2018-07-12 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

Baseball players are great American Patriots
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“There is only one thing that our enemies understand. That is, how many guns we have and how well we use them.” – Bob Feller, Hall of Fame pitcher and World War II Navy veteran

Our nation has just celebrated another Independence Day this past July 4 and I am reminded of how grateful we all must feel towards preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. This would include all veterans of all wars since our country’s founding. I am especially grateful for the WWII veterans, “The Greatest Generation” men and women, who served America so gallantly.

I want to express appreciation to one of the greatest major league pitchers of all time and one who performed heroically in the Navy. Rapid Robert, as Bob Feller was known in the big leagues, served in the Armed Forces on the battleship the U.S.S. Alabama for three and campaign ribbons and eight battle stars for his duty as Chief Gunners Mate where he saw action in the battles of Tarawa, the Marshall Islands, the Corolines, Iwo Jima, and the battle of the Philippine Sea. He also was on the ship when it was an integral part of supply convoys aiding the Russians in their battle against the Germans.

Feller, an Iowa native, was a young 17-year-old rookie in 1936 when he struck out 15 batters in one game. A few days after that, he struck out 17 batters in a game. In 1940 on opening day, the Cleveland Indian right hander threw a no hit- ter. This is the only no hitter ever pitched in an opening-day game. By the time Feller enlisted in the Navy in 1941 he had already won over 100 games and was one of the highest paid players in the majors. When asked if he had any regrets in losing precious baseball years to the war, he replied that serving his country was the greatest accomplishment of his life.

Bob Feller was a true American hero and he went on to win 266 major league games including a World Championship in 1948 with the Indians. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Such courage and commitment to our country was exhibited by many major and minor league players. The Augusta Tigers, a Yankee farm club lost a highly rated outfield prospect, Bill Sarver, who was killed in Europe. Hank Bauer, great Yankee outfielder was wounded two times. Yogi Berra suffered wounds in Normandy. Ralph Houck was wounded in Germany. Warren Spahn was wounded as was Hoyt are many more that we could name here, but the point is, baseball was heavily involved in America’s victory in WWll. For this we all should say a prayer of thankfulness. I will never forget the day Lou Brissie introduced me to Bob Feller at a player’s reunion in Philadelphia. Brissie and Feller were two former teammates and war heroes who had high esteem and great admiration for each other. I was so humbled and honored to be in the presence and company of these two great men.

Thank you gentlemen for your America.

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