Ned Graver's words as told to Al Doyle.
1951 was the high point of my career and there was more than one game I'll always remember.
That was the year I won 20 games for the St. Louis Browns, who finished in last place with a 52-102 record. I was the first pitcher to win 20 for a last place team. Steve Carlton did it for the Phillies later on, but I'm still one of only two pitchers to win 20 for a team that lost 100 or more games - the other was Irv Young.
Getting 20 wasn't easy, since I was 16-12 with only a couple of weeks left in the season. I mapped out my schedule and had four more starts to go. I won the first three games to get to 19-12, and my last game was against the White Sox at old Sportsman Park in St. Louis.
There was a big crowd that day. Abe Saperstein brought his Harlem Globetrotters to play basketball against some of the Browns and that helped draw people. I always played a lot of basketball and wanted to be in that game, but I couldn't because I was pitching.
The White Sox got four runs off me in the first three innings, but I don't think there was any chance they were going to take me out. The score was tied 4-4 when I batted in the fourth inning against Randy Gumpert. It was a great time to hit my only homer all year! I still remember seeing that ball clear the Sealy Mattress sign in left field.
Sherm Lollar was my catcher that day. In the fifth inning he told me, "You've got a good sinker. Let's waste everything else and throw the sinker for strikes."
That was what we did for three innings and it worked. Then we went back to throwing everything for strikes. Hitters always looked for sliders from me because I was a slider/sinker pitcher. I seldom threw the ball as hard as I could because you don't throw a sinker too hard.
We ended up winning the game, 9-5, and I got my 20th win. Bill Veeck gave me a raise from $17,500 to $25,000, and that made me the highest-paid player in the history of the Browns. I loved working for Bill. He was always promoting something and he had more good, creative ideas in 10 minutes than most people have in their lifetimes.
When a player had a good game, he'd get a dozen custom-made shirts with Veeck's name on the tag. I lost two 1-0 games in a row and I got two dozen shirts. I still have some of those old shirts. Satchel Paige once pitched nine innings in relief - until the 17th inning - in a game in Washington. Veeck wired him a certificate for a $100.00 suit. That's how Bill treated his players.
I was named to the All-Star team in 1951 and the game was played in Detroit, which is pretty close to my hometown of Ney, Ohio, so a lot of friends and relatives drove up there. Casey Stengel started me and I pitched three inning and gave up one unearned run and a hit. The National League had Richie Ashburn, Stan Musial and Roy Campanella in the lineup, but that didn't bother me. It was a big thing for me to be in the same dugout with Joe DiMaggio and some of the other players.
The other memorable game that season was when the midget [Eddie Gaedel] batted, I've had thousands of people tell me that they were at that game and most of them can't be telling the truth.
I pitched the first game, so I was in the clubhouse when they wheeled the big cake out. Some people were expecting a scantily clad girl, and Eddie Gaedel jumped out. Everybody had a laugh and nobody knew that the dad-blamed midget was going to play in the second game.
Frank Saucier started in right field instead of Jim Delsing. When Saucier went out to bat in the first inning, Zack Taylor (Browns manager) came out of the dugout with a signed contract and sent Gaedel out to pinch-hit. People couldn't believe it.
Bobby Cain was pitching for the Tigers and he wanted to move up from the mound and pitch the ball underhanded, Ed Hurley as the home plate umpire and he wouldn't let Cain do that. Red Rolfe was managing the Tigers and he wanted to protest the game.
Everyone knows the midget walked on four straight pitches and Delsing pinch-ran for Gaedel. Some people say it was a farce, all it amounted to was a guy on first base. It wasn't like the midget pinch-hit with the bases loaded in a tie game.
I got traded to Detroit in 1952. Even though I was going to the Tigers - my favorite team as a kid - I was disappointed to leave the Browns. The Browns gave me my chance and people don't understand what it means for an organization to give you the opportunity to play professional baseball.
I played for three other teams (the Tigers, the Kansas City A's and the Los Angeles Angels), but most people identify me with the Browns. Even though we were a losing team, I'm proud to be a part of the St. Louis Browns. All of my vehicles still have Browns bumper stickers on them.
Editor's NOTES - The St. Louis Browns Historical Society will be holding a Brown's Reunion Dinner on Thursday, June 8th, 2006 at the Missouri Athletic Club in Downtown St. Louis. Check out the St. Louis Browns website at www.thestlbrowns.com, for details.