Monday, June 23, 2008

How Bert Shepard made Ted Williams laugh his head off

Over the weekend, the news broke about the death of Bert Shepard at a nursing home in Highland, California.

At The Baseball Guru, John B. Holway told why Shepard was significant:

In the spring of 1944 minor league pitcher Bert Shepard walked off a baseball diamond in England and strapped himself into the cockpit of a P-39 fighter; a few hours later a German doctor was amputing his right foot.

In the spring of 1945 Shep walked down the steps of Walter Reed Army hospital and strapped on an artificial leg; a few hours later he was pitching for the Washington Senators.

But in the long run, he wasn't good enough to stay on the field, even for the Senators. Which leads to this batting practice pitching story from 1946 (don't forget that Ted Williams was also a veteran):

In 1946 Bert was pitching batting practice again. A lefty, he raised his right leg to pitch -- and the shoe came off. He landed on his stump and followed through as though nothing had happened.

The shoe was hanging on by a few threads of his sock, and he kicked it into centerfield. Ted Williams, who knew about the foot, laughed his head off, though the Boston fans, who didn't know, sat in horror.

Shepard moved on:

Shepard turned to selling typewriters for IBM, then became a safety engineer. He and his wife, Betty, married in 1953 and moved to Southern California. They lived in Hesperia for many years and divorced a few years ago.

But baseball players only care about this: his ERA was 1.69.

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