Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Remembrances

I wanted to take some time this Sunday to look back at the brave baseball men that gave up the sunshine of their youths to serve their country in World War II and Korea. It wasn’t only the well known players, such as Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, who gallantly signed up for what could have been a death sentence. I wanted to make sure the lesser known players were remembered for their dedication and patriotism. So while you enjoy your family barbeques and dipping your feet into your pool for the first time this Monday, take a moment and remember that we are all apart of something bigger. These men took up arms so we could enjoy these moments. Have a happy, healthy and loving Memorial Day!

Bob Feller

Everyone who knows baseball knows who Bob Feller is. Recently, he has made no secret of his feelings regarding the Steroid Era, saying that anyone who is caught using them doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, Feller has more than earned the right to say whatever he wants about the game or anything else for that matter. He joined the Air Force during the prime of his career and spent the war as a Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama. He ended up with five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Around those war years, Feller was one of the best pitchers in the American League. He won 24, 27 and 25 games for the Cleveland Indians in the years leading up to 1942. He also led the league in strikeouts from 1938 to 1941 with 240, 246, 261 and 260. He pitched in 343 innings his last year before the war; something that would be unheard of in today’s game.

Feller continued his winning ways after the war, winning 26 and 20 games in 1946 and 1947. He struck out 348 batters in 371.1 innings in 1946. That same year he finished with 36 complete games and 10 shutouts. He didn’t win the Cy Young Award that year because it didn’t exist yet. He did finish sixth in the voting for the Most Valuable Player Award.

Feller finished his career in 1956, winning 20 games only one more time in 1951. He finished his career with 266 victories, 2,581 strikeouts and 279 complete games. The war robbed him of 300 wins, but not our respect. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Taffy Wright

Taffy Wright played for the Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Athletics in his nine year career.

He hit .300 or better in the five years before he entered the war in 1942. In 1940, he hit .337 with 196 hits and 88 RBI for the White Sox. In 85 games in 1942, he hit .332 with a .432 on base percentage and only struck out nine times.

He stumbled to a .275 batting average in his first year back from the war, but came back to hit .324 in 1947. He finished his career with a career average of .311 with 1,115 hits. It’s interesting to think of whether he could have been a Hall of Fame hitter with four more prime years under his belt.

Johnny Schmitz

Johnny Schmitz pitched 13 seasons for seven different teams from 1941-1956. He led the league in strikeouts in 1946 after serving in World War II. His best season came in 1948. Playing for the Chicago Cubs, he won 18 games with an E.R.A. of 2.64. He had 18 complete games and pitched in 242 innings. He finished 12th in the MVP voting that season.

Schmitz ended up with only 93 wins in his career, but with a respectable E.R.A. of 3.55. He finished with 86 complete games and 16 shutouts.

He also had one of the best nicknames I’ve come across; “Bear Tracks”. I don’t know how he got it, but I’d trust a guy on the mound who had a nickname like that.

Enos Slaughter

Speaking of great names, Enos Slaughter has one of the best. Even his nickname, “Country” was cool. He seemed to be named to be a hitter and that’s exactly what he did.

Slaughter played most of his best years for the St. Louis Cardinals. Before he entered the war in 1942, he led the league in hits (188), triples (17) and total bases (292). He hit .300 or better four times between 1938 and 1942.

In 1949, he hit .336 with 191 hits, including a league leading 13 triples. He drove in 96 runs and finished in the top three in MVP voting. I hadn’t realized he played two seasons for the New York Yankees in 1957 and 1958. He hit .304 in the later year with 138 hits in just 77 games.

He finished his career with a .300 batting average with 2,383 hits. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1985.

1 comment:

  1. what a great idea and way to tie in baseball and the holiday. great post!