Friday, December 7, 2012

Baseball and War World II

Since today is December 7 and the anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, I will write about the connection of baseball and WWII. As you all probably know, the attack of Pearl Harbor was what precipitated USA's involvement in the war that had been going on in Europe. The war affected all walks of life and baseball was no different. The day after the attack of Pearl Harbor, many professional ballplayers enlisted into various military branches including future hall of famers Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers and Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians.  Other hall of fame players who ended up in the military during the war included: Ted Williams, Joe Dimaggio, Stan Musial plus negro league players Monte Irvin and Leon Day.

Of course, there are hundreds of other players who fought in the war who didnt have the on field successes as the aforementioned greats. These players should also be remembered.  Here are two players who that come to mind. One, Cecil Travis, was a rising star who put his career on hold  for America and the other, Moe Berg, did more for his country than any other ballplayer.
Cecil Travis was an infielder for the Washington Senators. He made is major league debut at third base in 1933 and later became the regular shortstop. In his first game, the 19 year old went 5 for 5, becoming just the second player in history to get 5 hits in his major league debut. But 1938 was his break out year. He was selected to his first of 3 all star games(along with 1940 and '41) and finished in the top ten in AL MVP voting for the first time(also did in 1941).
1940 Play Ball

In the winter of 1941/42, he entered the US Army. He eventually fought at the Battle of the Bulge and suffered a bad case of frostbite. He needed surgery to prevent amputation of his feet. Upon returning to the Senators, he skills had diminished from the time away and never was the same player. He was out of the game by 1947. To this day his career batting average of .314 is highest among AL shortstrops and third overall in major league history. He was never bitter about his post war career, he was just proud to be serve America and accomplished what he could on the ballfield.
Moe Berg, on the otherhand, was a career backup catcher for 15 major league seasons. He was Ivy league graduate who spoke several languages. During World War II, he became a spy for the United States and gathered information about Nazi Germany and their missile program. He was later rewarded the Medal of Freedom. His complete bio can be read here:
Travis and Berg are just two examples of the many players who unselfishly helped out their country when needed the most. It shows that the "greatest generation" did include professional baseball players. So, on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor, if you see a World War II veteran or a veteran of any war. Stop by and thank him or her for what they sacrificed for the rest of us. I am sure it would be greatly appreciated.

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