Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Carl McNabb


Date and Place of Birth: January 25, 1917 Stevenson, Alabama

Died: July 16, 2007 Jasper, Tennessee

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Second Base
Rank: Private
Military Unit:
Medical Detachment, 83rd Chemical (Motorized) Battalion US Army

Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations


Carl M McNabb was born on January 25, 1917 in Stevenson, Alabama. His first experience in professional baseball was with the Tyler Trojans of the East Texas League but he lasted less than a month.


In 1937 the second baseman returned to the Trojans and was league MVP, repeating as MVP in 1938 with a .303 batting average and 78 RBIs.


McNabb was selected by Cleveland at the end of the season and assigned to the Springfield Indians of the Middle-Atlantic League. He was with the Sunbury Indians of the Interstate League in 1940, and joined the Hagerstown Owls in the Detroit Tigers’ organization for 1941 and 1942. McNabb entered military service with the Army on September 26, 1942. “McNabb turned in a great season before he was inducted into the Army,” wrote the Hagerstown Morning Herald on March 22, 1945, “and no second sacker as yet has been able to cover the ground that McNabb did when playing here.”


He was originally in Company D of the 83rd Chemical (Motorized) Battalion at Camp Gordon, Georgia, and then went to the Medical Detachment of the battalion. In April 1943, Private McNabb went overseas and arrived in North Africa on May 11.


McNabb had no interest in military service. His wife, who had a medical background, advised him to eat a bar of soap as it would give the impression he had bleeding stomach ulcers and get him discharged.  At first he didn’t want to do it, but when he got to North Africa he realized he definitely wanted to get out of the service and reportedly did the soap eating trick.  McNabb was sent home and received a medical discharge in April 1944.


He joined the Buffalo Bisons of the International League for the 1944 season. In addition to a respectable .283 batting average, it was his defensive wizardry around second base that captured the attention of the Detroit Tigers that summer, and he was a particular nemesis of the Toronto club. “The Leafs figured up that McNabb robbed them of more base hits than any other second baseman in the International League,” announced the Hagerstown Morning Herald, “and that some of his stops bordered on the impossible.”


In addition to his play on the field, McNabb’s 4-F status ensured he would not be recalled for military service and at a time when every able-bodied man was being called to colors this was a particular attraction for Tigers’ manager Steve O’Neill. McNabb was acquired by Detroit from Buffalo in December 1944 and joined the Tigers at their Evansville, Indiana, spring training camp in 1945.


The 28-year-old performed well in spring training but was unable to beat out Eddie Mayo for the second base job. He made his only major league appearance as a pinch-hitter against Cleveland on April 20 and struck out.


McNabb returned to Buffalo for the remainder of the season. He was purchased by the Dallas Rebels of the Texas League in January 1946 and remained with that team until being sold in May 1947 to the Tyler Trojans in the newly formed Lone Star League. McNabb remained with the club and became player-manager when they moved over to the East Texas League in 1949. He ended his professional baseball career in 1950 with the Lubbock Lubbers in the West Texas-New Mexico League.


Carl McNabb operated a general store in his home town of Jasper, Tennessee for many years. He passed away on July 16, 2007, aged 90.


Thanks to Terry Lowry, official historian of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion for the photos and sharing information from his forthcoming book entitled Bastard Battalion: A History of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion in World War II.


Created August 30, 2007.


Copyright © 2007 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.