Gary Geiger was born in Sand Ridge, Illinois on April 4, 1937. From a baseball field in Sand Ridge, Gary took his baseball skills to Gorham High School, in a nearby village slightly larger than Sand Ridge. He was their top pitcher and once hit a home run that cleared the high school and the street in front of the school, a blast estimated in excess of 400 feet and also starred on the basketball team. Gary was known for being hard-nosed and was a great basketball player, who could have just as easily been a fine guard with any major college program.  

But baseball would provide a way for instant financial benefit. Four major-league teams were prepared to offer him a bonus once he was eligible to sign. Two days after Gary graduated from high school in 1954, the St. Louis Cardinals signed him as a pitcher.

Within a few days of signing, Gary began his professional career both as a pitcher and outfielder, with the Cardinals’ Hannibal, Missouri, farm team in in the Class D Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. In 1955, he was assigned to the Class D Hamilton (Ontario) Cardinals of the eight-team PONY League, and both he and the team had a great season. He appeared in 28 games, completing 26, and was 20-7 with a 1.98 ERA. Although his control was still suspect, he was chosen for the All-Star game and led the league in complete games, strikeouts, and shutouts. His season highlight occurred in June, when he pitched a nine-inning no-hitter.

His 1955 performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Rochester of the International League. Although he was making acceptable progress as a pitcher, St. Louis had much minor-league pitching depth and it had become clear to the organization to Gary he had more promise as a left-handed hitter, rather than as a right-handed pitcher. So he grabbed a glove, went to center field, and ended the season hitting .327. 

The following year, Gary played full time in the outfield for the Cardinals’ two Triple-A teams, Rochester in the International League and Omaha in the American Association. Although he was progressing in his new role, the Cardinals decided that he needed more seasoning, but since he was out of options, he would need to be on the major-league roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft that would allow another team to have his services. 

The Cleveland Indians drafted him in December 1957 and he made the 1958 Indians roster as a backup outfielder. He started nine of the next 11 games and numerous other games during the season and also pitched one game in relief, in June, his only major-league pitching appearance.

At the end of the season, Cleveland could no longer depend on the injury-prone Larry Doby, so they turned to the Red Sox and wanted to trade for Jimmy Piersall. The Sox responded, that they would take Vic Wertz and Gary Geiger for Piersall. So, with only a year in the big leagues, Gary was already playing for his third major-league organization. 

But making the Red Sox roster was not assured. At the start of spring training, manager Mike Higgins said Gary would probably be farmed out to play regularly. But Geiger had an outstanding spring and became one of Tom Yawkey’s favorites.

He made the Opening Day roster in 1959. With Ted Williams on the disabled list with a pinched nerve, Gary began the season in a left-field platoon with Bill Renna. When Ted returned in May, Renna was released and Gary remained with the Red Sox, playing both in center field and as a late-inning defensive replacement for Ted.

He also had particular allegiance to Jackie Jensen, because they shared a common phobia – fear of flying. The two often avoided air travel and traveled together on long train rides, talking about baseball as the countryside went by. In 1960, Jensen’s fear of flying caused him to retire and Gary’s playing time increased, as he became the primary right fielder. It was his best season and by late July, he had played in 77 games and was hitting .302 with nine home runs. 

In 1961, Jensen returned for one more year, but this did not affect Gary’s playing time, because he became Boston’s starting center fielder. After a fast start, his batting average dropped below .200 in mid-May and then, after it steadily rose, he slumped badly the last two months and ended the season at .232, a 70-point drop from 1960. In 1962, except for a higher batting average, his statistics roughly replicated 1961. 

In 1963, Gary slumped and ended the season with a .263 average. In July, he recorded 15 putouts in a doubleheader against Cleveland. He had 11 putouts in the first game, which was the Red Sox outfielder’s record until broken by Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009.

From both the health and the baseball perspectives, 1964 was his most disappointing season. In February, he was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers and a stomach obstruction. In early May, he tried coming back despite always being tired and weighing just 130 pounds. The doctors then told him that if he started bleeding again, they’d have to remove part of his stomach. This warning, coupled with his fear of flying, influenced him to announce his retirement. On the train ride back to Boston, reporters found him with tears of unhappiness and eyes of frustration but at no time did he express words of bitterness. 

In 1965, Geiger returned to Scottsdale for spring training and made the team again. In May, he homered against the Minnesota Twins, but that would be his only home run that year, as injuries again became a factor. In June, he broke three bones in his hand chasing down a double and it ended his season after only 24 games, in which he batted just .200. 

An owner less enamored with his players would have released Geiger two or three years earlier, but Yawkey held on to him as long as possible. At the end of the season, however, the Red Sox announced that Gary was being demoted to Toronto, their Triple-A club in the International League. In November, he was exposed to the Rule 5 draft and was claimed by Atlanta.

Gary played two injury-plagued years for the Atlanta Braves, primarily as a defensive replacement or a pinch-hitter. In 1967, he played in 69 games, batting just .162 with one home run. After the 1967 season, he felt his Atlanta days were over and hoped that if he was dropped, it would happen right away. He went to the Cardinals and, although he did not make the team, he became a player-coach for their Tulsa club in the Pacific Coast League. 

At the end of the season, he was unexpectedly drafted by Houston. He played for Houston in 1969 and 1970, but his major-league career was essentially over. Although Houston wanted him to stay through the season, Gary was unhappy about rarely getting into games and asked to be reassigned closer to a house he was building in Tulsa.

He finished his career in the American Association, with the Oklahoma City 89ers in 1970 and as playing manager of the Cardinals’ Tulsa Oilers farm team in 1971. In 1972, he managed the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Cardinals and after a year as a roving minor-league instructor for Detroit, he landed in the Braves organization in 1974, managing the Greenwood (South Carolina) Braves in the Class A Western Carolinas League.

During his early baseball off-seasons, he worked in an aluminum plant in Murphysboro, close to his hometown of Sand Ridge. After his baseball career ended, he then worked as a building superintendent for a private school in Tulsa. 

Gary was only 45 years old and spent his days reading the morning sports page, hearing from friends across the country, doing odd jobs around his parents’ house, hunting, and playing golf.

Gary Geiger was an alcoholic and lived the final 20 years of his life battling the addiction, passing away from cirrhosis of his liver on April 24, 1996, at age 59, in Murphysboro, Illinois.