Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Minor League Baseball

Whitey Burch

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1918 Lee County, North Carolina
Date and Place of Death: November 29, 1941 near Albemarle, North Carolina
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Infield
Rank: Private
Military Unit: 530th Signal Corps, US Army Air Corps
Area Served: United States

 

Whitey Burch was a promising young infielder applying his trade in the North Carolina farm leagues. His life would end in tragedy just seven months after entering military service.


Eldred “Whitey” Burch was living in Mount Croghan, South Carolina, when he signed with the Thomasville Tommies of the Class D North Carolina State League in 1939. The 5-foot-8 middle-infielder batted .215 with nine RBIs in 35 games. In 1940, he remained in the North Carolina State League and split the season as a second baseman with the Lexington Indians and the league champion Kannapolis Towelers, batting a vastly improved .291 with 39 RBIs in 76 games.

After two seasons, Burch’s minor league career was put on hold when he entered military service on April 16, 1941, and he served with the 530th Signal Corps of the U.S. Army Air Force at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida. On Saturday afternoon, November 29, 1941, while on maneuvers in the Carolinas, Private Burch was driving an Army truck on the Morrow Mountain State Park Road near Albemarle, about a mile from the intersection with the Badin highway, when the truck overturned. Burch, just 23 years old, was crushed by the steering wheel and died at the scene. Two other soldiers, Corporal Everett L. Jobe and Private Guadalupe Villarreal were injured and taken to Stanley General Hospital in Albemarle.

 

Whitey Burch, who is buried at the Elizabeth Baptist Church Cemetery in Mount Croghan, is one of only three former professional baseball players to die in service before the United States had entered WWII.

 

Year

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1939

Thomasville

N. Carolina

D

35

93

7

20

2

0

0

9

.215

1940

Lexington/Kannapolis

N. Carolina

D

76

275

43

80

11

1

1

39

.291

 

The approximate location on the Morrow Mountain State Park Road where Burch lost his life

 

Thanks to Paul Morrison, Heritage Room Manager, at Stanley County Public Library, North Carolina and Davis O Barker for press articles relating to this event. Thanks to R G "Hank" Utley for statistical information.

 

Added August 13, 2006. Updated February 5, 2011.

Copyright © 2011 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.