Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

World War II Hero of the Minor Leagues 

 

Purple HeartOrdway "Hal" Cisgen

Date and Place of Birth: August 20, 1920 Lorain, Ohio
Date and Place of Death: July 11, 1944 Periers, France
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: First Lieutenant
Military Unit: 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Ordway Cisgen was a 6-foot-6, hard-throwing lefthander who seemed destined for a crack at the major leagues.

Ordway CisgenOrdway H. “Hal” Cisgen was the son of Harold and Lillian Cisgen, and was born in Lorain, Ohio, about 30 miles west of Cleveland. His father was originally from Rochester, New York and had moved to Lorain in 1913 as a conductor on the B&O that ran through Willard and Akron.

Ordway attended Garfield Elementary School, Hawthorne Junior High School, and was a graduate of Lorain High School, where he starred in basketball and baseball.

“I knew Ordway ever since I was a child because we grew up in the same neighborhood,” recalled Alex Olejko, a childhood friend and former mayor of Lorain. “Ordway was always mildmannered. He was a good kid, an excellent student, and a great ball player.”

During his high school years, the left-hander played with coach Mike Telatnik's Lorain Elks, a premiere team of 15- and 16-year-olds that won three city Class D League championships (1936-1937-1938). It was a strong league that produced a number of professional players including Joe Kruppa and Ray Mize.

Following high school graduation in 1939, Cisgen signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees organization and joined the Butler Yankees of the Class D Penn State Association in 1940. Early in the season, he moved to the Easton Yankees of the Class D Eastern Shore League and made a couple of appearances before being sidelined with an appendicitis in June. After making a full recovery, Cisgen joined the Ashland Colonels of the Class D Mountain State League in August. As the tallest pitcher in the league at 6-foot-6, Cisgen had a 6–4 won-loss record in 12 starts with 70 strikeouts in 78 innings.

Cisgen was back with the Easton Yankees at the start of 1941, but after eight ineffective outings, he joined the Fremont Green Sox of the Class D Ohio State League, where he quickly developed into a useful starter. On August 19, he beat the Lima Pandas, 3–1, allowing just four hits, and helped the Green Sox clinch the Ohio State League pennant with a 4–2 win over the Fostoria Red Birds on September 1. Cisgen finished with a 9–6 record for Fremont and struck out 114 batters in 119 innings. On September 5, in a post-season exhibition game for the Green Sox, Cisgen hurled 15 innings in beating the Negro American League Birmingham Black Barons, 6–4.

On October 28, 1941, it was announced that Cisgen had been drafted in the annual Class B draft by the Cedar Rapids Raiders, the Cleveland Indians’ entry in the Three-I League. Cedar Rapids assigned him to the Wausau Timberjacks of the Class D Northern League but by mid–May he was with the Charleston Senators of the Class C Mid-Atlantic League. On May 27, he defeated the Canton Terriers, 5-3, and the Charleston Daily Mail described him as "supreme in the clutch."

The Daily Mail went on to say, "Cisgen, a loose left-hander, went over with local fans. His deliberate actions gave Canton base runners large leads and they pilferred four sacks that had him in hot water. However, the giant angled his tricky curve across to whiff seven while serving only one free ticket."

Cisgen had six wins and six losses in 13 appearances for the Senators with a 2.35 ERA.

In July, he was on the move again joining the Utica Braves of the Class C Canadian-American League, and making an auspicious debut by beating the league-leading Amsterdam Rugmakers, 5–2, striking out 11. Cisgen made nine appearances for the Braves and was 5–3 with an excellent 2.32 ERA.

On September 4, 1942, Cisgen entered military service with the Army. He initially served at Camp Perry — a prisoner-of-war camp on the shores of Lake Erie in northern Ohio — where he pitched for the post team. He went on to earn a commission as a second lieutenant and was with the 22nd Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry "Ivy" Division when it arrived in England in early 1944. The division landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, and relieved the isolated 82nd Airborne Division at Sainte-Mère-Église. The division then cleared the Cotentin Peninsula and took part in the capture of Cherbourg on June 25.

In July 1944, the division was involved in fighting near Périers. The 22nd Infantry Regiment launched an attack against German defenses at 9:00 A.M. on July 11, and met with heavy resistance, during which First Lieutenant Cisgen was killed.

“I had the chance to see Ordway once [before going overseas] when he came back to Lorain in uniform to visit his family,” said Olejko. “Soon after that, we heard the devastating news of his death. I can clearly remember how broken up his family was at this untimely loss. Ordway Cisgen was always a gentleman and a superior athlete. I am proud to have known him and to have had the opportunity to play against such a great man.”

In February 1998, Cisgen was among 11 athletes inducted into the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame.

 

Year

Team

League

Class

G

IP

ER

BB

SO

W

L

ERA

1940

Butler

Penn State Assoc.

D

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1940

Easton

Eastern Shore

D

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1940

Ashland

Mountain State

D

13

78

38

58

70

6

4

4.38

1941

Easton

Eastern Shore

D

8

37

-

31

29

0

3

-

1941

Fremont

Ohio State

D

19

119

-

57

114

9

6

-

1942

Wausau

Northern

C

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1942

Charleston

Mid-Atlantic

C

13

88

23

47

65

6

6

2.35

1942

Utica

Canadian-American

C

9

62

16

48

52

5

3

2.32

 

Added July 15, 2006. Updated February 20, 2011.

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