Krell: Monty Stratton, Jimmy Stewart, and Hollywood

From SABR member David Krell at The Sports Post on November 2, 2015:

When The Stratton Story premiered in 1949, movie audiences without even a tangential interest in baseball became engrossed in the story of a champion whose determination serves as a model of courage. Monty Stratton played a key role on the pitching staff of the Chicago White Sox during his brief major league career in the 1930s, but win-loss records cannot measure his contribution to baseball. After a hunting accident led to a leg amputation, Stratton emerged from physical, emotional, and mental horrors with a stunning comeback.

On November 27, 1938, Stratton injured himself while hunting for rabbits on his mother’s farm, close to Greenville, Texas. Associated Press reported that Stratton’s pistol discharged accidentally, sending a bullet into his right leg. It severed an artery, necessitating the amputation. Consequently, the Chicago White Sox presented an opportunity for lifetime employment. Team President J. Louis Comiskey said, “Monty has a job with us as long as he wants it. He was a fine pitcher and is a finer man. Baseball can’t afford to lose him.” A benefit Cubs-White Sox game raised money for the Stratton family.

Already familiar with teary subject matter in a baseball setting from directing the Lou Gehrig biopic Pride of the Yankees, Sam Wood directed The Stratton Story. Starring Jimmy Stewart in the title role and June Allyson as Stratton’s wife, Ethel, The Stratton Story received acclaim for its portrayal of Monty Stratton’s seemingly impossible rebound to the baseball diamond after the accident deflates his spirit, dimming a once shining career to darkness. Stratton’s promise evidences early in the movie, when baseball scout Barney Wile tells Stratton’s mother, “He can transform a baseball into a streak of gray lightning and curve it in like it was weaving through traffic.” Frank Morgan played Wile and Agnes Moorehead played Mrs. Stratton.

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Originally published: November 3, 2015. Last Updated: November 3, 2015.