Salute to Service: Baseball Legends Who Served
Baseball is back! The dogs are hot and the beer is cold and I’m ready for some Boston Red Sox action. Whatever your team, Major League Baseball is well underway and I couldn’t be happier. In this week’s Salute to Service, I wanted to recognize these baseball legends who have also served in the United States military.
Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, U.S. Marine Corps
Theodore Samuel Williams, otherwise known as Ted Williams, played left field for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960. He took a break from baseball to serve as an aviator in the Marine Corps during the Korean War and in World War II. The legendary Red Sox player’s military career was just as impressive as his baseball one. Ted flew 39 missions and earned multiple medals including three Air Medals for aerial operations. He served from 1942 until 1946, then went back to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox, where he led the team to a World Series and earned the Most Valuable Player award. Ted Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
Gary Maddox, San Francisco Giants, U.S. Army
Gary Maddox was a centerfielder for both the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies from 1972 to 1986. Gary served in the Army and completed a tour in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. Unfortunately, he was exposed to chemicals during the war and it damaged his skin. Because of this, he never shaved his beard, which became his trademark. The eight-time Gold Glove winner won the 1980 World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies and eventually retired in 1986.
Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees, U.S. Air Force
Joe DiMaggio played centerfield and joined the New York Yankees in 1936. This iconic Yankee got to play with legendary players such as Lou Gehrig and Lefty Gomez. On February 17, 1943, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed at California’s Santa Ana Air Base. Joe was assigned to Special Services as a baseball player and played with other military members as entertainment for the troops. Even though he developed stomach ulcers and was riddled with pain, he continued to serve. Sgt DiMaggio was then assigned to the 7th Army Air Force team until he was medically retired in September 14, 1945. In the spring of 1946, Joe DiMaggio returned to the New York Yankees and won World Series titles in 1947, 1949, 1950, and 1951.
Yogi Berra, New York Yankees, U.S. Navy
Yogi Berra started his New York Yankee baseball career in 1946 and played as a catcher and outfielder, but prior to becoming a baseball legend, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943. After his amphibious training in 1944, he deployed to Europe and started training for the infamous landing at Normandy, France. In July 1944, Yogi participated in Operation Dragoon, which was the invasion of southern France. During the fight, Yogi was struck in the hand by an enemy bullet and received a Purple Heart for the injury. In 1946, Seaman Second Class Berra was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy and joined the New York Yankees as a centerfielder. Yogi Berra served his whole nineteen-year career in New York and is a ten-time World Series champion.
Al Barlick, MLB Umpire, U.S. Coast Guard
Known for his energetic voice and exaggerated hand gestures when calling strikes, Al Barlick began his Major League career as a National League umpire in 1940. He joined the United States Coast Guard on November 5, 1943 and was assigned to a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. After serving his country in the Coast Guard, Al went back to umpiring in 1946. Al Barlick umpired for seven All-Star games and seven World Series, but after 33 years in the big leagues, he retired in 1972. Al Barlick was enshrined forever at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.