Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Purple HeartJoe Tepsic


Date and Place of Birth: September 18, 1923 Slovan, Pennsylvania

Died: February 23, 2009 at Bald Eagle, PA
Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit: US
Marine Corps

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Joe TepsicJoseph J “Joe” Tepsic was born in the western Pennsylvania mining community of Slovan on September 18, 1923.

An all-round athlete at Union High School in Burgettstown, he attended Waynesburg College for one semester before enlisting in the Marines in 1941. Tepsic served at Guadalcanal in the Pacific in 1942 where he was wounded in the left arm and shoulder and required a year’s hospitalization. 

Upon receiving his medical discharge in late 1944, Tepsic attended Penn State on the GI Bill. He reported for baseball in April 1945, and made good almost immediately. Joe Bedenk, Penn State baseball coach, spotted him the first day of practice. "He's a natural outfielder," explained Bedenk at the time. "He's fast, his reflexes are amazingly quick, he has a good arm. But I needed a third baseman. He didn't want to play there, but I had nobody else for that spot."

His big bat soon attracted major league scouts, and more than a half dozen turned up in the grandstand at home games. But none of them made much headway. "I want my degree before I consider baseball as a career," he said. "Then, too, I want a couple of years of football before I throw in the sponge. All these baseball scouts tried to talk me out of football."

Tepsic got to play football and scored eight touchdowns in eight games as a freshman, making him the Pittsburgh Steelers number four draft pick. He played baseball again in the spring of 1946 before signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers for an estimated bonus of $17,000 in July.

The Dodgers sent catcher Mike Sandlock to their Southern Association farm team at Mobile to make way for Tepsic but he was used sparingly and when the Dodgers wanted to assign him to Montreal of the International League he refused to go. Tepsic stayed with the Dodgers throughout the season, appearing in 15 games, primarily as a pinch runner, and went 0 for 5 at the plate.

In the spring of 1947, the Dodgers tried to send Tepsic to their Mobile club but again he refused to go telling Branch Rickey he “would play baseball in the majors or not at all.”

Rickey admitted that Tepsic had the potential of a big leaguer but was a year or two away. “They never gave me a chance,” Tepsic said. “I know I can play with this club. If they don’t want me I’m going back to Pennsylvania and work in a mill … I’m definitely not going to Mobile or anywhere else except the majors.”

Tepsic went home for two weeks before reporting to St Paul of the American Association where, despite batting .302 in 21 games, his attitude continued to be a problem and he was sent to Fort Worth of the Texas League. In 1948 he went to spring training with the Montreal Royals but was assigned to Lancaster of the InterState League after making only one appearance as a pinch runner. He was with Newport News of the Piedmont League in 1949 and his professional baseball career ended with the Harlingen Capitals of the Gulf Coast League in 1951.

Joe Tepsic then returned home, where he owned and operated a small grocery store, the Village Dairy Store.

Created July 11, 2008. Updated February 24, 2009.

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.