Born: Jun 3, 1934
As a young, left-handed first baseman in the Brooklyn farm system, "Diamond Jim" Gentile had the promise of greatness. Roy Campanella saw star slugger potential in Gentile and gave him his nickname. The Dodgers, however, decided he didn't have enough polish to replace Gil Hodges, and in 1960 -- after he had had two short stays with the major league club -- traded Gentile to the Baltimore Orioles.
With the Orioles, Gentile became an instant All-Star, batting .292 with 21 home runs in his rookie year and finishing behind two teammates for American League Rookie of the Year honors. In 1961 he drove in 141 runs and hit 46 home runs, including a new AL season record of five grand slams. The most unforgettable moment of that incredible season came on May 9, when Gentile hit grand slams in consecutive innings of a single game. His season-long effort landed him in the MVP balloting, behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.
In 1962 Gentile hit 33 homers and was selected to his third straight All-Star Game. The next year, his hitting dropped off some, but he led AL first basemen in fielding percentage.
Traded in 1964 to Kansas City for Norm Sieburn, Gentile hit 28 homers for the A's that season, but at age 30 his luster was already fading. In mid-1965 the A's sent him to Houston, who dealt him to Cleveland a year later. He retired at the end of the 1966 season.
While an Astro, Gentile struggled trying to hit homers in the spacious Astrodome. In 371 at bats over parts of two seasons, he bashed 14 home runs.