Thursday, August 23, 2012

Overcoming Adversity

Trivia Question: What do Monty Stratton, Rip Sewell and Catfish Hunter have in common?

Give up?

All were seriously injured in hunting accidents.

Right-hander Monty Stratton employed a trick pitch called the "gander" to assemble consecutive 15-win campaigns for the White Sox in 1937-8. While rabbit hunting in Texas during the offseason, he shot himself in the right knee and ended up losing his leg. In a 1939 charity game at Comiskey Park, he took the hill to demonstrate that he could still throw. After learning to effectively transfer his weight onto the prosthetic leg, he went 18-8 in the East Texas League during the 1946 slate. His life story became the inspiration for Sam Wood's film The Stratton Story, released in 1949 and starring Jimmy Stewart.

 Rip Sewell had just suffered through a dismal season in 1941, leading the NL with 17 losses, when he was shot in the foot during a hunting excursion in Ocala National Forest. He lost a good portion of his right toe in the mishap. The accident proved to be advantageous as it kept him out of military action and inspired him to develop a trick pitch of his own, called "the eephus" (a Hebrew word meaning 'nothing') The pitch was a blooper with backspin that sailed in a high arc on the way to the plate. It baffled hitters for several seasons and made Sewell a war-time hero with fans. The end of Sewell's dominance came in the 1946 All-Star Game when Ted Williams hit a towering homer off of an "eephus." He laughed as he rounded the bases. After winning 70 games between 1942 and '45, Sewell compiled just 33 victories in his final four seasons.

In the 1960's, Jim "Catfish" Hunter was hunting in the Carolina wetlands when his brother's shotgun discharged, hitting the future Hall of Famer in the foot. His right toe was amputated and several pellets were reportedly left behind. The injury kept the hurler from being sent to Vietnam and, despite the disfigurement, he was left without a limp. He won 224 games for the A's and Yankees between 1965 and 1979 while earning five World Series rings.

The moral of the story: Always make sure the safety's on.

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