December 1941, and Tigers’ star Hank Greenberg, having just served a stint in the US Army, having been inducted on May 7 and been honorably discharged on December 5, announces his intention of returning to the Army to again serve his country in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and being the first MLB player to do so.
“This doubtless means I am finished with baseball, and it would be silly for me to say I do not leave it with a pang; but all of us are confronted with a terrible task – the defense of our country and the fight for our lives.”
Hank was again inducted on February 1, 1942, but, similar to Hank Gowdy, referenced in the Sporting News article below as the first MLB player to enlist after the US entered WWI, he did return to the major leagues, after being discharged on June 14, 1945, after having served a total of 47 months, longest of any MLB player. He was also the first player to return from WWII, and even socked a HR in his first game back on July 1. The former 2-time MVP and 4-time All-Star did have one more great year in 1946, leading the NL in RBI (127) and the majors in HRs (44), and finished his career with 331 round trippers, but with missing the equivalent of nearby 4 seasons in his prime, there’s no telling how many more he could’ve hit if the war hadn’t intervened. But, as columnist J.G. Taylor Spink notes in the article below – Fans of America, and all baseball, salute him for that decision.
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