101 years ago this week, U.S. Army Capt. Eddie Grant was killed in action on the Western Front. “Harvard Eddie” was a fascinating character: soldier, scholar, lawyer, and third baseman — playing ten seasons in the Major Leagues before becoming one of the first baseball veterans to volunteer for military service. He was one of eight big league baseball players to die during the war. Here are their stories:
On April 21,1914 New York Yankees skipper Frank Chance called on a 20-year-old rookie named Tom Burr to take over at center field in a close game against the Washington Senators. Burr was pulled before he could hit and no one hit the ball to him in what would mark the last game both Burr and Chance (yes, of the famed Chicago Cubs “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” double-play combination) would play.
Four years later Burr was called up again — this time flying warplanes for the U.S. Air Service’s 31st Aero Squadron. On Oct. 12, 1918, just one month before the armistice, Lt. Burr’s plane collided with another flyer during gunnery training in France, sending the former major leaguer plunging to his death into Lake Cazaux.
Harry Glenn played six games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, then joined the Army and was training to become an aviation mechanic when he died of pneumonia on the same day as Burr. Harry Chapman who played five seasons in the National, American, and Federal leagues before joining the Army would also die of pneumonia just nine days later. Then on Nov. 8, former Chicago White Sox outfielder Larry Chappell, who had signed on with the Medical Corps, passed away from the flu.
Today’s post is in honor of the 19 soldiers who gave their lives on this day in 1993 during Operation GOTHIC SERPENT: Sgt. Cornell L. Houston Sr. and Pfc. James H. Martin Jr. of the 10th Mountain Division; SSgt. William D. Cleveland Jr., SSgt. Thomas J. Field, and CW4 Raymond A. Frank of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s SUPER 64; CW3 Clinton P. Wolcott and CW3 Donovan L. Briley of SUPER 61; Cpl. James E. Smith, Spc. James M. Cavaco, Sgt. James C. Joyce, Cpl. Richard W. Kowalewski Jr., Sgt. Dominick M. Pilla, and Sgt. Lorenzo M. Ruiz of the 3rd Ranger Battalion; MSgt. Timothy L. Martin, SFC Earl R. Filmore Jr., SSgt. Daniel D. Busch, SFC Randy Shughart, and MSgt. Garry I. Gordon of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. (Delta’s SFC Matthew L. Rierson is killed in action on 6 Oct., but is typically included among the battle’s casualties)
1794: President George Washington calls on the governors of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to mobilize troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Washington himself will lead the army – the only time a sitting president commands troops in the field. Henry “Light Horse” Lee, veteran of the American Revolution and father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee will also lead troops, and also participating in the campaign is Pvt. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
1912: Four Marine battalions – including one led by Maj. Smedley Butler – converge and assault the fortress atop the 500-ft. Coyotepe Hill. Nicaraguan rebel commander Gen. Benjamin Zeledón is killed during the battle, and the rebellion effectively ends once the Marines capture the city of León in two days.
Butler, a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, Banana Wars, Mexican Revolution, and World War I, is the only Marine in history to be awarded two Medal of Honors and the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. His Medal of Honor citations can be read here: 1st award / 2nd award
1950: Major League Baseball rules that Philadelphia Phillies’ 17-game winner Curt Simmons, whose National Guard unit had just been activated during the Korean War, would not be eligible to pitch in the World Series, despite the fact that he was on furlough. With their ace left-hander out of the lineup, the Phillies will be swept by a New York Yankee team managed by World War I veteran Casey Stengel (USN) and featuring Joe DiMaggio (USA), Whitey Ford (soon-to-be USA), Hank Bauer (USMC), Jerry Coleman (USMC), and Yogi Berra (USN).
On Sept. 30, 1972, Roberto Clemente passed Honus Wagner for most games ever played by a Pittsburgh Pirate, but the fans in Three Rivers Stadium witnessed a much more important milestone that day. Pitching for Yogi Berra’s New York Mets was Jon Matlack, a lefthander that won 15 games that year and would be awarded the National League Rookie of the Year. He struck out Clemente in the first inning, but Clemente smoked a double off the leftfield wall in the fourth for hit number 3,000.
At that point, Clemente was just the 11th player to reach the 3,000-hit milestone. He is pulled from the game afterwards for a pinch hitter, fellow future Hall-of-Famer Bill Mazeroski. It will be Clemente’s last regular season at-bat of his career; he is killed in a plane crash while delivering aid to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua after the Cincinnati Reds eliminate the Pirates from the playoffs.
On this same date in 1927, the New York Yankees were about to close out what many argue is the best season in Major League Baseball history. Fans packed “The House that Ruth Built” to see the Bambino break baseball’s homerun record — which he set in 1921. Ruth was absolutely on fire, having hit 16 home runs just in the month of September, hitting numbers 58 and 59 the day before.
Thousands of Major League Baseball players have answered the nation’s call, serving in two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and peacetime. The following post is just one of what will become several slideshows of players who served in the United States Armed Forces.
On 3 October 1943, a rookie Brooklyn Dodger named Gil Hodges hops off the bench for his first-ever professional baseball game (Hodges played college ball for St. Joseph’s College then went straight into the Minor Leagues). Cincinnati ace Johnny Vander Meer — who would serve in the Navy during World War II — strikes Hodges out twice, but Hodges draws a walk in his third and final plate appearance of the season. After this game he joins the Marine Corps, playing baseball for the 16th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion while on Hawaii, but soon ships out for combat on Tinian and is among the first troops ashore on Okinawa, where the future eight-time All Star earns a Bronze Star for valor.
[Click the navigation menu below for more baseball players that served our country]
On this day 21 years ago, Chicago White Sox second baseman Ray Durham tied a Major League record by reaching base three times on errors. I don’t know how he got in the heads of the Cleveland Indians, but they committed two more errors while Durham was running the bases.
Durham lead off the game by reaching first on an error by future Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Thome. Another HOF’er, Frank Thomas hits a homerun, and Durham scores.
Leading off the top of the third Durham reaches again, this time on an error by pitcher Charles Nagy. He steals second base and advances to third on a throwing error by catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. A sacrifice fly by Thomas and Durham scores again.
In the fifth inning, Durham makes it to first on another error by Thome. He then scores again on a double to right by Albert Belle. The score is now Ray Durham 3, Cleveland 1.