Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Tommy Byrne


Date and Place of Birth: December 31, 1919 Baltimore, Maryland

Died: December 20, 2007 Wake Forest, North Carolina

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
US Navy

Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations

Major League Stats: Tommy Byrne on Baseball-Almanac


Tommy ByrneThomas J “Tommy” Byrne was born on December 31, 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and graduated from Baltimore City College High School.


Byrne went to Wake Forest College in 1937 and played baseball. An outstanding left-handed pitcher and good hitter, Byrne signed with the New York Yankees after graduating in 1940. He was assigned to the Newark Bears of the International League where he finished the year with a 2-5 record and 4.70 ERA.


Byrne was 10-7 with the Bears in 1941, and really came alive in 1942 with a sensational 17-4 record and 3.10 ERA for MVP honors. He joined the Yankees in 1943 and made his major league debut on April 27 against the Boston Red Sox. Control problems hampered his early years and Byrne was 2-1 with the Yankees in 11 appearances walking 35 batters in 31 and two-thirds innings.


Before the year was out, Byrne was in military service with the Navy and commissioned an ensign in November 1943. Assigned to the Norfolk Naval Training Station in Virginia, Byrne had the opportunity to play baseball during the summer of 1944. He was 16-2 on the mound and a hard-hitting outfielder when not pitching.


Later in the year, Byrne served in the Mediterranean as a gunnery officer on the destroyer USS Ordronaux (DD-617). In support of the invasion of southern France, this was a busy time for the crew of the Ordronaux but Byrne had the opportunity to play the occasional game of baseball when the destroyer docked. One time he sent a postcard to Joe McCarthy noting that he had pitched a shutout, struck out ten, and walked no one. When it arrived, McCarthy held the postcard up in the dugout and showed it to reporters. "Wouldn't you know," he said, "Tommy Byrne has finally found the plate and he's only five thousand miles from Yankee Stadium."


Byrne had attained the rank of lieutenant when he was discharged from service in January 1946. He joined the Yankees for spring training in Panama in February but was used sparingly throughout the year. He made just four appearances and his only start was on June 25 when he was beaten by the Cleveland Indians.


The Yankees sent the 27-year-old to Kansas City in the American Association for 1947 where he regained his form with a 12-6 record and 3.26 ERA. Byrne was back with the Yankees in 1948 as a starter and reliever but earned a regular spot in the starting rotation for 1949. He was 15-7 that year and made an appearance in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.


Byrne was 15-9 in 1950 and an American League all-star selection but he was traded to the St Louis Browns in June 1951. He also pitched for the White Sox and Senators before returning to the Yankees in 1954. His finest season in the major leagues was during this second stint with the Yankees when, in 1955, he had a 16-5 record with a 3.15 ERA and a World Series win against the Dodgers.


Byrne continued to pitch in the major leagues until 1957. In a 13-year career, he compiled an 85-69 won-loss record and played on five world championship teams.


Tommy Byrne Day - September 2007After baseball, Byrne returned to Wake Forest where he had made his home with his wife, Mary. His business endeavors included the oil business, farming operations, Byrne & Fish Clothing Stores, real estate development and the Wake Forest Country Club.

He was an active member of the local community and the first chairman of the Wake Forest Recreation Commission, a town commissioner, Wake Forest mayor and president of the Wake County Mayor’s Association.


Byrne was inducted in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the Baltimore City College Hall of Fame, the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame and the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame. He was presented the Wake Forest Birthplace Society Distinguished Service Award and a Tommy Byrne Day was held on September 9, 2007 on the grounds of the Wake Forest College Birthplace Museum.


Tommy Byrne, a hugely loved figure in the local area, passed away on December 20, 2007 in Wake Forest. He was 87 years old and is buried at Wake Forest Cemetery.


Thanks to Greg Allen, publisher of The Wake Weekly for help with this biography and the above photo.


Created January 2, 2008.

Copyright © 2015 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.