On the day we honor Veterans who served in the American Armed Forces, I thought it would be time well spent and interesting to do some research on Major and Minor League players who have served their country. The sheer number is startling – 336 during the Korean War (view list here) for example according to Baseball Reference, my go-to source for anything about baseball.
Some of the names we are familiar with and a few such as Ted Williams (above) deservedly gained renown for their efforts. Williams (view MLB’s tribute here), a distinguished fighter pilot for the Marines forfeited three prime baseball years to serve. Hall of Famers Whitey Ford (above right) and Willie Mays ( right with another Veteran, Don Newcombe) also served in the Korea struggle in the early 1950′ s. Other names are not as much of note, but count players like Jerry Coleman, who appeared in six World Series for the New York Yankees, Roger Craig, a 20 game loser for the first New York Mets team in 196 , Don Larsen (no introduction needed), Billy Martin, a journeyman player but a dynamic manager, and Frank Torre, the brother of Joe hit .273 in seven big league seasons, among those who served too.
In the late 1960’s and early 70’s, our nation was occupied by the Vietnam War. In all, a total of 108 professional baseball players served in this war (view the full list here). They include players like Jerry Koosman (right), who teamed with Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan while pitching for the Mets, Garry Maddox (right) who won 8 Gold Gloves and was a member of the Phillies 1980 Championship Team, and Jim Kern (below) a 3 time all star and 1979 AL Reliever of the Year.
As a footnote, only three professionals have served in the Middle East and Afghanistan conflicts. All quit baseball after one or two years in the Minor Leagues. We all hope and pray that there is not a need in the future for these lists to grow, or for more lists to be created in the future.