As a Minnesota Twins fan and a fan of baseball history I can’t help but enjoy a site over at www.dcbaseballhistory where the early years of the Minnesota Twins are covered in detail. Back then, the team was called the Washington Senators and they played in Washington D.C. from 1901-1960. Today they ran a piece called “This Day in D.C. Baseball History – Wounded Veteran gets a Try Out” (March 5, 1945) that they have allowed me to repost here. Bert Shepard was a real World War II hero, a POW, and a winner of the Distinguished Flying Cross. He may have only played in one big league game but think about the will, courage and pain that he must have had to achieve his goal. You also have to be impressed by Clark Griffith who gave Shepard an opportunity to be in baseball. Cool story, it kind of makes you feel good to read about these kinds of things happening in a game that can at times be tough and cold. Shepard died in Highland, California on June 16, 2008
Bert Shepard, a one-legged veteran of World War II, tries out as a pitcher for the Washington Senators. The Senators owner Clark Griffith was so impressed with Shepard that he hired him as the team’s pitching coach. During the 1945 spring training Shepard with his artificial leg pitched in three games. For the rest training camp his main job was to pitch batting practice.
Bert Shepard was a World War II fighter pilot who lost his right leg on May 21, 1944 when his plane was shot down while he was flying a mission over Germany. This heroic man survived his plane crash and a gunshot wound to his chin. Afterward Shepard was taken to a German hospital where they amputated most of his right leg. During the next few months he was in POW camp in Germany. After returning home from the war in February, 1945 Shepard was sent to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. where he was fitted for an artificial leg. As amazing as it is one month later this heroic American was trying out for a major league baseball team.
What is more amazing was that on August 4, 1945 the Senators’ manager Ossie Bluege called on Bert Shepard to come in and pitch a few innings of a game that the Senators were trailing by quite a few runs. The left hander ended up pitching five and a third innings and only gave up one run and three base hits. That one game will be the first and last game for the war hero as the Senators released him on September 30, 1945.