Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Honoring Umpiring's Greatest Sacrifice

This Memorial Day, we remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces—the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard—and on this website, we reflect on the significant relationship between war and baseball.

For every glorified story of a professional baseball superstar who served his country overseas, most notably during World War II, there exists a quiet tale of the consummate professional who dutifully performed during wartime and peacetime alike.

For every Hank Greenberg, there exists a Kent Greenfield—or in the umpiring world—every Al Barlick who served in the US Coast Guard or Nestor Chylak in the US Army can be met with a Bill Andress or Shag Crawford, both of the US Navy.

Indeed, a total of 18 Major League umpires served during WWII alone, with countless others pooled from the Minor League, semi-pro, collegiate and even high school ranks.

Of these, at least four Minor League umpires have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This Memorial Day, we remember their service both on and off the field.

Sgt. Frank Healey, US Army, 1887-1918 (31), Fort Riley, Kansas, Influenza
Affiliation: Western Association
Frank Healey's was one of just four minor league deaths during World War I and one of seven to have been caused by the Spanish flu during an epidemic traced back to the Kansas army barracks in 1918. Named to the Western Association staff, Healey was just 31 years old.

Staff Sgt. Harry B. Ladner, Jr., US Army, 1918-1945 (27), Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, Killed in Action
Affiliation: Arkansas-Missouri, Mountain State, Appalachian & Piedmont Leagues
Honors: Purple Heart
A former high school and professional hockey player with the West Virginia Comets, Harry B. Ladner, Jr. graduated from the George Barr Umpire School in 1938 and was hired to work the Arkansas-Missouri League before ending with the Piedmont League just prior to his military service, which began March 20, 1942. Serving with the 77th Liberty Infrantry Division in the Pacific Theater, Staff Sgt. Ladner was killed in action during a firefight on April 18, 1945, the same day and near the same location where war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed.

Private Donald A. Stewart, Canadian Army, 1906-1941 (35), Glasgow, Scotland, Killed in Air Raid
Affiliation: Western International League
Honors: Canadian Cross
A Vancouver-born Canadian semi-pro outfielder who played with the BC Telephone & Home Gas clubs, Don Stewart was given his first glimpse of professional baseball at age 32 during a brief stint with the Pacific Coast League's Seattle Rainiers. After his release, Stewart looked to umpiring, beginning his professional career with the Class B Western International League briefly before enlisting in the Canadian Army's Calgary Highlanders unit, which traveled to the British Isles and the European Theater. Stationed in the city of Glasgow, German bombers attempted an air raid on March 13, 1914, targeting Clydebank, northwest of Glasgow. Several Luftwaffe bombers also dropped incendiaries on Glasgow itself, killing 36 individuals, including Stewart and several relatives.

Private First Class Larry M. Smith, US Army, 1946-1968 (21), Quang Ngai, Vietnam, Killed in Action
Affiliation: Pioneer League, California League
Just 19 when he began umpiring in Minor League Baseball's Pioneer League in 1965, Larry Smith joined the California League shortly thereafter before being placed on that League's military list after he was drafted on July 16, 1966. Reserved for return in 1968, Smith was deployed that March and began serving as a Medical Corpsman in the 11th Infantry Regiment of the US Army. During an August 23 attack, Smith sustained multiple fragmentation wounds, succumbing to injuries shortly thereafter. Smith is the only professional umpire listed on the Vietnam Memorial: His name may be found on Panel 47W, Line 55.


UmpsRule said...

Rest in peace.

Happy Memorial Day!

UmpsRule said...

Jim Leyland just decided to spend Memorial Day getting tossed by Bill Welke after Welke apparently gave Boston three runs.

UmpsRule said...

Lamont has also been tossed by Tim Tschida.

Anonymous said...

Call this post a "tribute to all umpires, MLB, college, high school, little league and everyone else" and call it a day. Good history lesson for all baseball and officiating people.

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