SPORTS FILM REVIEW – “The Stratton Story”

Outside of watching sports, another passion of mine is film.  Old movies, new movies, I like ’em all.  And, well, if I can watch a film about sports, then Heaven seems just a few doorsteps away…

Recently,  I came upon a little gem on Netflix which I’d like to recommend to fellow sports fans called “The Stratton Story”.  Similar to films like the “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams”, it’s about a man’s passion for baseball and how inspiring the game can be.

Made in 1949, “The Stratton Story” starred Jimmy Stewart & June Alyson and was based on a true story about a Chicago White Sox pitcher, Monte Stratton, who tragically lost his right leg in a hunting accident during the prime of his baseball career.

Stratton was a 6’5 right hander and played with the Sox from 1934-38.  During those five years, he had a 36-23 record, 196 strikeouts, and a 3.71 ERA in 487 innings.  He was an All Star in 1937 and had 15 wins in both 1937 and 1938.  In 1938, he completed 17 games ranking him #7 on the list of games most completed in one year.  Yeah, he was pretty good.

But, that all changed when Stratton went hunting on November 27, 1938.  He allegedly fell and accidentally discharged his pistol into his leg which damaged a main artery.  The result was amputation and replacement with a wooden leg.

Stratton was devastated by the thought that he’d never play the game of baseball again.  Fortunately, the White Sox agreed to let him work as a coach and batting practice pitcher for the next two years before World War II.  But, when Monte was rejected to go to war, he didn’t just shrink into a quiet existence on the farm where everyone else thought he would go. Monte wanted to play ball again. And, he did.

Even with his wooden leg in tow, Stratton worked up his strength again by practicing on his family farm with his wife as a catcher.  All through the early to mid 1940s, he managed to play with teams in the minors, until he was finally successful in 1946.  That year and at 34 years of age, Monte won 18 games with the Class-C Sherman Twins of the East Texas League, proving that he could come back and be a successful pitcher once again.

Eventually, time would catch up with Monte and he agreed to retire shortly after his success in Greenville.  He became a consultant in the making of his biopic film and finally decided to live out his life on his small farm in Texas.

Why do I gush over this movie?  Because it was truly inspiring for me to witness a man’s passion to play the game of baseball, despite the odds truly stacked against him.  He fought through the pain, faced ridicule, experienced anguish when his dreams were almost slipping away, defied the nay-sayers and didn’t let his circumstances dictate the outcome of his life.  He rose up through baseball as an inspiration when most wouldn’t have.  And, I love films like that.

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