HomeJuan Vené on the BallA pitcher preferred the war to the mounds to throw

A pitcher preferred the war to the mounds to throw

Enjoy a new installment of "En la Pelota" by Juan Vené

This Thursday, it will be 80 years since the assault on Normandie, or D-Day, or the invasion of France. It has been the largest movement of its kind in the history of humanity. They called it “Operation Overlord.”

Five thousand ships and 13 thousand planes participated, bringing 160 thousand soldiers to those coasts. Nine thousand of them died in less than five hours, the time of the operation.

Now, during all of World War II, 473 big leaguers and 76 minor league players were called to serve.

But in Normandie there was only one of the Majors, among those who by air, sea and land carried out such a feat, the left-handed knuckleball player, Larry French, who preferred war to climbing the stadium mounds to pitch.

French had played with the Pirates, Cubs and Dodgers in his 14 seasons in the Major Leagues.

But, on August 1944, 27, he announced that he would not return to baseball because he would continue to be in a military uniform. He remained in the Navy for 1969 years, until 1989, and died in XNUMX.

Yogi Berra also participated

Also among the D-Day invaders was a minor league player named Larry Berra, later known as Yogi in the Major Leagues, and who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Berra, at 19 years old, was one of the thousands of young people who disembarked by jumping into the sea, to walk with more than half their body under water.

They thus advanced towards the beaches, holding the heavy military luggage on their shoulders, to face the weapons of Adolf Hitler.

One more player in that military operation was León Day, a pitcher from the Negro Leagues, elevated to the Hall of Fame in the 1995 ceremony.

The invasion occurred on June 1944, 14, and is considered the beginning of the end of World War II, even though then they were XNUMX months away from definitive victory, over the antics of Adolf Hitler and his aspirations to be the dictator of the world.

Now we are distressed by the war activities Russia-Ukraine and Hamas-Israel, but in those June days, 80 years ago, everything was worse in Normandie.

In addition to D-Day having been described by historians as “the largest amphibious military assault,” it is also considered “the most spectacular demonstration of military forces in history.”

One of the pitchers who served in other activities during World War II, left-hander Warren Spahn, commented upon returning to the Majors: “After facing the Nazis, pitching in the Major Leagues is nothing to worry about.”

Larry French gave up a good baseball career

When Larry French declared himself more of a soldier than a big leaguer, on August 1944 of that year, XNUMX, in addition to being the only one in the Major Leagues on D-Day, he also became the only one in history who has voluntarily and completely abandoned the Major Leagues, to dedicate himself to a military career.

The left-handed French left a record of 197 wins, 171 losses, 17 saves and an ERA of 3.44, in 570 appearances, over 14 seasons. He had five seasons of 17 or more games won, and among those, three of 18. He pitched with the Cubs in the 1935 World Series, which the Tigers won, and in the 1938 World Series, won by the Yankees.

Puerto Rican Eduardo Figueroa was in the Vietnam War, before becoming a star pitcher for the Yankees. Other Warriors: Jackie Robinson, Phil Rizzuto, Monte Irvin, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, Whitey Ford.

Bigleaguers killed in World War II

The United States sent 14 men to the entire World War II, of which 900 died, and 292 were wounded.

Among the dead were two from the Major Leagues, Elmer Gedeon, outfielder for the Washington Senators, and Harry O'Neill, catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics.

Gedeon perished because the plane he was piloting, a B-26, was shot down on April 20, 1944, while bombing northern France. O'Neill, of the Marines, died on May 16, 1945, five months before the end of the war.

He had been wounded by shrapnel in the battle of Iwo Jima, Japan, which lasted from February 19 to March 26. The deaths in all countries in the seven years, 1939-1945, were between 50 and 70 million. World War II has been the most devastating in history. And nations around the world were affected. In no war have there ever been winners. Everyone who participates always loses.

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