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 in 1912, University of Michigan freshman picher George Sisler strikes out an incredible 20 batters in seven innings. Sisler will go on to serve in a chemical weapons unit commanded by Branch Rickey during World War I before an outstanding 15-year Hall of Fame career.
1951: Minnie Minoso – the first black White Sox player – hits a home run off the New York Yankee’s Vic Raschi in his first major league at bat. Raschi, who served as a physical trainer for the Army Air Force during World War II before winning 21 games three years in a row and winning six World Series, will also allow Hank Aaron’s first major league home run three years later.
In the same game, Chicago right hander Randy Gumpert (who served in the Coast Guard during World War II) watches as rookie Mickey Mantle sends his pitch sailing over the wall – the Mick’s first major league home run. Although Mantle wanted to serve in the military, an old high school football injury prevented him from joining.