Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Purple HeartHerb Fash

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1916 East St Louis, Illinois
Date and Place of Death: February 21, 1945 Pacific
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: First Base
Rank: Lieutenant (jg)
Military Unit: US Navy
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

 

His .408 batting average for the Olean Oilers in 1940, made Herb Fash a fan-favorite. But a freak accident would claim his life five years later.

 

Charles H. "Herb" Fash was born in East St. Louis, Illinois and was at East St. Louis Senior High School before enrolling at St. Louis University. For three years with the Billikens basketball team under coach Mike Nyikos (former Notre Dame star), Fash was an all-Missouri Valley selection and held the conference record for foul shots. Captaining the team in his senior year he played 20 games and scored 174 points.

At 6-foot-2, Fash was also an outstanding first baseman and broke into professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization immediately following graduation in 1936, joining the Union City Greyhounds of the Class D Kitty League. Fash batted .263 with 44 RBIs in 101 games in his rookie year and was brought up to the Columbus Red Birds of the Class AA American Association at the end of the season. He was assigned to the Decatur Commodores of the Class B Three-I League in 1937, where he played 26 games and batted .315, before being assigned to the Daytona Beach Islanders of the Class D Florida State League. In 25 games with the Islanders he batted .247.

Not surprisingly, Fash also played professional basketball during the winter of 1937–1938 with the traveling New York Shamrocks, a team that played every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

The big first baseman was with the Taft Cardinals of the newly formed Class D Texas Valley League in 1938, where he batted .345 with 14 home runs, an impressive 132 RBIs and a league-best 54 doubles to earn honorable mention on the league all-star selection.

With all teams failing to break even in 1938, the Texas Valley League disbanded after its inaugural season, and Fash split the 1939 season between the New Iberia Cardinals of the Class D Evangeline League and the Mobile Shippers of the Class B Southeastern League, batting .283 in 76 games for the Cardinals and .337 in 47 games for the Shippers.

Fash joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization in 1940, and was with the Fayetteville Angels of the Class D Arkansas-Missouri League as a 24-year-old player-manager. He was batting .356 when the league collapsed on June 30, and the Dodgers sent him to the Olean Oilers of the Class D PONY League, where he became a fan-favorite with the upstate New York state team. His superb .408 batting average and excellent defensive play in 66 games helped lift the Oilers from the basement of the league to the top spot, and he was described by the Olean Times-Herald as “the most popular man to wear an Oiler
uniform.” The Oilers went on to beat the Hamilton Red Wings, three games to one, in the playoffs and clinched the championship by defeating Batavia, four games to two.

Fash was sold to Elmira of the Class A Eastern League in September 1940 but was with Durham Bulls of the Class B Piedmont League for 1941. With the team on its way to a championship season; he was batting .253 when he broke his leg sliding across home plate in July.

Fash entered military service with the Navy the following year and served as a lieutenant junior grade on the aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CV-19) in the Pacific. In January 1945, the Hancock’s planes struck blows at Luzon in the Philippines and Formosa (now Taiwan).

On January 21, 1945, at around 1:30 P.M., a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, returning from a sortie, made a routine landing on the Hancock, taxied and disintegrated in a blinding explosion as one of its 500-pound bombs detonated. Fifty-two sailors were killed — including Herb Fash. He was buried at sea and is remembered at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines.

 

Year

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1936

Union City

Kitty

D

101

392

80

103

22

9

4

44

.263

1936

Columbus

American Assoc

AA

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1937

Decatur

Three-I

B

26

89

10

28

2

2

0

-

.315

1937

Daytona Beach Florida State D

25

93

13

23

0

2

0

11

.247

1938

Taft

Texas Valley

D

-

532

117

184

54

8

14

132

.345

1939

New Iberia

Evangeline

D

76

244

33

69

4

1

2

34

.283

1939

Mobile

Southeastern

B

47

163

27

55

12

2

2

23

.337

1940

Fayetteville

Arkansas-Missouri

D

43

160

31

57

18

3

4

35

.356

1940

Olean

PONY

D

66

275

63

112

25

5

5

81

.408

1941

Durham

Piedmont

B

49

182

28

46

7

0

0

24

.253

 

USS Hancock

USS Hancock

 

USS Hancock after attack of Jan 21, 1945
Removing the dead and wounded on the deck of USS Hancock January 21, 1945

 

Minor League BaseballAdded August 19, 2006. Updated February 24, 2011.

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