Gietschier: D-Day, rocket boats, and Yogi Berra

From SABR member Steve Gietschier at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 5, 2019:

The tiny craft were nicknamed rocket boats, but the young sailor who liked almost nothing more than reading comic books thought he heard “rocket ships” and volunteered. Who wouldn’t want to set off in a rocket ship, even on a dangerous mission? Besides, Seaman 2nd Class Lawrence Peter Berra, from St. Louis, was bored.

Months before, just after his 18th birthday, his hometown selective service board had notified him that he would soon be drafted. Berra had just recently begun playing baseball for the Norfolk, Va., Tars in the Class B Piedmont League, and he was concerned that his first professional season was about to be truncated. Shrewdly, he asked his draft board to transfer his paperwork to Norfolk, and the gambit worked. The papers took months to arrive in Virginia, and Berra finished the season with the Tars, batting .253 in 111 games.

During the summer, the team played an exhibition game at Naval Station Norfolk. Berra spoke with the manager of the station team, who said that if Berra enlisted, he would try to get him assigned to the station where he could play ball. After the season, Berra passed his physical in Richmond and joined the Navy. He endured six weeks of basic training, but a summons from Norfolk never came.

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Originally published: June 5, 2019. Last Updated: June 5, 2019.