Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Those Who Died That Others Might Be Free

 

Purple HeartJoe Goodrich

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1919 Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Date and Place of Death: April 8, 1945 Luzon, Philippines
Baseball Experience: Amateur
Position: Third Base
Rank: Technician Fifth Grade
Military Unit: US Army
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

 

We offer our sympathy, small solace that it may be, to Joe's dad and mother and to his brother, Jim... They have lost a son and a brother. Wisconsin Rapids has lost an excellent sportsman and a good friend.

Don Unferth, sports editor, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune May 1, 1945

 

Joe K Goodrich Jr was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin in 1919. Goodrich was a standout athlete at Lincoln High School, competing in baseball, football, basketball and track. In 1936 the school football team were Wisconsin Valley Conference champions - Goodrich made a memorable 60-yard touchdown run against Rhinelander that season. And it wasn't just Goodrich's football prowess that made the headlines that year - he also played first base for the American Legion junior state champions.

 

After graduating from high school, Goodrich continued to excel in sports at Central State Teachers College at Stevens Point. By 1939 he was playing baseball during the summer in the Wood County amateur league for Johnson-Hill of Wisconsin Rapids. In the winter he played basketball with Schnabel in the Wisconsin Rapids City League, and in 1942 Schnabel were league champions with Goodrich selected as the league's "best sportsman."

 

Joe Goodrich had developed a reputation locally as an athlete and a fine citizen. "Joe ... was a hero to the youngsters," a Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune article declared on November 5, 1949. "They liked him, not only because he played with 'the team'  but because he was never too busy to take  little time from his own occupations to instruct the neighborhood youngsters in the finer points of athletic competition and fair play.

 

"During the summertime," the article continued, "Joe spent many hours tossing a football or baseball with the kids from his own neighborhood and the group often included a good many other children from the blocks surrounding Elm Street."

 

In October 1942, Goodrich joined the Army. By the middle of 1944 he was stationed at New Guinea in the Pacific. "We have a good softball team over here," he told the Daily Tribune's sports editor, Don Unferth in August 1944. "We can't play baseball because of the time involved and lack of large playing fields. Our record is highly impressive, especially since we are a line outfit and don't get any time to practice, to say nothing of playing. Yesterday we lost our first game in months. The score was 3-0 and we had but one hit while our opponents had only three. I was very lucky as I got our only hit playing over my head, I guess. I am batting better than I ever have - .335. They wanted to move me up to fourth as our big guns are in a slump. However, I prefer to remain 'second clean-up' as Klandrud [his high school coach] used to tell me. In other words, eighth up.

 

"We have several minor league ball players on the club," Goodrich continued. "Our pitcher is Fred Konchio, the fellow who pitched for the world champion Briggs team of Detroit."

 

Goodrich was back in touch the following month: "Just dropping you a few lines to tell you about a ball game we won yesterday. With Freddie 'Fireball' Konchio, the fellow I mentioned in a previous letter, pitching no-hit ball, our company defeated the former South Pacific champions, 6-0."

 

In the spring of 1945, Goodrich wrote his parents and instructed them to give his baseball equipment to the neighborhood kids. He had heard there was a shortage of equipment in the States and wanted the youngsters of Wisconsin Rapids to have the chance to play ball.

 

Shortly afterwards, the tragic news was received that Technician Fifth Grade Joe Goodrich had been killed in action on April 8, 1945, fighting the Japanese at Luzon in the Philippines.

 

"We offer our sympathy," wrote Unferth, "small solace that it may be, to Joe's dad and mother and to his brother, Jim, who is at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. They have lost a son and a brother. Wisconsin Rapids has lost an excellent sportsman and a good friend."

 

Goodrich's body was returned to Wisconsin Rapids for reburial in May 1949. That same month, Chester Derezinski, a senior at central State Teachers College was the first recipient of the Joe Goodrich Memorial Trophy, presented by Joe's parents for "outstanding work in athletics, general scholarship and service to the school."

 

In November 1949, the Joe K Goodrich Memorial Book fund was presented to the T B Scott Public Library in Wisconsin Rapids, funds that had been raised by friends and neighbors of Joe Goodrich for the library to purchase books for children.

 

Added September 12, 2006

 

Copyright © 2007 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.