The sports world is not without some who stepped above and beyond when the call was made. To honor those players who have given their lives in the line of duty I created a custom set, this was the least I could do on a special day like today. There are 3 baseball and 3 football players in the set.
Eddie Grant played 10 years in MLB with the Cleveland Naps (Indians), Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants. He retried from baseball in 1915 and when the US joined WWI he enlisted in the Army. He was killed October 5, 1918 while out searching for a group of lost soldiers when a shell exploded near him. In an interesting side note, the New York Giants had some funky uniforms in the early 1900s and in 1915 actually had purple stripes and letter patches.
Elmer Gedeon may have only played 5 games for the Washington Senators in September 1939 but he played well over 200 games in the Minor Leagues and was called up the Majors again in 1940 but did not play in any games. He was drafted in to the Army in January 1941 and eventually became a pilot in the Army Air Corps in 1942. He died April 20, 1944 when the bomber he was flying was shot down over France. He chose to remain in the plane attempting to keep it up so as to give time to his flight crew to parachute to safety.
Robert Neighbors signed with the St Louis Browns in 1936 and spent most of his time in the Minor Leagues. He was called up a number of times to the Majors but was only able to eek out a .182 BA in the pros. In 1941 his wife died in a car accident and he decided that baseball was not right for him so he enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he served WWII in the US as a pilot trainer. He remained in the military following the war and eventually was shipped to Korea following the outbreak of war in 1950. He was a B26 Bomber pilot and was believed to have been killed on August 8, 1952 when he reported that his plane been hit during a mission over North Korea. The plane never returned and his body was never found.
Al Blozis was drafted by the New York Giants in the 1942 NFL Draft; he played Tackle for the team from 1942 through 1944. He enlisted in the Army in December 1943; he actually played 3 games for the Giants in 1944 while on furlough. He was killed January 31, 1945 in France when a couple of soldiers from a patrol that he had sent out failed to return, he went looking for them alone in the snow. Within minutes he was dead, never seeing the German soldier who fired the fatal rounds.
Bob Kalsu was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1968 where he played the entire season and was named the teams Rookie Of The Year. Following the season he enlisted in the Army to satisfy his ROTC obligation and was sent to Vietnam. He was an Lt in a Field Artillery Unit and refused to stand back while his soldiers were in danger. Kalsu was killed July 21, 1970 when his firebase came under heavy mortar fire. Two days later his son was born and a few hours later his wife found out about his death.
Pat Tillman is a name that many know because he is the most recent professional sports related military death. Following a successful career with the Arizona Cardinals Tillman signed up for the Army rangers following the September 11, 2001 attacks. He initially was involved with the Iraq invasion in 2003 and then returned for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He died April 22, 2004 in Sperah, Afghanistan while his unit was out on patrol. The initial listing of death as being killed in an ambush by Taliban has now been refuted and changed to “friendly fire” following numerous investigations and is believed by some to actually have been murder.