This Week in Milford

May 18, 2022

Time, Limp!

Today’s baseball history lesson is the story of Jackie Hayes. Hayes, a shortstop on Wallace Wade’s Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team (yes, Wade coached baseball in addition to football at the time), got his start in the majors in 1928 as a utility infielder for the original AL Senators. Having been awarded the starting second base job for 1929 by the Nats’ new manager, future Hall-of-Famer Walter Johnson, Jackie would lose that job to Buddy Myer, a .300-plus hitter who Washington had reacquired after an ill-advised trade to the Red Sox. While Hayes was the better glove man, Myer was the better hitter and baserunner (he led the AL in stolen bases in ’28 for Boston and would win the AL batting crown in ’35 for Washington). After two more seasons playing sporadically for the Nats, Hayes was traded to the White Sox in a multi-player deal.

While still a great fielder, Hayes struggled with injuries on the South Side, including several beanings; in two seasons where he managed to stay healthy, he hit over .300. Things would take a turn for the worse during spring training 1940. After a shower one afternoon, he felt as if he had soap in his right eye. The next day his vision was blurry, and the club sent him back to Chicago for treatment. After several misdiagnoses and no relief from deteriorating vision, Jackie Hayes would be diagnosed with glaucoma.

Hayes wouldn’t give up. He played in a handful of games, but didn’t start for the first time until August 21 when, wearing a makeshift helmet with ear flaps and closing his right eye when he stepped into the batter’s box, he went 2-for-3. Hayes batted .195 in 18 games for the White Sox and retired after the 1940 season. He would go blind in his right eye soon thereafter and went completely blind in 1943, but he did manage to have a productive life after baseball, serving as a county tax collector and occasional visitor to local and regional schools for the blind as a motivational speaker. Still, Jackie Hayes will always be remembered as the first major league baseball player to wear a protective helmet.

The Hammer’s apparent obliviousness to the comebacker whizzing past his right ear made me wonder if he wasn’t already completely blind in his right eye, which triggered my memories of Jackie Hayes. Wonder if Gil could track down one of those padded caps offered to MLB pitchers a few years ago for Gregg, the ones that made them look like the Great Gazoo. I think only Alex Torres ever wore one in a regular season game, so there’s probably a bunch lying around some equipment manager’s cage somewhere.

Finally catching a clue that something is wrong with the Hammer on the bump, Gil quickly tells the suddenly popular Morrison to hit the showers and wait for him with a loofah to get hot fast. Without adequate warmup, there’ll soon be another Mudlark pitcher out with an injury, and Gil’s 10-3 record will be gone quicker than you can say “lemonade on the back porch.” Of course Gil will lay into Gregg before realizing the true extent of the situation and turning his wrath to Papa Hamm. Why Kaz is being spared for letting Scooter Pie talk him out of fielding practice for the Hammer is beyond me, and yet another of the gaps in this plot as massive as the ones left after an infield shift.

8 Comments »

  1. There’s so many holes and unfinished micro-plots in this story, that I’ve lost count. While the batted ball looks like it could put a hole in Hammy’s head, the biggest hole comes from none other than the strip’s namesake and his assistant, Meat. Seriously? This is the first Gil has noticed of this apparent condition, even with boy big-mouth and 2nd base calling pitches? And what about other players on the team? Or that fuckin’ busy-body Heather? They can’t all be this oblivious, can they? Gil made some kind of asinine little comment to Gregg yesterday, but never noticed anything before that? I sure hope that this goes somewhere, because as is, it’s not making sense

    Comment by franku2016 — May 18, 2022 @ 3:00 pm

  2. Ggerg has this defiant look in his eyes that says you can hit all the line drives back at me as you want. They’re never going to hit me!
    Then Morrison is so stoned and unprepared that he doesn’t have his hat on. Does Gil let the pitchers know pre -game who may be the first reliever off the bench depending on the situation? Of course not.

    Comment by Jive Turkey — May 18, 2022 @ 3:29 pm

  3. As far as I know, glaucoma need not lead to blindness. If detected early enough it can be surgically corrected. Thats why annual eye checkups are a must because they check for that, among other things. I dont know what medical technology was back then but obviously it wasnt up to todays standards. Hayes should have been treated at once and returned to the field almost normal.

    I never heard of this guy, and its interesting that his condition led to the wearing of batting helmets. Although Im sure they would have been used eventually down the line.

    As far as what happened on the field, well, the grounder to 3rd wasnt on Hamm; thats the 3rd basemans play. Wernt there any grounders to 3rd in the other games? And the bullet past Hamms ear– Im sure it went so fast even if he had good vision he didnt have time to react. And how does Gil notice that he didnt react? It was by him in a flash, and many good-eyed pitchers have been nailed by a batted ball coming back at them. At any rate, this is a weak culmination of events that dont necessarily prove Hamm has poor vision. Even though we know he does.

    Comment by robmize2013 — May 18, 2022 @ 3:30 pm

  4. I’ll say this every day, but how was nothing noted through all of preseason and the earlier games? When practicing grounders he wouldn’t even move his glove towards the ball? Practicing covering balls to the right side and he couldn’t find first base? Hell, just warming up he would miss the ball half the time if it wasn’t his catcher who was in on the secret who could pinpoint his throws so that Gregg didn’t have to move his mitt to catch it. People giving him high fives and nailing him in the face because he didn’t see the hand approaching?

    Comment by MopMan — May 18, 2022 @ 3:42 pm

  5. Good story, Teenchy. Very inspirational.

    P3 reminds me of the time when I was coaching in Babe Ruth Baseball and our team in the 16-18-year-old division was up against the 1st place team, coached by an excellent manager who had a reputation around town as such, Dan Dozier.
    Of course, we’re getting our butts kicked when late in the game in the final inning, their team slap-happy because they know they’re going to win, their pitcher throws a pitch that not only was nowhere near the strike zone but hits the upper portion of the backstop and we had a high one, about 30 feet tall.
    That prompted Coach Dozier to promptly but quietly step out of the dugout and say “Time, ump.” He goes to the pitcher and quietly talks to him for about 2-3 minutes, all the while pointing a finger at him. The pitcher apparently got the message and there was no more of that stuff.
    I asked Coach Dozier after the game what he said. He responded “I told him one more pitch like that and you’ll be sittin’ the pine for quite some time”.

    Comment by tdrewhardin — May 18, 2022 @ 7:31 pm

  6. “GET WARM! IN FACT, GET HOT!!”

    Is it even possible for Gilberto to say ONE thing without sounding like a total assclown?

    Comment by hitorque — May 19, 2022 @ 7:07 am

  7. Tdrew…that story reminds me of a girls travel team softball coach in my area that had a similar reputation. He knew how to win, but he would replace a player in a second if he thought that they weren’t focused on the game or were goofing off. He also informed all parents before the season started that he would never, ever, under any circumstances, talk to them about anything concerning the team or their kid’s playing time. Any parents who tried to contact him or his coaching staff would have their team fees refunded and their daughter dismissed from the team. It worked well for him, because all that they did was win, and there was no shortage of talented players that showed up to try out when they were putting the current team together. He never had to deal with annoying parent interference either.

    Comment by franku2016 — May 19, 2022 @ 7:24 am

  8. […] Following up on my last post, I found color footage of Jackie Hayes wearing his batting helmet. He appears briefly in a clip […]

    Pingback by Jinkies! Kaz and Gregg Hamm’s Right Eye Have Something in Common! | This Week in Milford — May 21, 2022 @ 3:27 pm


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