunday. He was 87.

Gray was born with the name Peter Wyshner, but took the name Gray when he entered organized baseball. He played one season in the majors, hitting .218 in 77 games as an outfielder with the St. Louis Browns in 1945.

At the time Gray played, disabled athletes were often regarded as sideshow oddities. Frequently, there were taunts and insults. "If they insulted me, I didn't pay attention," Gray told The Citizens' Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in a 1995 interview. "I mostly kept to myself. That's why I got the reputation of being tough to get along with."

Gray was right-handed until he lost his right arm when he slipped while riding on the running board of a truck and the arm got caught in one of the wheels.

After Gray learned to throw left-handed, a cobbler made a custom glove for him, with most of the padding removed so he could hold it loosely on his fingertips. That allowed him to discard the glove quickly to field a softly hit ball with his bare hand or slide his hand fully into the fingers to catch a fly ball or field a line drive. The glove is in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.

In his season with the Browns, he had 51 hits, including six doubles and two triples. He had 13 runs batted in and struck out only 11 times.

Gray was an accomplished bunter. In order to bunt, he would plant the knob of the bat against his side, then slide his hand about a third of the way up the shaft.

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