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World War II Hero of the Minor Leagues
Date and Place of Birth: July 11, 1917 Oakland, California
Died: December 4, 1961, Oakland, California
Rank: Lieutenant (Junior Grade)
Military Unit: Torpedo Squadron 17 (VT-17) US Navy
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations
Arnold Traxler was born in Oakland, California, on July 11, 1917. He
attended the College of the Pacific in Stockton where he was a star
halfback on the football team, and worked out with the Oakland Oaks
of the Pacific Coast League at the end of the 1937 season. Back with
the Oaks for spring training in 1938, Traxler was assigned – along
with Bill Rigney - to the Spokane Hawks of the Class B Western
International League, But after playing in just three games he was
sent to the El Paso Texans of the Class D Arizona-Texas League on a
five-day trial. Traxler impressed manager Jimmy Zinn and hit an
impressive .330 in 97 games.
In 1939, the young outfielder advanced to the Joplin Miners – a New York Yankees farm club - of the Class C Western Association and batted .283, then went on to have a career year with the Wenatchee Chiefs of the Class B Western International League in 1940. Traxler batted .310 with the Chiefs and hit 26 home runs while driving in 118. In 1941, the 23-year-old began the season with the Augusta Tigers of the Class B South Atlantic League where he was an all-star selection and, along with Ralph Houk and Ferrell Anderson, was called up to the Binghamton Yankees of the Class A Eastern League.
Traxler was obtained by the Dallas Rebels of the Class A1 Texas League before being called to military service mid-season in 1942. He trained as a pilot with the Navy, earned his commission in January 1943, and served with Torpedo Squadron 17 (VT-17) aboard the carrier USS Hornet (CV-12) in the Pacific Theater. Lieutenant Traxler completed 33 missions including the first carrier strike against Tokyo in February 1945. During support of ground forces on Iwo Jima, Lieutenant Traxler was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and had to be rescued from the sea by a destroyer.
For action on March 19, 1945, he was awarded the Navy Cross for “extraordinary heroism in operations” against the Japanese Fleet in the Kure Bay area of the inland sea, Japan. “His outstanding courage and determined skill were at all times inspiring and in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” declared the citation. Lieutenant Traxler also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and served as acting commanding officer of VT-17 in August 1945.
Arnold Traxler didn't return to baseball after the war. He passed
away in Oakland, California, on December 4, 1961, aged only 44, and
is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery.
Created March 18, 2008. Updated February 7, 2010.
Copyright © 2013 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.