published Monday, May 26th, 2014

5-at-10: A special Memorial Day top five of athletes making military sacrifice

Happy Memorial Day to everyone.

It's Monday, so that means 5-at-10 regardless. Let's follow the same thought process as TFP ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's excellent story today and in the memory of the ultimate sacrifices paid by those bravest among us to allow us to enjoy the greatest country in the world. Let's have a top-five athletes in the military. Deal? Deal.

Side note: This list has some balance — meaning combination between military story and sports accomplishments — and personal preference plays a part too.

Here's our five:

  • photo
    Boston Red Sox' Ted Williams poses at Yankee Stadium in New York, in this May 23, 1941 photo. (AP Photo/File)
    Photo by Associated Press

1) Ted Williams — Teddy Ballgame finished with 521 homers and a .344 average. He's arguably the greatest hitter ever, and lost five years of his prime as a Marine fighter pilot. He enlisted in 1942 after winning the triple crown in 1941. He flew 39 combat missions in WWII and the Korean war.

2) Pat Tillman — After the Sept. 11 attacks, the former All-American safety and rising Arizona Cardinals star left his $3.6 million contract and enlisted as an Army Ranger. He was killed by friendly fire on April 22, 2004.

  • photo
    Cpl. Pat Tillman is seen in a this 2003 file photo (AP Photo/Photography Plus via Williamson Stealth Media Solutions, FILE)
    Photo by Associated Press

3) Art Donovan — The jovial and big-hearted and hard-laughing NFL Hall of Famer with the Baltimore Colts became famous to the current generation on David Letterman. Donovan joined the Marines before going to college and was an anti-aircrafted gunner in WWII. After his decorated military career that included more than a year at sea and a tour at Okinawa, Donovan was a two-time champ with the Colts and inducted into Canton in 1968.

4) Joe Louis — While holding the heavyweight title from 1937-49 — back when being the heavyweight champ was the coolest thing in all of sports — Louis joined the Army and served in a variety of roles until 1945. One of the African American men he helped train in the Office Candidate School was a kid named Jackie Robinson.

5) Warren Spahn — Spahn's numbers were impressive. He finished with 363 wins and was a 14-time all-star. And he did that starting his big-league career at 25 — he did win 23 games as a 42-year-old — because he joined the Army before making his big-league debut in 1946. Enlisting in 1942, Spahn was a combat engineer at the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Who are your favorites?

Happy Memorial Day.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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John_Proctor said...

How about Hank Bauer?

He had a .277 career batting average, with 164 homers, 703 runs batted, enlisted in the Marine Corps one month after Pearl Harbor earned 2 Bronze Stars and 2 Purple Hearts, the second one at Okinawa fighting off a Japanese counterattack (he was a lieutenant by then) that got him sent home for good.

He is my personal preference because in 1968, I was part of the flag detail presenting the colors at an Indians game. That was the only time I ever saw any player or manager pay any attention to our ceremony on the field. I don't remember the score of the game but I can never forget how he watched us.

May 26, 2014 at 10:55 a.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - excellent topic today. General Robert Neyland. Served during WWI and WWII rising to Brigadier General and winning the Distinguished Service Award and Legion of Merit. Oh and he coached a little football in between his tours serving his country.

May 26, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.
jgreeson said...

JP —

Bauer was on our list. So too was Jerry Coleman, who won a few World Series with the Yankees in between tours in WWII and the Korean War.

Sportsfan —

Neyland... We should of thought of that one. Great call.

Enjoy the day.

May 26, 2014 at 2:26 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, excellent choice of theme for this day.

Rocky Bleir was drafted by the Army after a year in Pittsburgh, volunteered for Vietnam where his legs were shattered. Bleir after a lengthy recover and returned to Pittsburgh as a player, not a cripple.

The "Splendid Splinter" was a Marine. Only an oversight, I'm sure.

General Neyland was also awarded the OBE, a British Chivalry Award reflecting the General's over all cooperation and effectiveness in command of the port of Calcutta in the CBI, the last outpost of the Allied war effort.

For those who defend our freedom from yesteryears to today, All The Best.

May 26, 2014 at 3:19 p.m.
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