ought to have somebody like Hank (Gowdy). The boys idolize
him and he gets them all stirred up with his baseball
stories. He helps 'em forget about the terror of war."
- Colonel B.W. Hough
The first professional baseball player to enlist in
World War I was Boston Braves catcher Hank Gowdy who
did so on July 15, 1917. This uniform was worn by Gowdy
on the front lines during the fierce fighting in Europe.
Gowdy fought in the spectacular fighting unit known
as the "Rainbow Division," dubbed such by
General Pershing. They, it seemed, had the uncanny "luck"
of being surrounded by actual rainbows during heavy
combat in France. When Gowdy returned from the war,
a bona fide war hero, he was as popular in Boston as
the mayor himself. Incredibly, 23 years later, when
World War II broke out, Gowdy sought to serve his country
again and, at the age of 53, was commissioned as a Major
in the United States Army. He again served with distinction.
The baseball diamond at Fort Benning, where soldiers
enjoy playing the national pastime, is named Hank Gowdy
Field. Gowdy passed away at the age of 76 on August
1, 1966 while living in Columbus, Ohio.
Gowdy was the catcher on the greatest comeback team
in history, the world champion 1914 "Miracle"
Boston Braves. He hit .545 in that year's Series leading
his team to a 4-0 victory over the Philadelphia A's,
which was the first-ever sweep of a World Series.