On November 28, 1938, the day after accidentally shooting himself while out hunting, Monty Stratton’s right leg was amputated above the knee.
Although he never pitched again in the major leagues, Stratton got around well enough on his artificial limb to win 18 games in the East Texas League in 1946. Three years later, the motion picture “The Stratton Story” turned the courageous athlete into an inspiring hero.
On November 16, 1957, the same Saturday the rumor surfaced that Aggie coach Bear Bryant might leave College Station for Alabama, King Hill led Rice to a 7-6 upset of Texas A&M, the top-ranked college football team in the country.
The Owls went to win Jess Neely’s fourth and final Southwest Conference crown. First-place Rice finished the 1957 season at eighth in the AP poll followed by Texas at 11th and A&M at 9th.
Joe Don Looney had it all: strength, speed and a Mr. America physique body-builders envyed. But the running back just couldn’t keep it together and wound up wasting his talent.
The strange story of football’s “most uncoachable player” is the subject of the “This Week in Texas HIstory” column for Wednesday, October 23 through Tuesday, October 29. Read it in your local newspaper or with a private email subscription available on this web site.
President Eisenhower joined the nation on September 27, 1956 in mourning the death from cancer of Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, the incomparable athlete who excelled at every sport she tried.
Born in Port Arthur and raised in Beaumont, “Babe” burst on the scene at the 1932 Summer Olympics, where she won gold in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin and was cheated out of the gold medal that was rightfully hers in the high jump. She could play any sport from basketball to softball and baseball and golf. The Associated Press named “Babe” the ninth greatest athlete of either gender for the Twentieth Century.
Dickie Maegle had the kind of football game on September 25, 1954 that little boys dream about. The Rice All-American carried the ball just five times against Cornell but gained 178 yards and scored four touchdowns.
An all-sports star at Taylor high school, Maegle was picked in the first round of the NFL draft in 1955. He played pro ball for seven years before retiring to private life in Houston.
Dallas native Ernie Banks played in his first of 2,528 major league baseball games on September 17, 1953.
The lanky shortstop spent his entire career with the lowly Chicago Cubs never once appearing in the World Series. Banks won the National League “Most Valuable Player” award in 1958 and again the next season. He retired in 1971 with a lifetime batting average of .274, 2,583 hits and 512 home runs. Six years later, “Mr. Cub” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
At the Tokyo Games on August 25, 1964, Texas Aggie freshman Randy Matson of Pampa moved into first place with an Olympic-record breaking effort in the shot put only to be edged out by dentist Dallas Long.
Four years later, Matson won the gold medal at the Mexico City Olympics. The first shot putter to break the 70-foot barrier, he went on to serve as executive director of The Association of Former Students at this alma mater from 1979 until his retirement in 1999.
Debs Garms collected two hits in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ August 21, 1940 win over the Boston Bees to raise his league-best batting average to .378. The story of his dream season is the subject of my “This Week in Texas History” column for the week of Wednesday, August 21 through Tuesday, August 27.
Born and raised in the West Texas hamlet of Bangs, Garms bounced around baseball for 12 years without attracting much attention. But all that changed in 1940, when he won the National League batting title by more than 30 points in spite of shameful attempts to disqualify him on a nonexistent technicality.
David “Skippy” Browning of Dallas and the University of Texas proudly wore his Olympic gold medal in the closing ceremony of the Summer Games at Helsinki, Finland on Aug. 3, 1952.
At 24 Browning was in his prime and a strong favorite to win gold again in springboard diving at Melbourne, Australia in 1956. But the Navy pilot was killed in a training flight that March when his fighter jet crashed in Kansas.
“This Week in Texas History” tells the story this week (Wednesday, July 17 thru Tuesday, July 23) of Charley Paddock, first Texas-born athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
After breaking the tape in the 100-meter dash at the Antwerp, Belgium Games in 1920, the Gainesville native was the fastest thing on two legs for the rest of the decade.