Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Bob Mayence


Date and Place of Birth: November 29, 1921 Shreveport, Louisiana

Died: February 1985 Shreveport, Louisiana

Baseball Experience: Minor League
Second Base
Military Unit:
Second Marine Division United States Marine Corps

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Bob Mayence perfectly fits the description of a forgotten hero. A minor league ballplayer before the war, Mayence was badly wounded in action in the Pacific and unable to return to the game he loved so much.

Bob Mayence was born on November 29, 1921, in Shreveport, Louisiana. A 1940 graduate of Byrd High School in Shreveport, Mayence signed with the El Dorado Oilers of the Class C Cotton States League in 1941 for a promising rookie year. In 124 games at second base – mostly as the Oilers’ lead-off hitter - he batted .289 with 30 doubles and 50 RBIs.

Spotted by Detroit scouts, he signed a contract at the end of the season to play in the Tigers’ organization, but everything changed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Putting his baseball career on hold, the 20-year-old enlisted with the Marines and was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division. Serving in the Pacific, Corporal Mayence took part in the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943, where around 1,000 Marines were killed.
During the early months of 1944 his mind briefly returned to baseball and he even found time to send scouting reports to the Detroit Tigers about Marine ballplayers who were good looking prospects in service games.

In June 1944, the 2nd Marine Division invaded Saipan where they met fierce resistance from the Japanese. Hit by machine-gun fire, Mayence had his right shoulder shattered and lost his right eye. He spent 17 months in hospitals overseas and in the United States, enduring five operations. From his bed at the US Naval Hospital in Seattle, Mayence wrote to Jack Zeller, general manager of the Tigers:

“Dear Mr Zeller:

“I am writing to request that I be placed on your voluntarily retired list. I will be unable to continue my baseball career. I lost my right eye and the use of my right arm in the action at Saipan. I had looked forward anxiously to playing for your team, and I want to thank you for the interest you have shown in me.”

Zeller promised Mayence a job as a scout but a change in general managers ended the opportunity. Refusing to let a serious handicap keep him from being a useful citizen, he later worked for the Veterans Administration helping other disabled veterans to readjust to civilian life and was selected as the “Hero of the Month” by the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) in January 1949.

Bob Mayence – a true hero who displayed the same fighting spirit in life as he did on the ballfield and the battlefield – passed away in Shreveport, Louisiana, in February 1985, aged 63.

Created March 27, 2010.


Copyright © 2013 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.