On July 23, 1939, 9,772 fans flocked into Briggs Stadium to watch the Detroit Tigers host the Philadelphia Athletics, in what turned out to be a 16-3 victory for the home team. In the bottom of the 8th inning, the Athletics replaced starting catcher Frankie Hayes with Harry O'Neill. O'Neill was making his MLB debut, caught for one inning, did not make a plate appearance, and never again played in the big leagues.
Elmer Gedeon had a slightly more distinguished MLB career, though not by much. In 1939, Gedeon played in five games as an outfielder for the Washington Senators, managing three hits and one RBI. He never played again beyond 1939.
Gedeon served as a pilot during World War II and on April 20, 1944, his plane was shot down in Saint-Pol, France, killing him and five others. On March 6, 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, Harry O'Neill was shot and killed by a sniper. Both were 27 years old.
Neither O'Neill nor Gedeon had distinguished MLB careers. Even if they had returned from war to play baseball again, it is unlikely that either would have produced enough that modern fans would have remembered them.
But on Memorial Day, it is important to remember them. Often, we speak of the great baseball players who sacrificed prime years of their careers to serve in the military: Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial being among them. But often forgotten are the players who sacrificed everything.
Over 400,000 Americans were killed during World War II, so in the grand scheme of things, two specific baseball players were not a huge deal, and that is perhaps the most unsettling part of it all. When former NFL safety Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, it was an enormous story, but during the early 1940s, what happened to Gedeon and O'Neill was just normal. Hauntingly, hauntingly normal.
Hopefully, it will never be normal again. Hopefully, we'll never have to test if we view it as normal again.
There is no graceful transition from that, but here is what you may have missed at VEB over the weekend.
The Cardinals as sellers
Ben Markham, following up on a piece he wrote in December, speculated on what the Cardinals as sellers might look like. There's still a lot of baseball left to be played and a few bounces here and there could drastically impact on the overall strategy of the Cardinals front office down the stretch.
The Cardinals designated shortstop Ruben Tejada for assignment on Saturday. I wrote about it here.
A draft preview
The red baron previewed some prospects in the upcoming MLB Draft. As usual, it is very extensive and it is very informative.
The Cardinals have a 1:15 start today. All of the requisite "keep in mind why you have the day off work" stuff still applies, but this does not mean you are not allowed to enjoy Monday day baseball.