Baseball has long been known as America’s pastime. And back in the 1900s, minor league baseball was in many ways even more popular than it is today.
However, it was often difficult for Americans to travel to see a major league baseball game. Most of them didn’t own a television either, which made it even tougher to watch the national pastime. Radio was a popular option, but in the end, nothing could top the feeling of being in the stands when a stolen base changed the course of a game. And if a homerun hitter was also a hometown hero, it made the moment sweeter than a bite of caramel corn.
That’s why the story of this baseball legend hits close to home.
Back in the 1940s, ExxonMobil was still known as Humble Oil in Texas. Its oil refinery was — and remains today —Baytown’s single largest employer, so it followed that the local baseball team would take the name “Humble Oilers.” While the team has long been disbanded, in 1945 it became the origin of a small-town baseball legend.
Monty Stratton was born in Texas but his mean fastball earned him a spot on the Chicago White Sox, where he threw 196 strikeouts and had a solid 3.71 ERA between 1934 and 1938.
His major league career was cut short, however, when a hunting accident led to the amputation of his right leg.
The White Sox kept Stratton on for two years as a coach, but knowing that he could no longer play, Stratton retired to his family farm in Greenville, Texas, and organized a minor league team. He missed playing though. So, with his wife’s help he developed a technique to pitch on one real leg.
It worked. So much so that Stratton made his way onto the roster of the Humble Oilers in 1945, a true achievement that showed the world he could compete on an equal footing, even with the loss of a leg.
Stratton went on to stage a comeback in the Texas minor leagues on other teams. His tale would be told in “The Stratton Story,” a successful Hollywood film starring Jimmy Stewart as Monty Stratton.
“Oilers Eliminated in Post Semi-Finals.” Humble Refinery Bee Sept. 1945: 10. Print.