On Memorial Day, remembering Major League Baseball's first World War I fatality
By Joe Guzzardi
via the Imperial Valley Press newspaper (CA) web site
On Memorial Day, remembering Major League Baseball’s first WWI fatality
Eddie Grant, a Harvard Law School graduate and a former third baseman who played for the Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants, was the first major league baseball player killed in World War I.
In all, seven other major league players lost their lives in the Great War. They are Lt. Tom Burr, plane crash; Lt. Harry Chapman, illness; Lt. Larry Chappell, influenza; Pvt. Harry Glenn, pneumonia; Cpt. Newton Halliday, hemorrhages; Cpl. Ralph Sherman, drowned, and Purple Heart winner Sgt. Robert “Bun” Troy, shot.
Known affectionately among his teammates as “Harvard Eddie,” Grant debuted in the majors in 1905 after he graduated from Harvard, where he starred at baseball and was the basketball team’s top scorer. Grant eventually would play 990 games as an infielder through 1915.
An average dead ball era hitter, neither spectacular nor a detriment, Grant’s career average was .249 with five home runs. Grant’s best big-league season came in 1909 when he hit .269 as Philadelphia’s leadoff hitter and finished second in the National League with 170 hits. Opposition players considered him an above average fielder and particularly adept at handling bunts. In the 1913 World Series which the Giants lost to the Philadelphia Athletics, 4-1, Grant saw limited action. He pinch-ran and scored in Game 2, and in Game 4, he hit a foul ball pop up that the A’s catcher easily snagged.
On April 6, 1917, two years after his baseball career ended at age 33, and with his law practice barely underway, Grant enlisted in the U.S. Army, the first major league player to sign up. In a letter to a friend, Grant proudly wrote: “I had determined from the start to be in this war should it come to us…I believe there is no greater duty than I owe for being that which I am – an American citizen.’’
Read the entire article on the Imperial Valley Press web site.
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