Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Johnny Lipon


Date and Place of Birth: November 10, 1922 Martin’s Ferry, Ohio

Died: August 17, 1998 Houston, Texas

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Shortstop
Rank: Aviation Machinist’s Mate, Third Class

Military Unit: US Navy

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations


John J “Johnny” Lipon was born on November 10, 1922 in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. An All-City selection at Chadsey High School in Detroit in 1940, Lipon was playing American Legion and sandlot baseball when he was signed by Detroit Tigers’ scout Wish Egan. The Tigers sent him to Muskegon in the Class C Michigan State League in 1941 where he batted .359. In 1942, the Tigers moved Lipon up to Beaumont in the Class 1-A Texas League, where he batted .301, and got a late-season trial with the Tigers. Lipon batted .191 in 34 games.


“I got one of my biggest thrills the day I broke in,” Lipon told The Sporting News on March 30, 1944. “Edgar Smith was pitching for the White Sox and I nicked him for three hits in four times at bat.”


The young shortstop’s career was put on hold when he joined the Navy before the 1943 season. He was initially stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. From there he went to the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Memphis, Tennessee, where he found time to play in the Midsouth Service Baseball Championship. In July 1943, AMM 3c Lipon was at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida where he trained at the Naval Air Gunners’ School. Lipon set an accuracy record when he scored 248 hits out of 450 rounds, using a 30-caliber machine gun while firing at a moving target. “He is blessed with excellent co-ordination, very essential in gunnery,” one of his instructors said.


Lipon graduated from gunnery school in early 1944 with Naval aircrewman’s wings and was assigned to Alamaeda Naval Air Station in California, where he became manager of the fledgling Bluejackets baseball team which entered the Army-Navy service league of California. In September 1944, Lipon was named to the league’s all-star team.


In 1945, Lipon was sent to the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, where he helped fly casualties from the Okinawa region. When he could, Lipon played baseball for Johnny Rigney’s team.


In November 1945, Lipon was in the Philippines with a naval air-sea rescue unit.


Lipon returned to the Tigers in 1946. He had missed three seasons. The last time he played in the major leagues he was a teenager and now he was 23. Lipon developed a sore arm early on, and the Tigers sent him to Beaumont in the Texas League to recuperate.


He rejoined the Tigers in 1948 and batted .290 in 121 games. Lipon remained the Tigers’ starting shortstop until traded to the Red Sox in June 1952.


One of the most memorable moments of his career with the Tigers was in 1951, when Bob Feller of the Indians threw his third career no-hitter, but lost the shutout when Lipon reached on an error, stole second base, advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw, and scored on a sacrifice fly.


Lipon remained at Boston until purchased by the St Louis Browns in September 1953. He was purchased by the Orioles at the end of the season and traded to the White Sox in Febraury 1954. The White Sox in turn traded him to the Reds in April. Lipon never played a game for the Orioles or White Sox. He ended his major league playing career with the Reds, playing just one game in April 1954 before he was released.


In 1959, Lipon began managing in the minor leagues, beginning at the Class D level with Selma of the Alabama-Florida League. Lipon spent 30 of the next 34 years as a manager in the Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh farm systems, winning 2,185 games and losing 1,987. His success as manager of the Class AAA Portland Beavers in the mid-1960s earned him a promotion to the Indians' coaching staff, where he served from 1968 to 1971.


Lipon managed briefly in the major leagues in 1971, when Cleveland fired Alvin Dark with 59 games left. But the Indians went only 18-41 under Lipon, and finished in last place, 43 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. He returned to managing the next season, with the Toledo Mud Hens of the International League.


Lipon retired from managing after the 1992 season. His last club, the Lakeland Tigers of the Florida State League, won its division's second-half championship.


Johhny Lipon passed away on August 17, 1998 in Houston, Texas. He was 75 years old.


Created June 18, 2007.


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