Retelling the Monty Stratton Story

Before there was Plaxico Burress, there was Monty Franklin Pierce Stratton (man, people knew how to name their kids back in the day! See: Tenace, Fury Gene).

Once upon a time, Stratton was, seemingly, a young promising pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. An All-star, Stratton compiled a 36-23 record by the time he was 26. He completed 62 of the 70 games he started and had a 3.71 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.

He did the bulk of his work in 1937 (164.2 IPs) and 1938 (186.1 IPs). In ’37, Stratton posted a sparkling 2.40 ERA with a 3.77 K/9 rate and 2.02 BB/9 rate. His BABIP was .254 and his FIP was 3.39. It seems Stratton wasn’t great, just a tad lucky.

That said, in ’38, he posted a .265 BABIP, a 3.96 K/9 rate and a 2.70 BB/9 rate. His ERA was 4.01 and his FIP was 4.31. It would have been interesting to see if he was one of those guys who posted low BABIPs and beat his FIP routinely. For what it’s worth, Jimmy Dykes “foresaw unlimited possibilities” for the youngster according to Harold Sheldon’s Finishing the Stratton Story in 1949’s Baseball Digest.

Alas, everything changed for Stratton on November 27, 1938. Stratton had handled guns since he was 10 and owned five, including a .22 caliber pistol. “Monty stuck the .22 in his holster, and thought he had it on ‘safety,’ but it wasn’t, and when he pulled the gun out of the holster…it went off right away,” said his brother Hardin. There are some reports that Stratton tripped and fell and the pistol went off.

Stratton spent 30 minutes crawling toward his family home and was rushed to a hospital 10 miles away. However, they couldn’t get the bullet out, so they took him to a hospital in Dallas six hours after he was shot. Apparently, that didn’t really matter as Stratton, incredibly unluckily, completely severed the popliteal artery which is right behind the knee. The doctors had to amputate the leg.

Five months after the accident, Stratton signed a three-year coaching contract with the White Sox to throw batting practice and coach first base.

Four years after the accident, Stratton pitched in the minors. While managing the Lubbock Hubbers, Stratton sent himself to the mound in relief several times. He threw 9 innings and gave up 19 hits and 17 runs. He didn’t stay manager long.
However, four years after that, he threw 218 innings for the Sherman Twins. He posted a 4.17 ERA on a wooden leg. He pitched 103 innings the following year for the Waco Dons and would pitch intermittently until 1953 – 15 years after the accident.

All told, he threw 814 minor league innings, 388 of them were after his leg was amputated.

Forgive me if this is all old news to you because you saw the 1949 movie, which featured cameos by Dykes, Bill Dickey and Gene Bearden, but my dad was barely born then.

Stratton died on September 29, 1982, at the age of 70 – almost 6 months exactly after I was born.

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