As New York Yankees fans celebrated Memorial Day, we remember Yankees players who have served in the Military. And the 1943 season is perhaps the one we remember the most.
¨Fighting Soldiers from the sky, fearless men who jump and die, men who mean just what they say, the brave men of The Green Berets.¨
Those were the words of Staff Sargent Barry Sadler in his 1966 number one song ¨The Ballad of the Green Berets,¨ according to PopHistory Dig.¨ The song honored the spirit of the men who fought for our country, and it also reflected the spirit of the 1943 New York Yankees.
This is because 1943 was the year that Joe DiMaggio enlisted and began his service in the U.S. Army Air Forces and Phil Rizzuto joined the United States Navy. Ace pitcher Red Ruffing also served in the Army in a non-combat capacity, and first baseman Buddy Hassett also served in the Navy.
And that left the Yankees facing the season with a chip on their shoulders. It wasn’t so much that they were out to prove that they could win it without their teammates, as it was that they could win it for them as they served our country.
Led by catcher Bill Dickey and his .351 average, the Bombers ran away from the American League. Outfielder Charlie Keller hit 31 home runs and first baseman Nick Etten had 107 RBI. The team also featured the top second base-shortstop combination in baseball with Joe Gordon and Frankie Crosetti.
The pitching staff was anchored by Spud Chandler. Chandler went 20-4 with a 1.64 ERA and was awarded the American League MVP. Three of the other four starters allowed less than three runs per game. Hank Borowy was at 2.82, Butch Wensloff at 2.54 and Tiny Bonham finished at 2.27. This all resulted in the Yankees finishing with a record of 98-56, 13 1/2 games ahead of the Washington Senators.
But their work wasn´t done yet. In the World Series they faced the St. Louis Cardinals, who were still smarting from their loss to the Yankees in the 1942 series. And they were without a couple of stars of their own, including the legendary Enos Slaughter.
Making the task even more daunting, the Cardinals had the top three National League ERA leaders, including Howie Pollet, Max Lanier and Mort Cooper. But it made no difference, as the Yankees pitchers allowed only nine runs total and took the series in five games. To this day, Cardinals fans still complain at the scoreless innings thrown by Murry Dickson, who the Army allowed to take a 10-day pass to pitch in the series.
Of course, Yankees’ history is filled with stories of pinstripers who have served our country, and 1943 is one of those that we remember on Memorial Day.