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What we know of Gary Gray

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Part one of a one-part series.

gary gray
gary gray
seattle mariners post card

Gary Gray played baseball. He wore powder blue clothes and tri-color hats. He stood six feet tall, weighed 187 pounds at some point, but he looked larger than that. He had hair that poured out the sides of his mesh-backed caps, a mustache that stretched out like a cat in a sunbeam. He smiled, but his eyes looked tired of the joke.

Gary Gray spent five years in Triple-A, ruining pitchers’ careers in desert towns. At the plate he held his bat straight up like a recoiling cobra. He fought each pitch like a skirmisher in melee, like a man whose heart beats only by momentum. But his gloves never fit, and he took the field like a man who was out of place, like a class traitor. He was a designated hitter, but he never had time to grow old. Instead he rode buses and grew old a different way.

Gary Gray had no position, existed out of time. "You can’t judge a player by one or two games, even if he makes three or four errors in those games," Gray once said. "The scouts who labeled me when I was younger didn’t know what was in my heart. Scouts are really like fans. They go out and watch games and write some things down. But they have no idea what the players are like in their hearts."

Gary Gray found his way to Seattle by hobo signs, pitched tent with the other unwanted souls. His first real season, already nearly thirty, he hit thirteen home runs in 133 at bats. He took what was so long denied him.  And then the players struck, and in the quiet days Gary Gray began to fade away. The old men, Zisk and Bochte, healed their wounds and took back their jobs. Only the numbers and the airbrushed baseball cards remained to tell of him.

Gary Gray went to Mexico and played baseball, where even the scouts and the statistics could not reach. No one ever learned what was in his heart.

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