Friday, April 4, 2014


Short and sweet tonight, as we continue to power through the symbiotic simpatico of the Baseball Reliquary and Japanese-American artist Ben Sakoguchi. (Those in or neat the Los Angeles basin need to travel to the Arcadia Public Library, where "Purpose Pitch" will be on display through April 29.)

There is no greater case where an individual embodies the Shrine of the Eternals' three forces--adversity, extremity and otherness--than one-of-a-kind ballplayer Pete Gray. His right arm was amputated at the age of six after it was mangled beyond repair when it was caught in the spokes of a wagon wheel as the youngster jumped off a moving truck.

Against all odds, and via a training regimen that dwarfed that of any other, Gray made it to the big leagues in 1945 with the St. Louis Browns. Hitting with one hand severely compromised any power that the tall, slender outfielder (6'1", 169 lbs.) might have had, but Pete compensated well enough to post a .308 lifetime batting average in the minor leagues over parts of six seasons.

Gray ranked fourth on the original Reliquary ballot for the Shrine in 1999, but his vote total drifted downward in subsequent years: he was eventually inducted in 2011.

Ben captures Pete Gray's unique adjustments at the plate in Single Brand, an "orange crate art" hommage to a man who had the most arduous journey to the big leagues in the history of baseball.

To prove it to yourself, try swinging a baseball bat with one hans; you'll quickly appreciate just how incredibly difficult it is.