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Lot # 1208 (of 1560)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1945 St. Louis Browns Game-Used Cap Attributed to Pete Gray

Starting Bid - $1,000, Sold For - $1,880

Outfielder Pete Gray was one of the most remarkable and inspiring players to ever take the field. He played just one season in the Major Leagues (1945, following being named the 1944 Southern League's Most Valuable Player) and batted .218 with no home runs and 13 RBI. While those numbers at a glance may not seem that impressive, they are actually quite extraordinary given the fact that Pete Gray operated at a distinct disadvantage to other players: He had just one arm. He was, and still is, the only one-armed player in Major League history. His story is more than just an unusual footnote in baseball history; it is an inspiring story of triumph of the human spirit. Youngsters with various handicaps and disabled servicemen returning from World War II (many of whom were amputees) found great inspiration in Pete Gray's success. When Pete Gray took the field, he set an example and gave hope. When he was not playing, he was visiting army hospitals and rehabilitation centers, speaking with handicapped youngsters and soldiers, and reassuring them that they too could lead productive lives.

The offered St. Louis Browns cap, which we fully attributed to Pete Gray, was originally acquired in 1969 by a young boy named Stephen Humanik, who was a neighbor of Gray's in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania (Gray lived in Nanticoke his entire life). Humanik has provided a one-page typed-signed notarized letter, dated 3/27/06, in which he details how he came to acquire it. It reads in part:

This story is about when Pete Gray gave me his baseball cap after a little league baseball game in around 1969. My baseball team the Hanover Yankees was based in Hanover Section of Nanticoke and sometimes Pete Gray attended games since he lived there. After a baseball game one day I was in my yard ready to walk into my house when Pete Gray called out to me, "Steve! Don't run off anywhere yet!" I stopped and he came up to me in my yard; he was holding his baseball glove and wearing his cap. He showed me both of them and asked me if I have a baseball, which I did have one at the moment. He told me to throw the ball to him and then proceeded to show me how he would catch the ball with his glove, throw the ball up in the air out of the glove, shake the glove off, and then throw the ball. After about 3 tries he got it right. It was about then that the neighbor's son came out. His name was Chris Daniels and he was the son of the people we were renting from. After talking to both of us for a while Pete said that he wanted to give me his cap and give Chris his glove. He signed both of them, gave them to us, and then went on his way. I had the cap stored away ever since.

Accompanying the letter are copies of documents and photos corroborating the fact that Humanik lived in Nanticoke in 1969. The cap itself, featuring orange and brown pinstripes, is an authentic pro-model St. Louis Browns cap dating from the 1940s (this style cap was only used by the Browns between the years 1940 and 1945). Unfortunately, Gray's autograph on the front of the cap is badly faded and just barely visible. "Rawlings" is stamped into the interior leather headband, but there is no player identification in the hat. Significant wear is displayed throughout, including tears to the orange and brown pinstripes, soiling, and minor tears to the brim and headband. While there is always a leap of faith involved when attempting to attribute a Major League cap with no form of manufacturer's player identification to a specific ballplayer, we find the leap of faith regarding this cap to be negligible. This is Pete Gray's cap! The fact that we can still see traces of Gray's signature is additionally supportive, as is the narrow dating of this cap to the era when Gray played and the heavy wear. Taking all things into consideration, we have no doubt that this cap is exactly what it is purported to be: a game-used cap worn in 1945 by Pete Gray during his one full season in the Major Leagues. Very few items exist relating to Pete Gray's Major League career. His glove was donated to Cooperstown and resides in the permanent collection of the Hall of Fame. Reserve $1,000. Estimate $2,500+. SOLD FOR $1,880

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