The First Baseball Lottery Pick?

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On October 13, 1946 Harold “Tookie” Gilbert’s mother pulled a slip of paper from a hat . Written on the slip was “Giants”, giving the New York club signing rights for the young player.  Gilbert’s father Larry Gilbert, vice-president and manager of the Nashville Vols, had suggested that his son set a price for his services and announced the drawing for his services.

Many teams were interested in signing the promising young slugger, and Tookie’s father stopped the bidding at $50,000.

New York Giants scout Mel Ott and representatives of the Yankees, Pirates, Braves, and Red Sox were in attendance at the lottery. After immediately signing Gilbert to a contract, Ott announced Gilbert would be sent to Minneapolis.

Born on June 4, 1929, the left-hand-hitting first baseman had been a phenom at Jesuit High School in New Orleans and in Nashville amateur leagues where he played during the summer tenure of his father.

Two older brothers were players, too: Larry, Jr. who had passed away of a heart ailment in 1941 and Charlie who was 10 years older. His brothers had called him “rookie” when he was a child, and it came out “tookie” from the youngster. Larry, Jr. and Charlie continued to call him by the mis-pronounced name, and it stuck.

Beginning the 1947 season with Minneapolis, he was sent to Erie of the Mid-Atlantic League where he finished the season with a .333 average. In 1948 Gilbert played in Sioux City and had 26 home runs and batted .299.

Even though Nashville was an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, the New York Giants allowed him to play in 1949 for the club his father Larry had just retired from as manager but was continuing as General Manager. Tookie helped to lead the Vols to the Southern Association championship by slugging 33 homers and hit for a .334 average.

On July 6th he became the 14th Nashville player to hit three home runs in one game.

In 1950 as a Giants rookie, Gilbert debuted with a 3-run HR and single against Pittsburgh. He would play in 113 games for New York, and after being sent down to
Minneapolis for 1951 and Oakland for 1952 Gilbert would be called up to the Giants once again in 1953.

After appearing in 70 games, he announced his retirement from professional baseball and moved home to Louisiana.

After an almost impossible length of retirement before making a comeback, Tookie played for his hometown New Orleans Pelicans in 1959. Gilbert hit 22 homers, drove in 80 runs, and batted .261 before retiring once again.

He became a civil sheriff and passed away on April 23, 1967 of apparent heart failure.

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