We just don’t recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they’re happening. Back then I thought, well, there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that that was the only day.”~ Moonlight Graham in the movie Field of Dreams
It was Tuesday, May 2, 1899, in old De Pere¹ , when George Gaylord Staley was born. That is where his De Pere connections seem to end, however, for shortly after he was born his family moved a stone’s throw to nearby Appleton.
Twenty some years later, he showed up again. On September 16, 1925¹ “Gale” was called up by the Chicago Cubs at the age of 26 to play second base and make his major league debut. He stood 5′ 9 ¹/₂” tall, weighed 160 pounds, threw right handed, and batted left².
The ’25 Cubs were on their way to finishing a dismal last place and had promoted Gale to the big leagues to finish out the year. He played 7 games and managed at least one hit in all of them. Staley ended his career with a .423 batting average¹, one of the fastest starts to begin a career in major league history³. Despite the hot start, Gale never played a game in the majors again.
The following year he joined the Los Angeles Angels (at that time the Angels were a minor league team). In 1926, his first season there, they won the Pacific Coast League championship. Although not an official affiliate of the Cubs, they were also owned by the prestigious Wrigley family. In fact, the Angels’ home field was named Wrigley Field (Cubs home field was called Cubs Park until renamed Wrigley Field in 1927).
During his time as an Angel, Staley was also a supporting actor in the 1928 Paramount picture “Warming Up”. It starred Richard Dix and Jean Arthur (she would later star in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”) and it was filmed at the Los Angeles Angels’ Wrigley Field⁴. The movie was a romantic comedy in which a rookie pitcher (Dix) falls for the team owner’s daughter (Arthur). It was also Paramount’s first “sound” release. Although it was filmed as a silent and had no dialogue, music played as well as the crack of the bat and other sound effects⁵. The film was lost to time but theme song can be found here.
After three years in Los Angeles, Staley bounced around to Portland, Memphis, and then back again to Portland², eventually calling it quits after the 1931 season.
Gale was a veteran of World War I and worked as an Assistant Secretary of Standard Oil for 35 years. He died of pneumonia in Walnut Creek, California at the age of 89⁶.
1 Baseball Reference
2 Louis Heilbroner Baseball Bureau
3 Peter Gammons ESPN
4 Mauch Chunk Times-News Sep 12, 1928; Page 1
5 The Baseball Filmography 1915 through 2001; 2nd edition, Page 471
6 Baseball Necrology