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Star pitcher Christy Mathewson delivers a war fund donation to members of the Red Cross. Nearly 117,000 Americans died fighting in World War I.
Today is Veterans Day, when we honor those who have served in the American military, past and present. This year, Veterans Day just happens to fall on the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.
Nearly 10 million died and more than 20 million more were injured among the combined armed forces of the Allied powers, which included the United States, and the Central powers led by the German Empire. Over 7.5 million civilians were also killed on the combined sides.
Major League Baseball teams were not immune from the casualties. Large numbers of players fought in the war, and a number of them never returned home.
Among those killed were two men with ties to the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Eddie Grant
and Bun Troy
. The two players are pictured in the featured image accompanying this piece, Grant on the left, Troy on the right.
Grant was born on May 21, 1883 in Franklin, Maine. He was nicknamed “Harvard Eddie” for the simple reason that he was a graduate of that prestigious Ivy League institution.
After signing with the Cleveland Naps (now Indians) in 1905, Grant made his big-league debut with them, appearing in two games that year. He was ultimately released, signed on with Jersey City of the Eastern League, and then had his contract purchased by the Phillies in August 1906.
Gant would play for the next four seasons as a regular with the Phillies, appearing in 527 games as the team’s starting third baseman. The team produced a winning record in three of his four seasons from 1907-10. He led all of baseball in at-bats in both 1908 and 1909, and in plate appearances in 1909.
In exchange the Phillies received Hans Lobert
and Dode Paskert
, who proved to be upgrades at the hot corner and in center field, as well as a pair of pitchers who never really panned out in Fred Beebe
and Jack Rowan
Then in June 1913, Grant had his contract purchased by the New York Giants. This led to his lone World Series appearance. That fall he got to pinch-run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 2
at Shibe Park against Connie Mack
‘s Philadelphia Athletics.
After Larry McLean
singled to lead off the frame against Eddie Plank
, Grant was sent in to run by Giants skipper John McGraw
. He would then score the game’s first run on a one-out single by Christy Mathewson
. The Giants scored three times to take a 3-0 victory. It would prove to be New York’s only win of that Fall Classic.
In Game 4 again at Shibe Park, he made the final out, popping out to the catcher in the top of the 9th inning. The A’s would capture that series the next day.
Grant stayed with the Giants in the 1914 and 1915 seasons, and then retired from baseball to begin practicing law in Boston. According to a piece earlier this year by Lindsay Berra at MLB.com
, Grant then entered the military when the U.S. entered World War I:
“When the U.S. entered WWI in April 1917, Grant enlisted and served as a captain in the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division. He entered France in April 1918, and he was killed by an exploding shell during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on Oct. 5, 1918, becoming the first former Major League player to be killed in action in WWI.”
Tom Simon at SABR wrote in his bio of Grant that he “…was buried in the Argonne Forest, only a few yards from where he fell. Later his remains were moved to the Romagne Cemetery. A monument in Grant’s honor was unveiled at the Polo Grounds on Memorial Day 1921, and a highway in the Bronx, a baseball field at Dean Academy (now Dean Junior College), and two American Legion posts still bear his name
Robert Gustave “Bun” Troy was a rare foreign-born player. Born in Bad Wurzach, Germany on August 27, 1888 his family moved to the states and he grew up in western Pennsylvania. His connection with the Phillies was only slight.
According to Berra, he had a tryout with the Phillies in 1909. Not making the cut, he played minor league baseball in both the 1910 and 1911 seasons.
Finally, in 1912, Troy got his one shot at making the Baseball Encyclopedia. He was signed by the Detroit Tigers and made one start for them on the mound.
On September 15, 1912 at Navin Field in Detroit, Troy put up goose eggs against the legendary Walter Johnson
and the Washington Senators into the 7th inning.
With the Tigers leading 3-0, the Senators finally broke through on Troy, scoring four times in the top of that 7th inning. They would pull away to a 6-3 victory, and Troy would never make another big-league appearance. He returned to the minor leagues, pitching in both the 1913 and 1914 seasons.
Berra describes his military service as follows: “In 1917, Troy joined the Army as a sergeant with the 80th Division. He was fatally shot in the chest during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and died on Oct. 7, 1918, at Evacuation Hospital Eight near Verdun, France.”