Josh Q. Public: I am a patriot, and I love my country. Because my country is all I know. -****
Public Service Announcement: OK, here we go! Memorial Day. From the Halls of Montezuma. To the shores of Tripoli. We will fight our country's battles. In the air, on land and sea. Ted Williams. You know the numbers. It's murder by numbers, one, two, three. It's as easy to learn as your ABCs. 521 dings. Ding **** the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead. Lifetime .344. Letting the days go by. Water flowing underground. Into the blue again. After the money's gone. Once in a lifetime. 1,839 RBI's. Two Triple Crowns. All-time leader with a .483 on base percentage. A carrer .634 slugging percentage. Last player to hit .400. Unbelievable, right? Greatest hitter ever, right? I'm that star up in the sky. I'm that mountain peak up high. Hey I made it, mmmmmm. I'm the world's greatest. Still, the question remains. How great would those numbers be if Teddy Ballgame did not sacrifice himself. Did not sacrifice his baseball legacy. Did not sacrifice any of that for this great country of ours? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria. What if he did not give up the prime of his baseball life to enlist into the US Navy? The US Navy. Life, liberty and the pursuit of all who threaten it. To join World War II? To re-enlist into the Marine Corps? Semper Fi Do or Die. To fly combat missions in Korea? I want to fly like an eagle. To the sea. Fly like an eagle. Let my spirit carry me. I want to fly like an eagle. Till I'm free. Till we're all free. What if? I am not here to talk about the what ifs. I'm here to honor the soldier. I'm here to honor the Marine. I'm here to honor the bomber pilot. While men like Barry Bonds squirm over the steroid issue, a man like the Thumper risked his life so men like Barry Bonds could squirm over the steroid issue. 1942. 36 homers. 137 RBI's. .356 batting average. Led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, total bases, walks. All-Star. Triple Crown. Best around. Fenway Faithful juimping up and down. The best hitter in baseball. 1943. WWII. Pearl Harbor. Enlists in the US Navy to fight the ****'s. Holy smokes! He could have taken a cushy assignment. Could have played baseball for the Navy team in Hawaii somewhere. Nope. flight school. It was there it was discovered Ted had 20/10 vision. I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision. And I will sing, waiting for the gift of sound and vision. Teddy received his wings and commission in 1944. Rose to the rank of Captain. Oh Captain, my Captain. 1945. Williams went through the Corsair Operational Training Unit. He was awaiting orders when the war ended. Back to baseball. MVP after batting crown after All-Star appearance after MVP. The best hitter in baseball. Korea. The Splendid Splinter is recalled into active service. The Splendid Splinter flew F-9 Panther jets. The Splendid Splinter flew 37 combat missions. The Splendid Splinter took enemy fire 3 times. The Splendid Splinter crash landed his plane and saved his crew. The Splendid Splinter flew with John Glenn. John Glenn: ‘'There was no one more dedicated to this country and more proud to serve his country than Ted Williams.'' The Splendid Splinter received an Air Medal and two Gold Stars for his service. The Splendid Splinter: ‘'I was no hero. There were nearly 75 pilots in our squadrons, and 99 percent of them did a better job than I did.'' The Kid went back to baseball at 35. Played 7 more seasons. 1957 at age 38 may have been his best. Williams led the league with a .388 batting average. He hit 38 dings. It has been estimated that Ted lost 561 hits, 103 bombs, and 382 RBI during his first stint in the service. So this week end, Memorial Day week end, with all this talk about steroids and asterisks, I ask, what about war heroes and asterisks?
The Public at Large:
I'd like to take this opportunity to honor all those who fought so heroically to defend our country all over the world. Here are just some of those brave men:
Pat Tillman: Arizona Cardinals. Relinquished a multi-million dollar contract to join the Army with the professed goal of making it as a Ranger. I want to be an airborne ranger. Livin' a life of heck and danger. In this era of pampered, million-dollar ballplayers, he was a throwback to an earlier age. Rest In Peace.
Bullet Bob Feller: Became the first major leaguer to volunteer for active duty. Enlisted in the Navy two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Anti-aircraft gunner. Battleship Alabama. Fought at Tarawa, Iwo Jima. Fought in the Marshall Islands. For his service, he earned five campaign ribbons and eight Battle Stars. Despite losing four years to the war, Bullet Bob won 266 games. Struck out 2,581 batters. Played 18-years. Three no-hitters. A dozen one-hitters.
Yogi Berra: Navy. Stationed aboard a rocket launcher off the coast of Normandy Beach just after D-Day. On a techno D-day, a techno D-day. Out on Omaha Beach where the troops believe in a life of freedom.
Hoyt Wilhelm: Pitched his knuckle ball in more than a thousand games. Guard your grill, knuckle up. I ain't the type to give up. Guard your grill, knuckle up. Knuckling up to become the first closer to enter the Hall. Earned a Purple Heart in the Battle of the Bulge.
Warren Spahn: Braves. Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. Came too close to making the ultimate sacrifice. Injured during the Remagen Bridge collapse. WWII.
Others who served in WWII: Enos Slaughter, Dizzy Dean, Larry Doby, who fought for America even while America didn't fight for him. Gil Hodges, Bobby Jones, Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney.
Professional football players answered the call as well. 638 NFL players served in World War II. 355 were commissioned as officers. 66 were decorated. 21 lost their lives.
Al Blozis: Offensive tackle for the New York Giants. Selected by the UPI as one of three outstanding athletes of 1941. On his first patrol. Less than two months after playing his last football game. Killed in the Vosges Mountains in a skirmish during the Battle of the Bulge. Lieutenant Alfred Blozis was 26.
Vietnam Reserves: Boston Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg. New York Mets Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and second baseman Ken Boswell. New York Knicks stars Cazzie Russell and Bill Bradley.
Rocky Bleier: Trying hard now. It's so hard now. Trying hard now. Vietnam. Helped the Steel Curtain win four Super Bowls. Drafted into the Army. Infantryman. Suffered crippling wounds in both legs. Hit by enemy rifle fire and shrapnel. Could barely walk let alone run. After two agonizing years recovering from his wounds, Rocky went on to a stellar 12-year career in the NFL.
Roger Staubach: Hall of Fame quarterback. Dallas Cowboys. US Naval Academy. Served in the Vietnam theater of operations.
Willie Miller: Wide receiver. Played in the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. Vietnam.
Charlie Johnson: Defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles. Vietnam.
Bob Kalsu: He started eight games at guard in 1968. Buffalo Bills' top rookie. Entered the Army to satisfy his ROTC obligation in November of 1969. Vietnam. Killed in action on July 21, 1970 at Fire Base Ripcord near the A Shau Valley.
Al Bumbry: Baltimore Orioles outfielder. Vietnam. Led an infantry platoon. All of his men made it home. The men will cheer and the boys will shout. Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home. Yeah, and we will all turn out. Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home!
Ed Figueroa: Pitcher, California Angels and New York Yankees. Vietnam.
Willie Mays: The Say Hey Kid. US Army. Korean Conflict.
Eddie Grant: The only major league baseball player to have given his life for his country. Died in the Argonne Forest on October 5, 1918, fighting in World War I. Rest in Peace.
Moe Berg: Catcher. One of America's most effective spies in World War II.
Lou Brissie: Pitcher. Indians and A's. Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Europe. Nearly lost a leg to a German artillery shell. After twenty-three operations and an excruciating rehabilitation, Lou was back pitching in the bigs in 1947.
Al Hrabowski: The Mad Hungarian. Relief pitcher. Served in Vietnam.
David Robinson: San Antonio Spurs, center. Attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served a two-year military commitment before joining the NBA.
Jerry Coleman: MVP. 2nd baseman. Yankees. Marine aviator. Korea and WWII.
Other ballplayers in the Korean Conflict: Whitey Ford, Don Newcomb, Don Larson, Bobby, Brown, Bob Kennedy, Curt Simmons and Whitey Herzog.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. -John F. Kennedy.
These men believed. Countless others not mentioned did as well. Heroes all.
Peace out homies. Six Two and Even!