Duke Snider in Wartime

Duke Snider was one of many Major League Baseball players to serve during World War II.  But was The Duke really a war hero?  Judge for yourself.  The following excerpt can be found at Baseball in Wartime.

(Snider) turned 18 on September 19, and reported to the pre-induction center in the Watts section of Los Angeles for his military physical on October 19, 1944.

"They checked us just enough to make sure we were warm and upright," he explained in his autobiography The Duke of Flatbush, "and a guy handed me some papers I didn't want to know about and screamed 'NAVY!' in my face at the top of his lungs. I was headed for he high seas. I wondered why they took me if they thought I was deaf."

Snider served as a fireman, third class on the  submarine tender USS Sperry at Guam. Snider used to win bets against other sailors and servicemen by throwing a baseball the length of submarines that arrived at Guam, that's about 300 feet. "I'd throw the ball the length of their sub, my crewmates would win $300 or so, and I'd pick up my guarantee - $50," he recalls.

“We played lots of baseball and basketball on Guam. Pee Wee Reese was stationed there, too, but I never bumped into him.” Snider moonlighted for the 2nd Marine Division team while on Guam as well as playing for the USS Sperry team.

In between playing baseball, Snider's main duty on the USS Sperry was dishwashing detail. "There was a porthole behind the sink and any time we came across a chipped glass or dish that wouldn't come clean in less than a second we fired the sucker into the Pacific Ocean."

Snider felt he had a very comfortable and safe war while his father - also serving with the Navy - was involved in many of the island invasions in the Pacific. "There was one close call when it looked as if I was going to find myself in combat after all," he explains in The Duke of Flatbush. "I was on watch duty on the number one 5-inch gun when we sighted an unidentified shop ahead. The command came down from the bridge to load the gun with a star shell that would be fired if the ship did not respond to our signal requesting identification.

"No World Series moment ever scared me as much. I was no authority on loading or firing shells. All I had been told in our drills was that you press this lever, a shell comes up, you put it in and press another lever, and the shell goes 'Boom!' I pressed the first lever, the shell came up, and I put it into the loading chamber. I was actually shaking while waiting for the command to fire. Two ships might start firing at each other in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as a small part of World War II, and I was going to be the one to start the firing.

"Seconds before the command to fire would have come, the other ship identified itself as friendly. I needed an immediate change of underwear."