Born: January 27, 1896
Died: April 26, 1996
Town: Ridgefield Park
Nathaniel Milton Gaston was born January 27, 1896 in Ridgefield Park. His family had moved to Bergen County from New York after his older brother, Alex, was born. The Gastons had a total of eight kids; his father was a milkman. The Gastons were battery brothers—Alex was a quick-handed catcher and Milt was a pitcher. Milt was a hard thrower who could tweak his heater to dart and sink when needed. They would face each other and also work together several times in the big leagues. Once, Alex broke up his brother’s no-hitter.
After graduating from Ridgefield Park High School, Milt went to work in New York as a clerk in the State Supreme Court and pitched semipro ball for the Paterson Silk Sox, a well known independent club, twice a week. He was making far more than he would have made in the minors, so he waited until a big league team offered him a contract.
That offer came from the Yankees in 1924, when Milt was 28. He pitched relief for the Yankees and roomed with Lou Gehrig before a trade to the Browns. In New York, Milt began fooling around with a forkball which went from being unhittable to being uncatchable to being uncontrollable. In his first year in St. Louis, Milt went 15–14. It was his last winning season in the majors, as he would go on to toil for the Senators, Red Sox and White Sox when they were among the poorer AL teams. He led the league in losses with 18 in 1926 and 20 in 1930. During his 20-loss season he was one of the few starters with an ERA under 4.00.
Milt’s hot-and-cold control and lively pitches made for some interesting outings—none more so than the time he allowed 14 hits and still pitched a shutout. He also set a record for starting four double plays in a game.
Milt retired after the 1934 season with a record of 97–164. As the years wore on, researchers realized a couple of interesting facts about Milt. No one had ever been as many as 67 games under .500 for his career, and no one had played with more Hall of Fame teammates (17) than Milt. He retired to Cape Cod where he died at age 100 in 1996 to set another record: He was the only major to play more than 10 seasons who celebrated a triple-digit birthday.