Baseball in Wartime
When I think of baseball players who served their country during World War II and the Korean War the first player I think of is Ted Williams.
He missed the entire 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons during World War II. 1942 was his last season before becoming a soldier and he hit 36 homers and drove in 137 runs.
When he returned for the 1946 season he hit 38 homers and drove in 123 runs. It is safe to say that he would have hit at least 100 homers and driven in 375 more runs if he had played those three seasons.
He never missed a full season after World War II ended and even though he served in Korea he didn’t miss an entire season during that conflict but only played a total of 43 games in 1952 and 1953.
Two Major Leaguers Died in World War II
Elmer Gedeon: Gedeon was the son of former major leaguer Joe Gedeon who played in seven major league seasons making his major league debut in 1913.
Elmer only had 17 major league plate appearances in 1939 with the Washington Senators.
Gedeon was on his 13th bombing mission when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire over France and lost his life when his plane was hit and the cockpit filled with flame on April 20, 1944. He had celebrated his birthday only five days before dying.
Harry O’Neill: O’Neill only played the Philadelphia Phillies in one game in 1939 but was a wartime hero who died in action during the fighting on Iwo Jima in 1945.
One Major Leaguer Died In Korean War
Robert Neighbors: Neighbors only made 11 plate appearances in seven games for the St.Louis Browns in 1939.
He died at the age of 34 during the Korean War when the plane he was piloting was hit and he and his crew never returned and were listed as missing in action and their bodies were never recovered after the war.
All Three Are Heroes Today
Elmer Gedeon, Harry O’Neill and Robert Neighbors saw very little major league action but they were heroes during the wars they fought in and are still heroes today for paying the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
126 minor leaguers were killed during World War II which seems like a huge number compared to the two major leaguers killed but there were hundreds of minor league teams at the time and thousands and thousands of players explaining the huge discrepancy since there were only 16 major league teams at the time with a total of 400 players.
We salute all of these players who served their country. Their statistics may have suffered for those those who were fortunate enough to return to the baseball diamond but their service to their country will always be appreciated by fans like me who realize the security of our country is more important than baseball will ever be.
Thanks to the administrators of the Baseball In Wartime who are honoring those baseball players who laid down their bats and gloves to serve their country.
The site has an article and photos of players who participated in the Battle of the Bulge including Warren Spahn, Ralph Houk and Hoyt Wilhelm.