Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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World War II Hero of the Minor Leagues 

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John Tramelli


Date and Place of Birth: 1926 St. Louis, Missouri

Died: October 9, 2009, Brentwood, Missouri

Baseball Experience: Minor League
Military Unit:
310th Infantry Regiment, 78th Infantry Division U.S. Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations


John Tramelli was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1926, and attended St. Louis University High School. He was signed by the New York Giants while in high school and was assigned to the Erie Sailors of the Class D PONY League in 1944. Used as a starter and reliever, 18-year-old Tramelli made 18 appearances for the Sailors for a 3-3 won-loss record. In late July, the Giants organization sent him to the Bristol Twins of the Class D Appalachian League where he was 1-3 over five games but the youngster showed promise, particularly in a pitching duel against the Erwin Cubs on July 31, when he hurled shutout ball for the first seven innings. Tramelli had shown enough to receive a late-season call up to the Jersey City Giants of the Class AA International League where he made a two-inning relief appearance before the season was over.

Tramelli’s advance in professional baseball came to an abrupt halt when he was called into military service on October 10, 1944, and he was inducted at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Not long after Tramelli got into the service the Germans made their last major offensive in the Ardennes in Europe - later known as the Battle of the Bulge. America put all its available troops into the European campaign and Tramelli joined the 310th Infantry Regiment of the 78th Infantry Division. Also serving with the 78th at that time was St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher, Ernie White.

Tramelli found himself in the thick of the coldest winter in Europe in many years and with night temperatures falling to around zero degrees Fahrenheit, his top priorities were keeping his head down in foxholes, and finding ways to stop his feet from freezing. Known as the “Lightning Division,” the 78th held an area of the Siegfried Line against violent German attacks throughout the winter before advancing across the Rhine into Germany. During this time, Tramelli suffered from exposure and was hospitalized for nine months where he was treated for gangrene. Thanks to penicillin his leg was saved from being amputated.

Following his long, slow recovery, Tramelli returned to professional baseball in 1947. The New York Giants assigned the 21-year-old to the Manchester Giants of the Class B New England League, where he made 22 appearances for a 6-5 won-loss record. His best outing was against the Lowell Orphans on August 9, when he hurled shutout ball for six innings, beating the Orphans 4-1 and striking out seven.

The following year – 1948 – was a career-year for Tramelli. Pitching for the Fort Smith Giants of the Class C Western Association, he was almost unbeatable and finished the year with a 16-4 won-loss record and 2.34 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts. Among his notable performances during the season were a sizzling two-hitter over the Leavenworth Braves on May 24, and 13 strikeouts against the Joplin Miners in the last game of the season on September 2.

1948 Fort Smith Giants
John Tramelli is front row, first left

In 1949, the New York Giants assigned Tramelli to the Knoxville Smokies of the Class B Tri-State League, but he failed to live up to the hype surrounding his 1948 season. In 28 appearances he produced a 5-9 won-loss record and a 4.75 ERA. Highlights of the year included a 1-0, 3-hitter against the Spartanburg Peaches on June 28, and a 6-3, 3-hitter, again over the Peaches on July 7.

Nineteen-forty-nine was his last year in professional baseball. In 1958, with a marketing degree from Washington University, Tramelli and his lifelong friend, Jim Phelan, started Phelan-Tramelli Sales Agency Inc, which has represented steel producers in the Midwest for 51 years. The business is still family-owned.

At the age of 83, John Tramelli, passed away on October 9, 2009, at his home in Brentwood, Missouri. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at Immacolata Church, St. Louis, on Tuesday October 13, followed by his burial at Calvary Cemetery.
Minor League Baseball


Read John Tramelli's Baseball in Wartime blog entry


Created February 7, 2010.


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