Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Herb "Lefty" Karpel


Date and Place of Birth: December 27, 1917 Brooklyn, New York

Died: January 24, 1995 North Hollywood, California

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
824th Tank Destroyer Battalion US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations


Herbert “Herb” Karpel was born on December 27, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Richmond Hill High School in Queens, New York, where he was an outstanding left-handed pitcher and teammate of Phil Rizzuto. Karpel and Rizzuto both signed with the New York Yankees in 1937 and were assigned to the Bassett Furnituremakers of the Bi-State League. While Rizzuto batted .310, Karpel was 4-3 with a 3.68 earned run average.


In 1938, he was with Butler of the Penn State Association (6-5, 3.60 ERA) and Thomasville of the Georgia-Florida League (8-1, 1.54 ERA). He joined the Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Canadian-American League in 1939 and produced his finest season to that date with a 19-9 record and 3.89 earned run average.


The Yankees moved Karpel up to the Norfolk Tars of the Piedmont League in 1940 and he turned in an 11-7 season with a 2.53 ERA. The next year saw the 23-year-old with Binghamton of the Eastern League and in 1942, he was with Kansas City of the American Association. Just one step away from the major leagues.


Kansas City used Karpel as a relief pitcher that season. He was 11-1 with a 2.48 ERA and was due to join the Yankees in 1943 where he would be reunited with Rizzuto. Uncle Sam had other plans, however.


Karpel entered military service with the Army in January 1943. He was assigned to Camp Bowie, Texas, where he trained with the 824th Tank Destroyer Battalion.


Corporal Karpel was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, later in the year where he was assistant regimental athletic officer. Karpel managed the Student Regiment baseball team at Fort Hood. They were 55 and 7 and won the league championship at Fort Hood.


Karpel remained at Fort Hood through 1944, playing regularly for the Fort Hood All-Stars baseball team.


In late 1944, he was sent overseas to Europe, where his unit saw combat at the Franco-German frontier and then into Germany. When the German surrender came in May 1945, his unit was attached to the 103rd Infantry Regiment and he pitched for the division team throughout the summer.


Karpel returned to baseball in 1946. He trained with the Yankees during the spring and remained with the team for the start of the season. He made his major league debut on the fourth day of the season – April 19, 1946 – as a relief pitcher against the Washington Senators with his old high school shortstop, Phil Rizzuto, behind him. He would make one further relief appearance before being assigned to Newark for the remainder of the year.


Despite a strong season with the Newark club (14-8, 2.41 ERA), Karpel never made it back to the major leagues. He helped the semi-pro Brooklyn Bushwicks win the Inter-American Tournament at Caracas, Venezuela in December 1946, and went on to enjoy a number of successful seasons with Seattle in the Pacific Coast League. Karpel was 33 when he pitched his last professional game for the Hollywood Stars in 1951. In 1952, he was pitching for the semi-pro La Grande Raiders of the Tri-State League.


Herb Karpel passed away on January 24, 1995 in North Hollywood, California. He was 77 years old.


Created January 7, 2008.

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