Five baseball players were killed 70 years ago on D-Day

From David Whitley at the Orlando Sentinel on June 6, 2014:

As Lefty Brewer dropped from the sky on a moonless night 70 years ago, he probably wasn’t thinking about what he was doing six years earlier to the day.

Instead of a blackened face and Army fatigues, Brewer was wearing a St. Augustine Saints uniform. Trying to beat the Orlando Senators was a lot easier than trying to topple the Third Reich.

Brewer was parachuting into France on D-Day. The phenom who no-hit Orlando on June 6, 1938, was one of hundreds of baseball players in Operation Overlord.

Yes, kids. Long, long ago pro athletes went to war.

Other than the extraordinary Pat Tillman, such service is extinct. The U.S. no longer needs every able-bodied male to fight its enemies. Besides, could you really imagine David Price parachuting into Afghanistan?

David Ortiz said “It’s a war,” after Price hit him with a pitch last week. He meant no disrespect to servicemen, but D-Day anniversaries remind us how silly those statements are.

Five men who played minor-league or semipro ball were killed on D-Day. Their stories aren’t any sadder than the other 2,500 Americans who died that day. It’s just easier to ponder what the world missed when a guy like Forrest “Lefty” Brewer dies young.

“He’s my favorite player,” Gary Bedingfield said.

That’s saying something, since Bedingfield has written biographies on almost 500 baseball players killed in wars. The odd thing is Bedingfield is a Londoner now living in Scotland. For all of baseball’s obsession with record keeping, Bedingfield was shocked to find poorly the war dead had been documented.

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Originally published: June 6, 2014. Last Updated: June 6, 2014.