Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Minor League BaseballBob Gary

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1920 Beaumont, Texas
Date and Place of Death: February 4, 1944 McNary, Texas
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Infield
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit: 330th Combat Crew Training Squadron USAAF
Area Served: United States

 

Bob Gary had only just embarked on a professional baseball career when military service beckoned. The young Texan would not get the opportunity to resume his dream.

 

Robert W. Gary, Jr., had never played baseball before enrolling at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. That did not stop him from trying out for the varsity team and he discovered a natural talent for the game. As the team’s shortstop and captain, Gary hit .318 his senior year and led coach Richard “Cap’n Dick” Smith's team in RBIs, doubles and triples. He also excelled in football and captained the varsity basketball team. Smith described Gary as one of the best athletes produced in many years.

After graduating, Gary taught at Fishburne Military Academy in Waynesboro, Virginia, and was playing for Newport News of the Southside League during the summer of 1940, when he was signed by the Washington Senators’ organization and began his professional career with the Mayodan Senators of the Class D Bi-State League. His manager at Mayodan was Taylor Sanford, who had been his manager in the Southside League, and Gary fit right in to the Senators’ line up. Playing shortstop and leading off, he batted .305 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 35 games and finished the year playing third base with the Charlotte Hornets of the Class B Piedmont League, where he hit .222 in 52 games.

On April 30, 1942, Gary was called into military service and trained as a bomber crew navigator. Stationed at Biggs Field, Texas, with the 330th Combat Crew Training Squadron, he had been with the same crew for some time and they became very close.

Gary and Second Lieutenants Crantz, Savitsky and McDowell — all married men — shared a house with their wives in nearby El Paso while stationed at Biggs Field. On February 4, 1944, their Consolidated B-24E Liberator, piloted by Crantz with Gary as navigator, was on a routine flight when it crashed 60 miles southeast of El Paso at the bombing range at McNary, Texas. All six crew members were killed. One can only wonder at the scene when the news reached the home shared by the wives of Robert Gary and his crewmates.

Year

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1941

Mayodan

Bi-State

D

35

141

34

43

4

3

5

17

.305

1941

Charlotte

Piedmont

B

52

189

26

42

3

1

0

6

.222

 

 

Thanks to the El Paso Public Library and Davis O Barker for help with this biography.

 

Added August 12, 2006. Updated November 27, 2011.

 

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