Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Walt Hemperly


Date and Place of Birth: January 22, 1919 Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Died: November 5, 2006 Lititz, Pennsylvania

Baseball Experience: Minor League

Position: Third Base

Rank: Unknown
Military Unit: 200th Field Artillery US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations


Walter HemperlyWalter Hemperly of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was playing baseball with the Lancaster Athletics of the city league when he was signed by Philadelphia Athletics' scout Ira Thomas. He broke into professional baseball with the Allentown Fleetwings in 1939. Earning $150 a month, the scrappy shortstop hit .245 in 62 games. The following season Hemperly played for no fewer than five teams and finished the year with Allentown of the Canadian-American League. He received his draft call on April 4, 1941 and took basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. "I didn't want to go," he admits. "I wasn't an Army person. I wanted to pursue my baseball career."

Hemperly was assigned to the 200th Field Artillery Unit and continued his baseball activities in England. He played third base for the US Army in the all-professional game at Wembley in 1943 and offered the only threat to Air Force pitcher Bill Brech's no-hitter when he hit a 400-foot shot to left field that just tailed foul.

The 200th Field Artillery was in combat in Europe for 11 months from June 9, 1944. Hemperly was wounded in Germany on April 4, 1945. A compound fracture to his left leg ended the promising young infielder's career. "It was four years to the day that I went into service," he recalls. "I spent the next year in various hospitals."

Hemperly worked for 43 years for the US Postal Service. "I was given a lifetime gold pass to all major league and minor league ball parks because I was not able to return to baseball."
Minor League Baseball


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