June 18, 2024

Memorial Day weekend is frequently celebrated with barbecues and trips to the lake. The reason for our Monday off is somewhere between a rack of ribs and a cold beer. This weekend is a time to honor not just those who served in our military, but also those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. While you’re lazing about in your flip-flops and swim trunks, let’s take a moment to commemorate some of the MLB players who gave the ultimate sacrifice by being killed in action.

MLB Players Killed in Action

Eddie Grant

Eddie Grant, former major league baseball player, was killed in action 100  years ago - The Washington Post

Eddie Grant, known as “Harvard Eddie,” appeared in 990 games between 1905 and 1915. The Franklin, Massachusetts native has formerly played for the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants. Grant’s most successful seasons were in 1908 and 1909, when he led the league in at-bats while also stealing 27 and 28 bases. The Harvard graduate retired in 1915 and practiced law in Boston until April 1917, when he enlisted and became a Captain in the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, Captain Grant led a search for a missing battalion. On October 5, 1918, while heading the search, an enemy shell exploded, killing “Harvard Eddie.” Grant would become the first retired MLB player to be killed in action during World War I.

Elmer Gedeon

Remembering Elmer Gedeon, one of two major leaguers killed in WWII

Elmer Gedeon was a multi-sport athlete who never had the opportunity to properly showcase his abilities in the major levels. The 6’4″ first-baseman lettered in baseball, football, and track at the University of Michigan. He was a better hurdler than a baseball player at Michigan. Both sports took place in the spring, forcing Gedeon to choose between the one he loved and the one at which he excelled. Despite having a hurdle time that would have qualified him for the Olympics, Gedeon instead chose baseball.

Gedeon signed with the Washington Senators in 1939, following his graduation from Michigan. The Senators moved Gedeon to the outfield to take use of his quickness. Gedeon appeared in five games for the Senators during the end of the 1939 season, batting.200 and collecting one RBI. Gedeon would play two seasons in the lower leagues, with Orlando and Charlotte. Gedeon was drafted in January 1941 and was scheduled to join the Army in March. Gedeon joined the Army Air Force in October and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Gedeon was shot down and killed by German artillery while flying a bombing mission over Bois d’Esquerdes, France, on April 20, 1944.

Bob Neighbors

Robert “Bob” Neighbors had never played baseball before signing with the Siloam Springs Travelers in 1936. Despite having only played fast-pitch softball, Neighbors smashed 16 home runs in his first season with the Arkansas-Missouri League side. The Oklahoma native would play in the minor leagues until September 16, 1939, when he was called up by the St. Louis Browns. In his 11 major league at-bats, the 5’11” Neighbors had two hits, one of which was a home run.

Neighbors joined the Army Air Force in May 1942, but were never deployed during WWII. Neighbors chose to remain in the service and never returned to MLB. However, he did get opportunity to play in the military. While in North Korea, as a pilot, Neighbors radioed that he had been hit and his unit was ditching out. Neighbors and his men were never located. Neighbors were determined to be dead in action once prisoners were liberated at the end of the Korean War.

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