Baseball and Memorial Day have become intertwined over the years, part of that beginning of summer tradition along with the cookouts and the opening of the swimming pools and the parades. I think that many of us enjoy all the trappings of Memorial Day and we don't often stop to contemplate what the day means.
I don't want to take this in a direction not related to baseball though. This day is meant to observe those who lost their lives serving this country, but I think it is also fitting to observe all who served because they all risked the same, just that not all made the ultimate sacrifice.
Throughout this country's history, ballplayers have been among those many who put their country ahead of themselves and served when called upon. Future National League president Morgan Bulkeley served in the Civil War before getting involved in baseball and eventually a career in politics.
Who knows what kind of career Bob Feller would have had if not for spending four years in World War II. Feller served in the Navy on board the Alabama and saw action at Iwo Jima and Tarawa. He was the first major leaguer to volunteer for active duty, signing up right after Pearl Harbor. Feller said in an interview I heard recently, "I'm not a hero. The heros didn't come back."
Warren Spahn was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. How many more wins would he have had if not for the three years he served?
Ted Williams flew fighters in World War II and Korea. There were many others who served as well, Enos Slaughter, Yogi Berra, and quite a few others I can't recall. To name them all would make for a very long post.
So while we're enjoying our Memorial Day activities we should pause and remember those who answered the call when their country needed them. Today we sometimes refer to a ballplayer as a hero because he's a great player or conducts himself well off the field. Maybe we shouldn't use that word in that way. Those players who served were the true heros.