Earlier this year my great-great uncle, named Falco, passed away, he was 94 years old, he was a veteran of World War II. My uncle Falco served on the U. Bunker Hill in the Pacific, and was always filled with stories that fascinated me, but looking back the most memorable moments that we had were are discussions about baseball.
It has always been my passion, and it was also his. He would talk about his childhood and how he used to go to Yankees games and see players like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle, all players that to me were viewed as Gods in the baseball world, but he had seen them first hand. He always used to joke that there were no real baseball players left in the game today, except maybe and he stressed the maybe Derek Jeter, and this statement never really meant that much to me. Yet looking back, he had given so much for his country during World War II, yet the athletes today got so much more in return for playing a sport than the men who protected this country received.
That generation of major league baseball players during World War II who sacrificed their careers to serve and protect this country were the last great athletes to play the game. Their selflessness and passion to do the right thing is a quality that we are losing in not only baseball, but in all sports.
After the attacks on Pearl Harbor in December of , many people felt compelled to join the military whether they enlisted or joined through the draft. Baseball was no exception, many of the players left their careers on the back burner and decided they felt it was necessary to join the fight to protect their country. Some of the most famous players of that generation that included Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Lefty Grove, who all left their stellar careers on hold and sacrificed their lives to protect their country.
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The images pictured are both of Ted Williams , and the picture to the left is when he joined navy in , only at the age of The picture on the right is a picture that was taken when Williams went back to fight in the Korean War and he had to be escorted back the base after his fighter plane light on fire in a raid over Korea.
Published in the newspaper this image showed the people that the heroes that they looked up to on the field, were also doing their part to help serve their country. The day before his second child was born back in America, a mortar killed Kalsu as he and his team faced heavy enemy fire.
Four years in the Marine Corps with stops in Kosovo and Afghanistan. At Texas, Hall walked onto the team as a fullback and was a member of the National Championship team. He went undrafted and, after showcasing his athletic ability and unstoppable work-ethic, Hall signed with the Titans as a year-old rookie.
In total, the fullback lasted 85 games over six seasons and was a team captain. Nicknamed the Admiral, center David Robinson never quite reached that ranking but honorably served his country nonetheless.
But before he could suit up for San Antonio, Robinson had to fulfill his active duty obligation. He spent two years in the Navy, mostly at a submarine base in Georgia before his Navy contract expired.
When the center did make it to the league, there were minimal signs of rust. Over the course of his year career, the former Marine who enlisted straight out of high school, pitched career games, won a World Series, was a three-time Cy Young Award winner, and time All-Star. When Seaver was elected into Cooperstown, he set the record for highest percentage of votes at Ken Griffey Jr. It did, however, force the future Hall of Famer to miss one year of professional baseball while he was with the Mets. Maybe it was basic training that taught him those sweet fighting moves.
Rightfully so, Landry is most well-known as a head coach, but before his time in a suit jacket and fedora hat, Landry was a versatile Pro Bowl and All-Pro player for the New York Giants. He flew over 30 missions and survived a daring crash landing when his B bomber ran out of fuel. That explains why Landry was such a calm and collected coach. The center fielder was seven-time All-Star and World Series champion while playing the majority of his career with the Cleveland Indians.
Warding off overt racism and discrimination, Clemente, who had trouble speaking English and was black, needed to both ignore the constant provocations he faced and prove himself more than the average player in order to get a call from the Majors.
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When the time did come, the outfielder was ready. Drafted by the Pirates, Clemente spent his entire career in Pittsburgh. He spent six months of active duty at Parris Island and served six years in the Marine Corps Reserves. He tragically died in when his plane crashed while delivering goods to Nicaragua following a devastating earthquake.
He was in the band. So how did he get there? Via the Marines. After high school, Anderson joined the Marines so he could save up money for college. In the Marines, Anderson went on several peacekeeping missions to Africa. In his spare time, he swapped his kevlar for football pads, suiting up for a Marine football team. There, a scout from a junior college noticed the potential in Anderson and offered him a spot on the team once his service was complete. Two years of solid play at the junior college earned Anderson a spot on the Utah Utes football team.
Anderson played seven years in the league and rushed for over 1, yards twice, including during his rookie season. Senator, presidential candidate, shooting guard, and member of the Air Force Reserve. Bill Bradley was a man of many talents. As a guard for Princeton, Bradley was one of the more prolific Ivy Leaguers in history. In , Bradley won a gold medal as a member of the United States Olympic squad. After six months of active duty, Bradley finally made his NBA debut. Jack Dempsey has consistently been ranked among the greatest boxers of all time.
He was a world champion and considered one of the most powerful punchers of his generation. With America fully engaged in WWII and Dempsey being recently retired from the ring, the timing was right for him to redeem himself and his tarnished reputation. No one questioned his punching ability, but everyone questioned his character as citizen. In the Coast Guard, Dempsey was a physical education instructor and used his status as a boxer to raise money for the war efforts.
He boxed at fundraisers across the country. Hank Greenberg, one of the greatest Jewish athletes of all time and nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer, was a formidable slugger primarily for the Detroit Tigers. In his ninth season, , Greenberg became the first pro baseball player to register for the draft.
Following his enlistment, Greenberg trained to be a tank gunner and missed all but 19 games during the season due to training. But, due to his age, Greenberg was honorably discharged from the Army two days before Pearl Harbor. A few months after the attack, Greenberg re-enlisted into the Army. Greenberg, wanting to serve in the highest capacity possible, requested to serve overseas.
Baseball's Dead of World War II A Roster of Professional Players Who Died in Service
When the war concluded, Greenberg served for a total of 47 months and missed nearly four years of professional baseball. His time in the Army turned out to be the longest tenure of any baseball player. Feller pitched from to and from to , interrupted only by a four-year sojourn in the Navy. A prodigy who bypassed the minor leagues, Feller first played for the Indians at the age of His career was interrupted by four years of military service in WWII. Profession: Baseball player, Sailor.
Schools: Van Meter Elementary School.
Baseball's Dead of World War II: A Roster of Professional Players Who Died in Service
Cause Of Death: Leukemia. Andrew Jackson Lummus, Jr. Birthplace: Texas. Cause Of Death: Killed in action. These notable athletes who served in the military may not have all been the best of their respective sports and may not have all been decorated soldiers but each of these fine men and women should be thanked for their service nonetheless. Pat Tillman. Roger Staubach.