A few years back, I made the acquaintance of a delightful woman from Epping named Joy True – seriously, that’s her name – and the journalistic expedition that resulted from our conversation turned out to be one of true joy.
Joy is active with the Epping Historical Society, and while browsing though one of the society’s scrapbooks, she was struck by an undated clipping from an unidentifiable newspaper, so she sent me a copy.
The headline on the clipping said, ” One-Arm Pitcher is Star of Twilight Team in N.H. City,” and I was hooked right away.
The pitcher in question was a young man named Amedee “Middy” Proulx, and if you’re looking for a story full of heart and perseverance – two things that are in short supply with the Red Sox these days – then stay right here with me.
Middy Proulx was just 15 years old when he took a job with W.S. Goodrich, a brick-manufacturing firm in Epping. His task was to move pallets loaded with newly formed “green bricks” along a conveyor belt to drying sheds for curing. He had been on the job for a little over three months, when, on Aug. 8, 1911, the unthinkable happened.
According to court records, “The only account of the accident which the plaintiff was able to give was that he suddenly felt himself being borne into the wheels (of the conveyor belt); that to save his head, he put out his (left) arm, which was caught and torn off.”
His parents sued W.S. Goodrich for negligence. Two years after the accident, an Exeter Superior Court jury awarded Middy the unusual damage amount of $3,004, plus 16 cents. Alas, the verdict – and the financial settlement – was overturned a year later by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which ruled that, “a boy, though only 15 years old, assumed the risks of the dangers of an occupation which he knew and understood.”
Thus, with no money and no left arm, Middy Proulx came to Manchester where he found a job in the packaging department at the W.H. McElwain Shoe Company’s heel factory.
More remarkably, Middy also found a spot as a pitcher on the roster of the “Box Shop Boys,” one of the six teams from the massive shoe shop’s various divisions that formed the McElwain Twilight Baseball League.
No summer season was more of a success for Middy than that of 1923, when he won game after game at Textile Field, plus frequent headlines in both The Manchester Leader and The Manchester Daily Mirror.
Under a Mirror headline that said, “Amedee Proulx, One Armed Pitching Star, Out For His Fourth Consecutive Victory,” readers learned that “Middy, as he is better known, has not lost a game as yet.
“In his three contests to date,” the paper added, “he has allowed but 10 hits or a fraction more than three per game, and he has struck out 17 opposing batters. His most notable achievement was a sweet battle, a 1-0 victory over Matty Stemska, (with) Proulx ‘s work being all the more commendable for his team has been out-hit in its games.
“This one-armed wizard is also somewhat of a hitter,” The Mirror added, “his average being .286, which is the highest for his team. Middy, despite the handicap he is under, fields his position better than most players; an instance of this was provided on Tuesday night when he started a pretty double play on a neat stop and throw.”
I’m fighting the urge to call Middy a one-of-a-kind athlete. Even the most casual baseball fan knows that is not the case. Many can cite the name of Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder who made it onto the war-depleted roster of the St. Louis Browns in 1945. They can also point to Jim Abbott who, in spite of a congenitally deformed right hand, won 87 games at the major league level, including a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in 1993.
Jim Abbott comes close – as does one-time Chicago Cubs pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown – but if there is a more precise parallel to Middy Proulx , it is probably a pitcher known as Hugh “One Arm” Dailey.
Dailey lost his left hand and part of his arm to a boyhood gunshot accident, but while playing for the Cleveland Blues of the National League in 1883, he pitched a 1-0 no-hitter against the Philadelphia Quakers, and finished the season with a respectable 23-19 won-loss record.
Surely the major leagues were beyond Middy’s grasp, but he reached the heights here in Manchester. He capitalized on his success with the “Box Shop Boys” by serving as player-manager for St. Anthony’s, which prompted The Mirror to report on July 19, 1923, that, ” One-Armed Flinger Humbles Inter-Club League Leaders.”
“Proulx , who deserves a world of credit for his diamond performances, was never in better form than he was last night,” The Mirror said, “holding the Cercle Ste. Marie sluggers – and they are mean hitters – to four hits and his fielding of his position was fine.
“He handled five chances without an error and one of them was a hot one. The one-armed wizard also smashed out a line single to center field, all of which is some day’s work for one as handicapped as he is.
Middy may have had one hand, but handicapped?
I doubt he would have embraced that label, but he did embrace life in the Queen City. After marrying Melanie Riel – she was a registered nurse and an office manager with the forerunner of the Manchester Housing Authority – Middy settled in at 385 Belmont St.
He was a popular figure in the neighborhood known as The Hollow – later moving just around the corner to 719 Summer Street – but there was nothing hollow about his ties to the McElwain plant. In his later years, he served as an elevator operator when Foster Grant set up shop in the sprawling complex on Sundial Avenue.
Amedee “Middy” Proulx died on Feb. 25, 1983 at the age of 85. Following a memorial service at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, he was buried in the family plot at Mount Calvary Cemetery.
One of Manchester’s more fascinating sports stories was buried with him, until now.
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