May 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; American flag at Comerica Park during the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Memorial Day 2014: The greatest MLB players to serve


Memorial Day is a day created to honor the courageous men and women who have served our nation in the United States Military, it seems only right to account for some of the greatest baseball players of all time who have served their time.

Throughout the history of the MLB, many amazing men have served; let’s take a look at some of them here.

Christy Mathewson, New York Giants, 1900-1918

Christy Mathewson enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War I. He served overseas as a captain in the Chemical Service. After arriving in France, Mathewson was accidentally sprayed with chemicals during a training session. He developed tuberculosis soon thereafter and his damaged lungs made him more susceptible to the disease.

Throughout his seasons in the majors, Mathewson had 373 wins which places him third in the all time major league list. Mathewson had  four seasons where he recorded 30 or more wins. He was elected in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 as one of the first five inaugural members.

Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947-1956

Robinson, a courageous young man for helping erase color boundaries in baseball also served in the U.S. Army from 1942-44. After completing officer candidate school, Robinson was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1943. After an acquittal for being charged with insubordination upon refusing to sit in the back of a military bus, Robinson served as a coach for army athletics before being discharged in November of 1944 due to an ankle injury deeming him unsuitable to serve.

Robinson won Rookie of the Year in 1947 in addition to the National League MVP in 1949. Throughout ten seasons, Robinson had a batting average of .311

Yogi Berra, New York Yankees, 1946-1965

Yogi Berra served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield during the D-Day invasion. Surviving the beaches of Normandy, Berra returned to America to become one of the best catchers the MLB has ever seen. Berra won three American League MVP awards throughout his 19 seasons playing. In addition, he was a 15-time American League All Star.

As a player, coach, or manager, Berra was involved in 21 World Series games. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees, 1936-1951

Joe DiMaggio served in the U.S. Air Force, enlisting in 1943. Upon making sergeant he was stationed throughout the United States as a physical education instructor. DiMaggio was released due to stomach problems in 1945.

DiMaggio played 13 seasons with the New York Yankees with a .325 hitting average over the course of his career. He won three American League MVP awards and is a 13-time American League All Star. DiMaggio remains the owner of one of the MLB’s most legendary records; 56 consecutive games with a hit.

Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals, 1941-1963

Stan Musial served in the U.S. Navy as a seaman second class. Musial was drafted in 1945. He was assigned to Special Services in Hawaii and was involved in bringing back damaged ship crews from Pearl Harbor. He played baseball with the base’s eight team league and eventually received an honorable discharge in March 1946.

Musial was known for his hitting capabilities, batting .331 throughout his 22 year career. He had a total of 3,630 hits and 475 home runs. Musial earned three National League MVP awards and was a 20-time All Star.

Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians, 1936-1956

Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy a mere two days after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. He served from 1941 to 1945. In the midst of his baseball career, Feller heard about the attacks while on his way to sign a new contract with the Indians. Instead, he volunteered with the Navy and became the first professional sports player to enlist in the U.S. Military. Despite receiving a military exemption due to his fathers failing health, Feller volunteered to enter combat. He served as Gun Captain on the USS Alabama, spending most of his time in the British Isles. When the war ended, Feller was discharged as Chief Petty Officer in 1945.

Throughout 18 seasons with the Indians, Feller won 266 games which included six seasons where he had twenty wins.

Warren Spahn, Boston Braves, 1942-1965

Warren Spahn enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 after finishing his season in the minor leagues. Spahn was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and Lundendorff Bridge as a combat engineer. He was award a battlefield commission. While protecting the Lundendorff Bridge, Spahn was injured by flying shards of shrapnel.  Spahn was award a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and was promoted to first lieutenant.

Spahn has become known as one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history. With 363 wins, Spahn is ranked sixth in baseball’s all time list. He won the Cy Young Award in 1957 and 14 All Star selections.

Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants, 1951-1973

Willie Mays was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952 during the Korean War. Mays was assigned to the instructional division of the physical fitness department at Camp Eustis, Virginia. Here he spent a lot of his time playing baseball.

Mays played 22 seasons in the MLB. He had a batting average of .302 for his career. This included 660 home runs and 1,903 RBIs. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.

Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1905-1928

Ty Cobb enlisted in the army during World War I. He served in the army’s gas and flame division. Some say that this elite unit compares to today’s special forces. Cobb never saw any combat because by the time he made his way to Europe, the Armistice had already been signed.

Cobb won the American League batting crown eleven times. During the 1922 season, he hit an amazing .401. His 22 career average was .366, placing him number 1 on the all time list.

Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1939-1960

Ted Williams was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1942. With hopes of becoming a fighter pilot he entered primary flight school training. Here he proved he was incredibly skilled in the air. By 1944 Williams had earned his wings and was commissioned as second lieutenant. Between 1944 and 1945 served as an instructor with the Marine Corps reserves.

Williams went on to serve during the Korean war in 1952. He was deployed with the Marine Aircraft Group 33. Williams flew 39 combat missions before being relieved of flight duties due to an ear infection which resulted in him being unsuitable to fly.

Williams had 19 year career average of .344 with 521 home runs. He was a two time American League MVP, six time battling champion, 17 time All Star and a two time Triple Crown winner.

Tags: Memorial Day MLB