Dick Gray

Last updated
Dick Gray
Third baseman
Born:(1931-07-11)July 11, 1931
Jefferson, Greene County, Pennsylvania
Died: July 8, 2013(2013-07-08) (aged 81)
Anaheim, California
Batted: RightThrew: Right
MLB debut
April 15, 1958, for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Last MLB appearance
May 22, 1960, for the St. Louis Cardinals
MLB statistics
Batting average .239
Home runs 12
Runs scored 43
Teams

Richard Benjamin Gray (July 11, 1931 – July 8, 2013) was an infielder in Major League Baseball, playing mainly as a third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals from 1958 through 1960. Listed at 5' 11", 165 lb., he batted and threw right handed. [1]

An infielder is a baseball player stationed at one of four defensive "infield" positions on the baseball field.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, and the oldest of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901, respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

Third baseman defensive position in baseball and softball, played on the far left end of the infield near third base

A third baseman, abbreviated 3B, is the player in baseball whose responsibility is to defend the area nearest to third base — the third of four bases a baserunner must touch in succession to score a run. In the scoring system used to record defensive plays, the third baseman is assigned the number '5'.

Contents

Gray is best known as the player who hit the first home run in Los Angeles Dodgers history [2] and the first to homer in their opening game at LA Memorial Coliseum. [3]

Home run in baseball, a 4-base hit, often by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without 1st touching the ground; inside-the-park home runs—where the batter reaches home safely while the ball is in play—are possible but rare

In baseball, a home run is scored when the ball is hit in such a way that the batter is able to circle the bases and reach home safely in one play without any errors being committed by the defensive team in the process. In modern baseball, the feat is typically achieved by hitting the ball over the outfield fence between the foul poles without first touching the ground, resulting in an automatic home run. There is also the "inside-the-park" home run where the batter reaches home safely while the baseball is in play on the field. A home run with a high exit velocity and good launch angle is sometimes called a "no-doubter," because it leaves no doubt that it's going to leave the park when it leaves the bat.

Early life

Born in Jefferson, Pennsylvania, Gray started playing sandlot ball at an early age with his neighborhood friends. He attended Jefferson High School in Pennsylvania, where he formed part of the baseball, football and wrestling teams. He graduated from Jefferson in June 1949 and immediately started his professional baseball career. [4]

Jefferson, Greene County, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Jefferson is a borough in Greene County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 270 at the 2010 census, down from 337 at the 2000 census. The borough was named after Thomas Jefferson.

Sandlot ball or sandlot baseball is a North American game of children and adolescents that generally follows the basic rules of baseball.

Jefferson-Morgan Middle/Senior High School is a small, rural, public school in the Jefferson-Morgan School District. It is located in Jefferson, Pennsylvania, about 55 miles south of Pittsburgh in northeastern Greene County. Enrollment was 395 students in grades 7–12 in 2012, with 161 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. The school employed 35 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 11:1. The school is a federally designated Title I school. According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind Act.

Professional career

Gray was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as an amateur free agent and played for them in their minor league system from 1950 to 1952, while playing at three different levels. [5] At age 18, he attended a tryout at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida during the 1949 spring training. [4]

Holman Stadium (Vero Beach)

Holman Stadium is a baseball stadium in Vero Beach, Florida, built in 1953 from an abandoned Naval base, to accommodate spring training for the Brooklyn Dodgers as part of a complex now called Historic Dodgertown. In addition to the Dodgers' spring games, it was also the home of the Vero Beach Devil Rays, previously the Vero Beach Dodgers, of the Florida State League, through the 2008 season. Official seating capacity is 6,500.

Vero Beach, Florida City in Florida, United States

Vero Beach is a city in and the seat of Indian River County, Florida, United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 data, the city had a population of 15,220.

Gray reported to Class D Sheboygan Indians in 1950, batting a .310 average and 11 home runs in 122 games. In 1951 he spent time with two clubs, hitting .221 in 21 games for the Greenwood Dodgers and made 110 appearances with the Valdosta Dodgers, batting for them .302 with six home runs, while leading the Georgia–Florida League in runs scored with 118 and also played third base for the All-Star team. Promoted to Class B Miami Sun Sox in 1952 he dropped to a .240 average with three homers in 153 games. [4] [5]

The Sheboygan Indians were a minor-league baseball team based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Batting average (baseball)

In baseball, the batting average (BA) is defined by the number of hits divided by at bats. It is usually reported to three decimal places and read without the decimal: A player with a batting average of .300 is "batting three-hundred." If necessary to break ties, batting averages could be taken beyond the .001 measurement. In this context, a .001 is considered a "point," such that a .235 batter is 5 points higher than a .230 batter.

The Greenwood Dodgers were a minor league baseball team, affiliated with the Brooklyn Dodgers that was based in Greenwood, Mississippi. They played in the Cotton States League and operated from 1934–1940 and 1947 and 1952. The team won the league championship in 1947.

But as many baseball players, Gray had his career interrupted during Korean War and he was for two years after enlisting in the military service. [1]

Korean War 1950–1953 war between North Korea and South Korea

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea. The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border.

"I did not go to Korea," he explained in an interview. "I was fortunate and contracted pneumonia and I went to the hospital, the outfit that I was with finished their basic training and went to Korea. I stayed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and I played baseball there for two years. On our ball club in the service we had about six or seven guys that went on to play in the major leagues. Whitey Herzog was on our team. I really grew up a lot in those two years in the service", he added. [4]

Following his discharge, in 1955 he joined the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League for two seasons. In 1955 he batted .251 with six home runs and 50 runs batted in, and improved to .285 with 24 homers and 91 RBIs in 155 games during the 1956 season. [5]

In 1957, Gray gained a promotion to the Brooklyn Triple A club St. Paul Saints of the American Association, where he posted career-numbers with a .297 average and 111 RBIs, while batting 16 home runs and ending third for the most RBIs behind Marv Throneberry (124) and Norm Siebern (118). [6] After the season ended, the team moved to Los Angeles.

Gray was the regular third baseman for the Dodgers in their opening series against the San Francisco Giants at Seals Stadium. On April 16, 1958, in the second game of the series, the Dodgers crushed the Giants, 13–1. In the second inning of that game, Gray belted a two-run homer off Ramón Monzant, to become the first player to hit a home run in Los Angeles Dodgers history. [2]

Dodgers Home Opener at LA Memorial Coliseum

On April 18, 1958, the Dodgers played their first home game at LA Memorial Coliseum against the Giants. In this game, Gray also became the first Dodgers player to hit a home run in the city of Los Angeles. In the bottom of the 7th inning, the Dodgers were on top 5–3. With one out, Gray performed his feat against Giants pitcher Johnny Antonelli to put the Dodgers ahead 6–3. "It was in the seventh inning and the count was 3-0 and he was just trying to throw a strike and I nailed it", he said. The Dodgers held on to win 6–5 their first game in their new environment. [3]

"The Coliseum wasn’t a baseball field and a lot of guys just couldn’t get adjusted to that football field. Left field was only about 280 feet, but then you had an eighty foot fence and then in right center ... poor Duke Snider, he used to hit balls 450 feet and it was an out", Gray stated. [4]

After the Dodgers

In 1958, Gray spent part of the season at Triple A with the Montreal Royals. On June 15, 1959 he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Chuck Essegian and Lloyd Merritt. Then, on May 28, 1960 he was sent along Vinegar Bend Mizell to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the same transaction that brought Ed Bauta and Julián Javier to St. Louis. [1]

In a four-season career, Gray posted a slash line (BA/OBP/SLG) of .239/.321/.420 in 124 games overall, which included seven doubles, six triples, 12 home runs and four stolen bases, while driving in 41 runs and scoring 43 times. [1]

He later played for the Pirates Triple A affiliate Columbus Jets from 1961–1962. In a 10-year minor league career, he batted a combined .274 average with 96 home runs and 622 RBIs in 1196 games. [5]

Following his baseball career, Gray resided in Anaheim, California with his wife Joanne and their three daughters: Catherine, Stacey and Nancy. He worked for the Buena Park School District maintenance department for a long time, retiring from there in 1993. In addition, he usually attended vintage baseball card shows and signed autographs. He was inducted into the Washington-Greene County Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. [4]

Gray died in 2013 at home, just three days before his 82nd birthday. [7]

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 "Baseball Reference – Dick Gray profile".
  2. 1 2 "Retrosheet box score – Los Angeles Dodgers 13, San Francisco Giants 1. Game Played on Wednesday, April 16, 1958 (N) at Seals Stadium".
  3. 1 2 "Retrosheet box score – Los Angeles Dodgers 6, San Francisco Giants 5. Game Played on Friday, April 18, 1958 (D) at LA Memorial Coliseum".
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Von, George (2011-04-22). Jefferson's Gray a forgotten baseball gem – Greene County Messenger: Sports". HeraldStandard.com. Retrieved 2013-07-10.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Baseball Reference – Dick Gray minor league career".
  6. 1957 American Association Batting Leaders
  7. Reyes, Ernest. "RIP, Dick Gray – The Man Who Hit LA's 1st Home Run". Dodgers Blue Heaven. Retrieved 2013-07-10.