For many generations, people around the world have learned the fundamentals of America’s favorite pastime, baseball, and thanks to the uncle of Cowley resident Pat Stevens — former major leaguer Charlie Metro — the youngest players learning the game have practiced hitting with the help of a device Metro came up with.
Metro is credited with inventing the tee-ball stand, which has helped young players hone their hitting skills.
Metro started his baseball career in 1937, playing for Easton in the Eastern Shore league. A few years later, he played for three seasons in the majors (1943-45) with the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Athletics before coming back to the minor leagues where he played for Oakland and Seattle in the Pacific Coast League, Bisbee in the Arizona-Texas League, Twin Falls in the Pioneer League and Montgomery in the South Atlantic League. He also wrote a book called “Safe by a Mile,” which talks about his career in baseball, all of the baseball players he met and life with his family.
Metro started his managing career in the Arizona-Texas league with Bisbee in 1947 and then was a manager in the minors for teams such as Twin Falls, Montgomery, Durham, Augusta, Charleston, Idaho Falls, Vancouver and Denver for a overall winning percentage of .547. He also managed in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 1962 and with the Kansas City Royals in 1970 with a winning percentage of .378, and also coached with the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics. Metro retired in 1985 as the chief scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He was really involved in baseball,” Stevens said.
Metro and the tee
According to an Associated Press newspaper article shared by Stevens, Metro began creating some ideas that could help better his hitting game. “In my short stay in the majors I was a poor hitter. I couldn’t hit the size of my hat,” Metro said in the article.
After considering several ideas, Metro developed a tee that can be adjusted to various heights based on a player’s high or low strike weaknesses and also to help younger players develop their hitting skills.
Metro said in the article that he used the tee to teach hitting drills to young players who were assigned to him for developing their hitting and had wonderful results during the drills.
“Through the use of the batting tee I developed into a fair hitter and was able to teach others how to hit,” Metro said. With the help of his tee-ball stand, the players Metro worked with improved their hitting averages to over .300, including himself, as he compiled a .357 hitting average with Twin Falls.
Metro said in the article that a number of baseball scouts became sold on the idea of the tee. Metro also created artwork with a sculptor that was called hitter’s hands.
“He went around to all of the baseball players and took prints of their hands and made statues of all the greatest hitters’ hands,” Stevens said.
The sculptor borrowed Metro and several Hall of Famers and made molds of each of the hitters’ hands holding a bat to make a statue for them or others to buy.
According to an article from an April 3, 1994, edition of the Rocky Mountain News, a local artist by the name of Raelee Frazier described Metro’s hands as “great hitter’s hand” and also said “they’re wonderful hands, very artistic.”
The first sculpture of former St. Louis Cardinals hitter Stan Musial’s hands sold for $10,000 to a physician in Louisiana.
Metro’s invention spread to youth leagues, and kids in the decades since have enjoyed playing tee ball. Metro loved working with younger baseball players and helping others become better hitters in the sport. Metro will be remembered as one of the greatest scouts and teachers in the history of baseball.
By Sam Smith