Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Dave Coble

Date and Place of Birth: December 24, 1912 Monroe, North Carolina

Died: October 16, 1971 Orlando, Florida

Baseball Experience: Major League
Staff Sergeant
Military Unit:

Area Served: United States

David L. Coble was born on December 24, 1912 in Monroe, North Carolina. He attended the University of South Carolina and signed with the Columbia Sandlappers of the Class B Piedmont League in the spring of 1934. The Sandlappers moved to Asheville in June and the 6-foot-1, right-handed hitting catcher played a total of 33 games, batting .224.

Coble was given a trial with the Cincinnati Reds during the spring of 1935 but was released and didn’t play organized baseball that year. He returned in 1936 with the Moultrie Packers of the Class D Georgia-Florida League and played 91 games, batting .249.

Coble advanced to the Little Rock Travelers of the Class A1 Southern Association in 1937 but an injury-hampered season saw him appear in just 60 games and bat .218. He was back with the Travelers in 1938 and batted .233 in 93 games. The Travelers sold the 26-year-old to the Philadelphia Phillies in the spring of 1939 and he made his major league debut on May 1 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. On May 10, as part of a publicity stunt, Coble was the only Phillies player to successfully hold on to a ball thrown from the top of the 550-foot high William Penn tower in Philadelphia.

Coble appeared in 15 games, primarily as a late-inning defensive replacement and batted a respectable .280. He played his last game on August 6 and joined the Baltimore Orioles for the remainder of the year, batting .097 in 12 games.

Coble was with the Memphis Chicks for spring training in 1940 but spent the season with the Rocky Mount Red Sox of the Class B Piedmont League where he batted just .185 in 98 games. He was sent to the Greenville Bucks of the Class C Cotton States League for 1941 where he was promptly signed as player-manager and batted .298 while leading the Bucks to a third place finish.

During the winter of 1941-1942, Coble worked as a civilian at the Army aviation training base that was being constructed at Metcalfe, Mississippi. By February 1942 he was working on a U.S. Engineers dredge boat in Mayersville. "Everywhere I go,” Coble said at the time, “I see Uncle Sam with his finger pointing at me, 'I Want You,' and I probably will be with him before long."

Coble was purchased by the Memphis Chicks in March but Uncle Sam got his hands on him the following month. Entering service with the Army Air Force he was stationed at Keesler Field, Mississippi, before transferring to the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center, Texas later in the year. In April 1943, Staff Sergeant Coble, who was batting .318 in the Service League, was assigned to the Officer Candidate School at Miami Beach, Florida. He returned to San Antonio in late July as a lieutenant and physical training instructor, and continued to play baseball at the Cadet Center until taking over as manager at Randolph Field in June 1945.

Discharged from service at the end of 1945, 33-year-old Coble signed as player-manager for the Gadsden Pilots of the Class B Southeastern League. He continued to manage in the minors until 1952 with stops at Miami, Shelby, Douglas and Tifton. Coble later scouted for the Philadelphia Athletics and worked for Wilson Sporting Goods and as a real estate salesman. He passed away on October 16, 1971 in Orlando, Florida, aged 58. Dave Coble is buried at Lakeland Memorial Park in Monroe, North Carolina.

Added: November 14, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.