Lost to War

Most people know about baseball in the World War II era. They know that a lot of very good players lost time in sports by being in the military. Most people also seem willing to accept that the statistics of these players are impacted by the war and don’t hold lower numbers against them. That’s great, but there have been two other times when players lost time to a war. Let’s take a look at those occasions.

First is the War to End Wars, World War I (It didn’ t do a very good job with that stated objective.). The US entered the war in April 1917 and it ended in November 1918. Not only did it impact players, it impacted the season in 1918. The campaign was shortened to less than 130 games, so every man who played that season had his stats curtailed. That includes Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. Additionally players like Grover Cleveland Alexander, Joe Jackson, and George Kelly lost time either in the military or in war related work. Additionally, a couple of players lose a little time in 1917.

This happens again in the 1950’s. The US went to war in Korea in 1950 and stayed there a while (actually US troops are still in Korea). A number of truly exceptional players lost all or parts of a season to military service at this time. They include Ted Williams, Whitey Ford, Willie Mays and Don Newcombe. The war directly impaected the 1950 World Series when the Phillies number two starter Curt Simmons was called to duty just prior to the Series and was unable to pitch. The Phils were swept by the Yankees (including Ford, who wasn’t called up until the next season).

So next time someone bemoans the loss of playing time for World War II remind them that it’s not the only time it happened. You also might remind them that sometimes somethings are more important than playing a sport. It just seems like the thing to do.

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