2017-08-31 / Sports

We owe them more than we can every repay

LAMAR GARRARD baseball historian

“First and foremost, he was an American hero whose service to this country is his lasting legacy. He was also a great Yankee and true ambassador for baseball.”

N.Y. Yankees Managing Gen- eral Partner Hal Steinbrenner on Jerry Coleman former N.Y. Yankee player.

Last week I wrote about attend- ing a one-and-only-time event in 2007 in New Orleans at the National WWII Museum. As a follow up, I would like to mention a few more of the WWII Veterans and major league baseball players that attended that incredible confer- ence.

Jerry Coleman, a former N.Y. Yankee second baseman was there to talk about baseball and WWII and his experiences in both venues. Coleman was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1949 and played for the Bronx Bombers his entire baseball career.

He was in six World Series and was voted MVP of the 1950 tilt as the New Yorkers topped the Phillies in four games. He was on four world championship teams. The former San Diego Padres announcer served as a Marine combat pilot in WWII and the Korean War. Think about the precious time in 120 missions in two wars he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 13 Air Medals. I remember talking with him in New Orleans and he seemed to have a great sense of humor. He was noted for some of his zany sayings on his base- ball radio broadcasts for the Padres, one of which was when someone made a great play or a great hit he would sorta sing out the phrase: “Oh Doctor.”

Another great player and war veteran there was former Red Sox shortstop and third baseman, Johnny Pesky. The Boston favorite played from 1942 to 1954 losing four years of that to serve Uncle Sam. Pesky was an excellent ball player with a lifetime batting aver- age of .307. He spent 73 years in baseball either as a player, manager three season collected over 200 hits each year. His rookie season of ’42 saw him post 205 hits with a bat- ting average of .331 which was the highest batting average ever for a rookie at that time. In 2006 the Red at Fenway Park, Pesky’s Pole in his honor. He is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame and the team retired his No. 6. Pesky served in the Navy in Hawaii.

I also met a very personable fella there from New Orleans, Herb

Briefcase” Simpson.

Herb was an African-American who had played in the Negro Leagues and the Pacific Coast the basketball Harlem Globetrotters. Herb served the nation as a member of the “Red Ball Express” vital supply convoy operating in Europe that played a key role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. Again the obvious epitaph for all of these dedicated Americans is that we owe them more than we could ever repay.

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