Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 16, 1932: Cardinals Shortstop Charlie Gelbert Is Injured In a Hunting Accident

On November 16, 1932, Cardinals shortstop Charlie Gelbert was out hunting rabbits in the mountains of Pennsylvania when he accidentally shot himself in the ankle after tripping over vine. Gelbert was just 26 years old at the time of the accident and it would sideline his promising career. Gelbert came to the Cardinals had in 1929, he was a 23 year old kid, coming off .340 season for the Rochester Red Wings. He hit .262 in his rookie season, then followed it up with a .304 season as the Cardinals won the first of back-to-back National League Pennants in 1930. The Birds would fall to the Yankees in six but not because of the defense of Charlie Gelbert. During the 1930 series he began a streak of 80 chances without committing an error.The streak would extend to the 1931 World Championship Cardinals that took down the Philadelphia A's in seven games. After the disappointing season of '32, Gelbert and every other man that wore those birds on the bat had hopes of a bounce back season in '33. Unfortunately for Gelbert the accident happened and his career in baseball would be changed forever. He had to undergo several operations to repair nerve damage, then gangrene set in which required another surgery before he began to try and work his way back to the game he knew and loved. He finally did return to the diamond in 1935. At that point the Cardinals had acquired Leo Durocher who was the everyday shortstop. In 62 games he hit .292, then played in 93 the next season hitting just .229 before the Cardinals moved him as a part of a three team deal that brought the Birds Spud Davis. Davis started 107 games for the Championship winning Cardinals in '34. Gelbert bounced around with a few teams as a utility guy until his playing days ended in 1941. While his playing days came to an end, his career in baseball was far from over. He coached the baseball team at Lafayette College out of Eaton, Pennsylvania for 21 years and compiled more than 300 victories while guiding the Leopards to 5 College World Series appearances before he passed away in 1967. In 2004 Gelbert's #20 was retired by the school. He might not have been able to put together the career he had hoped for after the accident, but he led a life that would be remembered by many.

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