I realize not everyone cares that baseball season has started, so I wanted to tell a few stories that go beyond the game that everyone will enjoy. This is about the true heroes who played the game. During World War I and World War II (and the Korean conflict) many of the biggest names in baseball put their careers on hold and volunteered to serve. The day after Pearl Harbor Bob Feller, baseball’s best strikeout pitcher, enlisted in the Navy and became a decorated war hero. Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, served for five years as a fighter pilot. Yogi Berra, Warren Spahn, and Stan Musial also sacrificed part of their baseball careers to serve.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and to do so had to endure humiliation from fans, purposeful injuries caused other players, and unfair calls from umpires. Hank Aaron (the true home run king in my mind) also had to deal with tough times when racially motivated fans didn’t want to see him break Babe Ruth’s record.
Roberto Clemente (a twelve-time All Star) was bringing supplies to his native country of Nicaragua after an earthquake when his plane crashed and ended his career and his life at the age of 38. (There is now an MLB humanitarian award named in his honor.)
In 1976, two fans were about to light an American flag on fire when Dodger’s center fielder Rick Monday ran over and rescued it before it could become desecrated. At Fenway Park in 1982, a foul ball tragically struck a four-year-old boy in the head. Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice didn’t hesitate. He sprinted into the stands and gently carried the boy to the dugout so the team’s doctors could care for him. Doctors later said this saved the boy’s life. Rice visited the boy in the hospital and paid for all of the medical bills. (He was not the one who hit the foul ball, but the family was of modest means and he wanted to do the right thing.)