Major League Baseball is “America’s Pastime.” Regardless of what public opinion suggests, baseball is still king of American sports in the eyes of literally billions around the world.
Its reputation as America’s game is aided, no doubt, by the fact that many of the game’s greatest legends also share a legacy of service throughout various conflicts in American history.
Take a quick glance at any top-25 list and you’ll see that a lot of the game’s greatest players, at one point or another, wore a much different uniform.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. That alone is enough to be noteworthy in most historical canons. Add to that the fact that Jackie Robinson was also one helluva player, winning Rookie of the Year, an eventual MVP, and becoming a perennial All-Star and you’ve got yourself a formula for retired jerseys.
“The Say Hey Kid” was an All-Star every year of his career, including the two seasons he missed while serving his country. After winning Rookie of the Year in 1951, he went on to serve during the Korean War from 1952-53.
He retired third on the all-time home run charts, though he’s fallen two spots with the rise of modern sluggers. Still, being a top-five home run king and All-Star stalwart are hallmarks of a great career.
One of the best ever.
Yogi Berra served in the US Navy during the Second World War, leaving service with a Purple Heart following participation in D-Day just a year before beginning his MLB career.
Thankfully, his injury didn’t hinder his career very much. He went on to make the All-Star game 18 of his 19 years in the league.
Ted Williams, the original “The Kid,” was drafted to the Boston Red Sox at 19 years old. Instead of donning a jersey after being picked up by the team, he put on a uniform and enlisted as an aviator in the US Navy during World War II. He actually returned to service during the Korean War in 1952.
To date, he is the last player to bat over .400 for an entire season. His career showcased such amazing hitting prowess that one of his nicknames is “The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.”
Joe DiMaggio was one of the biggest stars of his time and in all of baseball history. He was the Mike Trout of his day, which says so much about Trout’s game and his skill ceiling — but I digress. How famous was he? Well, had enough clout to find himself as part of a power couple with Marilyn Monroe. Not bad.
To top it al off, he served two years in the US Army right smack in the middle of his career.
Just as with Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky and their respective sports, Babe Ruth’s name has long been tied to America’s Pastime.
His trade from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees marked the beginning of an 86-year long ‘curse.’ It also sparked a still-standing fiery rivalry between the two teams.
Babe Ruth was drafted into service during World War I, and found a place in the Army National Guard.