With the Little League World Series drawing to a close, this is an opportune time to look at Joey Jay’s career (99-91, 3.77 ERA). Jay was the first Little League graduate to make the majors. And, as is often the case when I do my blog research, I’m surprised about what a grand career, both before and after baseball, Jay enjoyed.
Jay was 12 years old when Little League Baseball came on the scene in his hometown Middletown, CT. Originally, Jay played first base but he soon turned to pitching and dominated his opponents through high school. More than half a dozen scouts pursued Jay before he signed a $40,000 bonus in 1953 with the Milwaukee Braves at the tender age of 17.
But according to the bonus baby rules adopted that year by Major League Baseball , which were designed to keep teams from outlandish overspending, Jay was forced to stay on the Braves’ roster even though he rarely pitched.
Jay made a few inconsequential relief appearances before manager Charlie Grimm tapped him on September 20 to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. Jay responded in a rain shortened seven inning contest with a three-hit, 3-0 shutout.
For the next several years, Jay’s Braves career was a series of ups and downs. Finally, he was traded to Cincinnati with fellow pitcher Juan Pizzaro for shortstop Roy McMillan. With the Reds, Jay blossomed into a 21 game winner (twice) under manager Fred Hutchinson. In the 1961 World Series when the Reds met the imposing New York Yankees led by Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, et al, Jay pitched the Reds to their only victory, 6-2 in the second game.
But Jay was quick to realize when his career was over. In 1966, Jay quit and never looked back. In an interview with my SABR colleague Joseph Wancho (read his outstanding biography of Jay here), Jay told of his post-baseball successes. At various times, Jay owned as many as 100 oil wells, taxi fleets, limousines and two building maintenance firms.
Jay keeps a low profile, refuses to do card shows or participate in fantasy camps and doesn’t wear his World Series rings. Jay said:
When I made the break [from baseball], it was clean and forever. It’s infantile to keep thinking about the game. It gets you nowhere. Most ex-ballplayers keep on living in some destructive fantasy world. Not me. I’m happier than ever since I left.
One last thing you should know about Jay. He doesn’t mind if you know that he resides in Florida. But Jay refuses to reveal which city he lives in.