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.
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
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.