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 Pfc. Giles W. Stallard, who was killed during a firefight in the Republic of Vietnam’s Long An province on this day in 1968. The 19-year-old Saltville, Va. native had only been in country for a month and was assigned to B Company, 2d Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division.
1777: Near what will soon become the United States Military Academy (West Point, N.Y.), British troops simultaneously attack – and defeat – Continental forces at Forts Clinton and Montgomery, and also destroy the chain that had been placed across the Hudson River to prevent British ships from sailing upriver. The engagement is sometimes called the Battle of the Clintons since the British troops are led by Gen. Sir Henry Clinton, and the garrisons are led by Gens. (and brothers) James Clinton and George Clinton – who is also the governor or New York.
1918: In the Argonne Forest, German forces have surrounded 500 American doughboys of the 77th “Metropolitan” Division under the command of Maj. Charles W. Whittlesey after the French and American units advancing on their flanks are held up. With no communication other than carrier pigeons and no other means to send supplies, 1st Lt. Harold E. “Dad” Goettler and 2nd Lt. Erwin R. Bleckley volunteer to fly through withering enemy fire to drop much-needed supplies to the Americans in a DH-4 Liberty Plane. On their second trip, both airmen are killed and are posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Also killed while attempting to locate the force is Capt. Eddie Grant, the former leadoff hitter and third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Grant was one of the first baseball players to join the Armed Forces during World War I. All but 194 members of the Lost Battalion are killed, wounded, or captured, and five 77th Division soldiers – including Whittlesey – will earn the Medal of Honor during the six-day engagement.
1942: Five battalions of Marines, supported a group of scout snipers, cross Guadalcanal’s heavily defended Matanikau River and engage the Japanese. Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Battalion, 7th Marines trap a Japanese battalion in a ravine, creating what he called a “machine for extermination,” annihilating the force with a deadly combination of heavy artillery, mortar fire, and small arms fire. The operation plays a major role in the American victory on Guadalcanal, when Japanese planners opt for an exhausting overland march for their major offensive against Lunga Point later in the month, instead of crossing the Matanikau.