Jerry Priddy was one of those 1940s-1950s players who played well enough. In two seasons with the New York Yankees, three with the Washington Senators, two with the St. Louis Browns and four with the Detroit Tigers, Priddy was a steady if not spectacular performer.
Career line: G-1,296; ABs-4,720; HR-61; RBIs-541; BA-.265
But if you take a look at Priddy’s 1952 Topps baseball card #28 on this page, you would think he was one of the era’s greatest sluggers.
One of the things I most miss from baseball long ago is the on-deck hitter swinging a half- a-dozen bats as he waited his turn. When Elston Howard invented the doughnut in the 1960s, originally called an “on-deck bat weight.” I figured it was a convenient way for players to loosen up that would achieve the same results as the multi-bat system. Once the weight is removed from the bat, the lumber gets lighter so the swing can speed up—or so the thinking went.
But as recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, based on studies conducted at the University of Hawaii, a weight increase or decrease on a player’s bat between 10 percent and 13 percent will decrease bat speed from three to five miles per hour.
Physical education professor Coop DeRenne has studied the doughnut’s adverse effect on hitters for more than 20 years. DeRenne called Major League Baseball “a dinosaur sport” for refusing to recognize the value of his research. According to DeRenne, more than a dozen big league batting coaches and managers agreed that players are foolishly locked into routine and superstition—a good start but not enough to convince MLB bureaucrats.
Returning to Priddy, his post-baseball years were more interesting than his 11 year career. After he left the Tigers in 1953, Priddy spent four years in the Pacific Coast League as a player (Seattle Rainers, Sacramento Solons and San Francisco Seals) and one as a manager (Solons). Then in 1973, the FBI arrested Priddy in California on charges of trying to extort $250,000 from a steamship company by threatening to place a bomb aboard the Island Princess, one of its vessels.He was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison.
Priddy’s former teammate Phil Rizzuto later said the he could never believe “that whole extortion thing.”
That wasn’t the Gerry I knew. He was outspoken and hotheaded … but outside of baseball he was a regular guy. He knew a lot of prominent business people. It just didn’t make sense. He called me when he got out of prison and told me if he’d have to spend one more day in there he’d have been a hardened criminal.
The highlight of Priddy’s career may have come during World War II when, in Hawaii as a young private, he played alongside Joe DiMaggio for the 7th Army Air Force Flyers. Priddy also appeared in the Army-Navy Service World Series in October 1944.