Sept. 30, 1982, Monty Stratton, whose attempt to make a baseball comeback after losing a leg inspired a movie, died today at Citizens General Hospital. He was 70 years old and had long been ill with cancer.
Mr. Stratton pitched five years for the Chicago White Sox, winning 36 games and losing 23. But his career was shortened when he lost his right leg in a hunting accident in 1938. His comeback attempt was the subject of the 1949 movie, ”The Stratton Story,” which starred James Stewart and June Allyson.
Ronald Reagan had sought the title role in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, but was under contract to Warner Bros., which did not want to release him because it thought the movie would be a failure. It became a financial success and earned an Academy Award for the best original screenplay. Big League Debut in 1934
Mr. Stratton, a 6-foot-5-inch right-hander, made his major league debut with the White Sox late in the 1934 season, after having been called up from St. Paul in the American Association. He became a starter in 1937, winning 15 games. He also won 15 the following year.
On Nov. 27, 1938, he was hunting rabbits on his mother’s farm near here. Going downhill toward a creek, he slipped and fell, accidentally discharging his shotgun. The pellets struck his right leg, which had to be amputated the following day.
Equipped with a wooden leg, he worked with the White Sox the next two years as a coach and batting practice pitcher. When World War II came, he tried to enlist but was rejected. He organized a semipro team at Greenville, and constantly practiced coordination on the field and in his living room. He would throw balls against the barn and experiment on the mound with his wife, Ethel, as the catcher.
In 1946 he startled the baseball world by not only pitching professionally again, but also winning 18 games with Sherman in the Class C East Texas League. The next year, he had a 7-7 record with Waco in the Class B Big State League. But when Hollywood wanted to film his story, he agreed to retire. Lost His Fastball
”I got to where I could field bunts pretty well, but I wasn’t able to get any spring off the mound, and therefore I didn’t have the fastball I once had,” he said.
He sold the rights to his story and spent a year in Hollywood as an adviser. He said that Mr. Stewart ”did a great job playing me, in a picture which I figure was about as true to life as they could make it.”
Mr. Stratton is survived by his wife, of Greenville; a son, Monty Jr. of Marthsville, Mo.,; two brothers, a sister and four grandchildren.