A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Christy Mathewson

In 1986, America got sick of Khadaffy and his antics, which stapled him in blame to the German disco bombing that wounded over 200 people while killing 2 Americans and a Turkish woman. Ronald Reagan ended weeks of debate with the decision to level Libya for their actions and came within minutes of ending the Colonel once and for all in an action that came to be called El Dorado Canyon. Unfortunately, Air Force troops Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci and Paul F. Lorence were killed when their plane was shot down in the attack.
Two years later, Libya was back in action when Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi began his actions that got him convicted for killing over 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing that took a jumbo jet right out of the sky. Two years ago, the British people gave him up. What Obama did or did not know aside, al-Megrahi went on to live his life free and suddenly not as terminal in the state of his cancer, but as the bombings of Libya began, we came to understand that he was apparently fingering Khadaffy for green lighting the terrorist attack.
Today, another American plane has crashed in Libya, and it's hard to think about baseball when the world is so confused and torn, so instead, I dedicate this post to the memories of Americans who have served and done what they had to do. And since this is baseball, I choose to focus on some of the baseball players who gave their lives and careers to the military.
Obviously, there was Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Hank Greenberg, and Joe Dimaggio, but there was Stan Musial and Monte Irvin. These were guys who went because they felt compelled to. They were men who were forced by circumstances to go. They were men who felt solidarity with fighting the Anti-Semitism of the time, at home and abroad.
But in World War 1, the most famous American baseball player to die was Eddie Grant of the Reds. Most American players worked in essential services when the league shut down, but some trained for future combat. These were men like Ty Cobb, Branch Rickey, and Christy Mathewson. In a training session for preparation for the chemical warfare attacks that were all too commonplace in the European theater, Christy inhaled poisonous mustard gas and he was never the same. The feeling of sputtering and coughing as his lungs inhaled the brutal mixture ended the career of one of the greatest pitchers that the game EVER saw.
And for that loss... just like Bob Feller and Ted Williams' stats that never happened... what are they really? They're the same sacrifices that many men have made and never heard about in the same way because they couldn't throw a fast ball or hit a home run.
To this, Bob Feller said it best:
"Baseball is only a game, a game of inches and a lot of luck. During a time of all-out war, sports are very insignificant. Life comes down to honesty and doing what's right. That's what's most important. Our Constitution is more important than baseball."

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