Veterans Day holds a special place in my heart, not because I am a 1%’er, but because of those that have truly sacrificed. The ones buried in Arlington, or that came home but really didn’t. My grandfather was one of the latter. You see, war can really mess a person up, it changes a person mentally and it can’t be changed back. I’ve always believed that there are two different types of Veterans, those that have sacrificed, and those that have served. There is as much honor in either type, but those that sacrificed were asked to sign the check they wrote to Uncle Sam. So today I would like to say Happy Veterans Day to my brother and sisters in arms and I look to heaven in gratitude for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Now that I’ve said my piece on this Veterans Day 2014 I’d like to take a look at Baseball and its veterans, after all this is a blog with its focal point of baseball and sports.
I would like to start out with Yogi Berra. As a kid I was enamored with this character. I never watched him play a game in my life but he was my favorite player. How could you not like the guy, his character and attitude were clearly as powerful as the 358 home runs he launched into the stands. Second Class Seaman Lawrence P. Berra served on D-Day as a member of a six man crew unleashing a barrage of metal hell on German defense planes and although never directly hit was in the cross hairs of those he aimed to knock out of the skies that were lit up by that same fire. So to you Lawrence I proudly say thank you for standing beside me as a 1%’er.
How about Yogi’s mentor “Bill Dickey”? Dickey was drafted at the age of 37 and although he did not see battle was slated as the manager of the U.S. Navy baseball team that won a crown in 1944. His fellow teammate JoeDimaggio also served while playing ball, but not for the navy. I’m sure many people will think that Dickey’s time doesn’t constitute real service but it is not on his shoulder that our government decided to deal with famous ball players in this manner. As I mentioned earlier, I believe there are two types of Veterans and both are honorable. The craziest thing about Dickey in my opinion is he’s probably one of the most underrated Yankees of all time. When one is surrounded by Lou Gehrig (one of Dickey’s best friends), Babe Ruth, Joltin Joe, and Yogi Berra it’s easy to get lost and Dickey seemed to do just that. His career batting average was .313, which is 3 points higher than DerekJeter, and we all know how great Jeter was.
The only major leaguer to see combat in two wars, while accumulating 120 missions, 2 distinguished flying crosses, 13 air medals and 3 Navy Citations Jerry Coleman represented his country and his teams as well as anyone can. Coleman was apart of four world championships while donning Pinstripes (1949, 1950, 1951, 1956) and went on to be inducted into the broadcasters wing of the National Baseball Hall ofFame. Although his four decades announcing for the Padre’s are what put him in Cooperstown, his 4 rings in Stripes will always make him a Yankee legend of sorts.
And if we are going to talk about baseball, and military service we can’t forget to mention the females of the All American Girls ProBaseball League that helped fill the void while minor league teams were disbanded because of WWII. The Rockford Peaches, Racine Belles, Kenosha comets and South Bend Blue Sox made up the first league in 1943 proving that girls can play. Some of my best memories playing the game are in Co-Ed softball leagues in which I can honestly say some, if not most of the girls we played with were better then me (to include my sister in law).
I love hearing military stories and sacrifices so please leave some comments or stories below and share with everyone. To those that have served along side of me, before me and will serve after me, Thank You. You are in my prayers.