An All Star for the White Sox as a 25-year old in 1937, Monty Stratton was on the brink of establishing himself as a top-flight starting pitcher. The AL leader in walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) in 1937, he followed that up with a 15-win campaign in 1938.
An offseason hunting accident forced doctors to amputate his right leg. The baseball world rallied behind him.
While Stratton was recovering, White Sox owner J. Louis Comiskey offered him a permanent position with the team. In April of 1939 White Sox and Cubs played an exhibition game with proceeds going directly to the amputee. The game netted Stratton more than $29,000, a sum that translates into more than a half-million dollars today.
Stratton battled back onto the baseball field and eventually pitched again in the minor leagues. His courageous story captivated the country’s attention. In 1948 while the hurler was still active, MGM Studios produced a full-length feature film.
Stratton hand picked Jimmy Stewart to portray him in the 1949 Academy Award winning film, “The Stratton Story”
. The love story was based on the pitcher’s life, centering around his relationship with his wife.
Shot in Chicago’s Comiskey Park, and the PCL’s Gilmore Field and Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, the production featured former Major Leaguers Jimmie Dykes, Gene Beardon, Merv Shea, and Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey. The film was a box-office success, earning more than $1 million in profit. During the Oscars it won the Academy Award for best writing in a Motion Picture Story.
Stratton continued to pitch professionally past his 41st birthday in 1953. He retired from baseball and moved back to his native Texas where he lived out the rest of his days.
Stratton was a willing signer through the mail for autograph collectors. Though examples of his autograph are plentiful, the one shown above is quite desirable.
Here’s the backstory: In 1909 Louis Heilbroner founded Heilbroner’s Baseball Bureau Service, the first commercial statistical bureau dedicated entirely to baseball. Heilbroner gathered biographical information on players using 3×5 cards. This is one such card.
Stratton filled out and signed this before the lanky right-hander threw his first big league pitch in 1934. The front of this card shows Stratton’s birthplace, height, and weight and his preference of pitching and hitting from the right side. The former All Star Stratton has neatly signed the bottom of the card.