Baseball in Wartime - Lester Rodney

Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Lester Rodney

 

Date and Place of Birth:

Position: Second Base
Military Unit: 52nd Field Hospital US Army

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

 

A medical technician who served in the Pacific Theater, Rodney played second base for the 52nd Field Hospital.

 

“This was Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, in 1943. The campaign was essentially over, the Japanese were gone except for some diehards holed up, our field hospital still had patients, but as for the war, it was an interim until we were to join the invasion of the Philippines.

 

“A ball field was cleared and equipment dropped off. We, the 52nd Field Hospital, played against the 21st Evacuation Hospital. A typically hot and muggy day, probably in the 90s. In addition to most of the personnel of both outfits, many wounded and sick GIs were brought out to see the game, some hobbling, some on stretchers. It was kind of an eerie setting for baseball, with the thick jungle all around, and an occasional raucous call from a nearby cockatoo, which brought funny remarks, including "quiet, general!"

 

“The sound of the crack of the bat meeting ball was something none of us had heard in a long time. There wasn't much of that sound, however. The 21st had a pitcher named Gerry Staley who had made it to the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system before being drafted. He was unhittable, winning 2-0. We got a couple of base runners on errors, and one scratch hit by our shortstop, George Kuenzler of New Jersey, I remember our pitcher's name, Leo Goodson, from somewhere in Indiana, who had pitched in high school, but my 89-year-old memory doesn't come up with how they scored their two runs.

 

“Sure enough, Staley was up in the majors with the Cards after the war, starting in '47, and pitched nine years for them. He was good, won 19 games in '51 and wound up with a good winning record. I saw him once, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn when the Cardinals came in. I was a sports writer. He remembered pitching in Bougainville but didn't specifically remember beating us 2-0. I told him how many friends I had boasted to about hitting a foul ball off of Gerry Staley, and he thought that was funny. There was no baseball after Bougainville for us, but a great memory.”

 

Thanks to Lester Rodney who kindly shared this story with me back in 2000.

 

Created May 30, 2007.

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