Memories of Pitcher Milt Gaston

Milt Gaston
MLB Pitcher
1924-1934

 

Right handed pitcher Milt Gaston was a pretty big guy for his early 20th century time. At 6’1″ and 190 lbs, Gaston won 97 and lost 164, posting a career ERA of 4.55 in American League play over 11 seasons of MLB play (1924-1934). Although he broke in with the New York Yankees (1924), Milt spent most of his career in less hopeful places, pitching for the St. Louis Browns (1925-27), the Washington Senators (1928), the Boston Red Sox (1929-31), and the Chicago White Sox (1932-34).

Gaston’s best year was 1925, when he went 15-14 with a 4.41 ERA in his first season for the Browns, but he would never play for any team that gave him much hope for anything better than a mediocre mark with either a middle of the pack or fallen flat competitive club. Still, he gave it his best. In 193o at Boston, Milt Gaston went 13-20 with a 3.94 ERA, proving himself worthy as one of the answers to a question that Houston pitcher Turk Farrell would raise about himself some 30 odd years later: “Do you realize how good I had to be to lose 20 games in one season?”

Milt Gaston also had some “old” genes in him too. He reached his 100th birthday on January 27, 1996 – and didn’t pass away for another 3 months on April 26, 1996.

As an old Browns fan, I had dropped Milt Gaston a birthday card at his Massachusetts rest home residence in Barnstable in late January 1996. I had not heard anything from Milt as a result, but that’s OK. I do not recall asking for anything. Then, one day, shortly after his late April 1996 death, I received a rather clumpy-shaped envelope in the mail. My name was hand-scribbled all over it. I wondered how the post office had processed it accurately to even get it to my house.

When I opened it, I found a folded over 5×7 inch photo of Milt Gaston in a Browns uniform. Milt, or someone helping him, had sent it to me with no further message. But that was OK. Milt had signed the photo in the same handwriting I recognized from the envelope. The Gaston photo now rests in safe deposit with anything else of sentimental or material value that belongs to me.

The following Baseball Almanac.com box score is included as a tribute to Milt Gaston.

On September 11, 1927, the St. Louis Browns entered their final 1927 game against the great New York Yankees of Ruth and Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, trailing 21-0 in the 1927 season series. Milt Gaston was taking the mound against future Hall of Fame lefty Herb Pennock.

Here’s the box score version of how the game played out. Babe Ruth nailed his 50th home run off Gaston on that day – and 19 days later – he would crunch his season record 60th homer off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators – but this earlier September day, small as it now seems, would belong to the hope-starved Browns and star pitcher Milt Gaston.

“You gotta have hope! – Mustn’t sit around and mope! – Nothing’s half as bad as it may appear! – Wait til next year! – And hope!”

Those words match the St. Louis Browns as well as they do their Washington Senator designated losers in “Damn Yankees!” And that shall always be so!

Baseball Almanac: St. Louis Browns 6, New York Yankees 2
St. Louis Browns ab   r   h rbi
O’Rourke 3b 3 1 2 2
Rice rf 5 1 1 0
Sisler 1b 5 0 3 2
Williams lf 5 0 3 1
Miller cf 5 0 0 0
Schang c 2 2 1 0
Melillo 2b 4 1 1 0
Gerber ss 4 0 0 1
Gaston p 4 1 0 0
Totals 37 6 11 6
New York Yankees ab   r   h rbi
Combs cf 3 0 1 0
Koenig ss 3 0 0 0
  Gazella ss 1 0 0 0
Ruth rf 4 1 1 1
Gehrig 1b 4 0 1 0
Meusel lf 3 1 0 0
Lazzeri 2b 4 0 0 0
Dugan 3b 3 0 2 1
Bengough c 3 0 0 0
Pennock p 1 0 0 0
  Shawkey p 1 0 0 0
  Durst ph 1 0 0 0
  Pipgras p 0 0 0 0
Totals 31 2 5 2
St. Louis 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 1 6 11 1
New York 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 1
  St. Louis Browns IP H R ER BB SO
Gaston  W(12-15) 9.0 5 2 2 2 6
Totals
9.0
5
2
2
2
6
  New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO
Pennock  L(15-8) 3.2 8 5 5 4 1
  Shawkey 4.1 2 0 0 3 5
  Pipgras 1.0 1 1 1 1 2
Totals
9.0
11
6
6
8
8

E–O’Rourke (21), Lazzeri (24).  DP–St. Louis 1. Gaston-Gerber-Sisler.  PB–Schang (7).  2B–St. Louis O’Rourke (22); Melillo (18).  3B–St. Louis Sisler (8).  HR–New York Ruth (50,4th inning off Gaston 0 on).  Team LOB–12.  Team–4.  SB–Williams (8).  U–Brick Owens, Roy Van Graflan, Tommy Connolly.  T–2:15.  A–35,000.

Baseball Almanac Box Score | Printer Friendly Box Scores

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

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2 Responses to “Memories of Pitcher Milt Gaston”

  1. Mark W Says:

    Bill, it’s interesting to me that you feature a piece on Milt Gaston at this time. I just finished reading Steve Steinberg’s new biography of Urban Shocker, and Gaston is featured in Steinberg’s book as a key figure in the Yankees attempt to keep pace with the then-dominant Washington Senators. Gaston was an aspiring rookie with the Yankees in 1924 (albeit at age 28), but Miller Higgins had for years rued his decision to trade Urban Shocker to the browns in 1918 as perhaps his biggest mistake, and he always had been keen to get Shocker back. Finally, prior to the 1925 season, Huggins packaged Gaston together with Bullet Joe Bush and Joe Giard in a 3-for-1 deal for Shocker that the Browns apparently thought would benefit them. While the Yankees ended up getting the better of that deal for the next three seasons, Shocker’s heart already was beginning to fail at that point in time. He pitched well for the Yankees for the next three seasons, with his best work arguably coming in 1927, but he was unable to perfomer any longer in 1928 and he died in September of that season. Gaston soldiered on until 1934, but the Browns traded him to Washington at the end of the 1927 season. After one undistinguished season in Washington, Gaston was traded to the Red Sox. You wouldn’t know it from his won-loss record, but during his 1929 and 1930 seasons with Boston, Milt Gaston pitched the best baseball of his career, per his ERA+ and WAR for those two seasons.

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