#Shortstops: A ball from a hero
With the WWII near its conclusion in May 1945, Spahn, along with many ballplayers serving in the military, got back on the diamond in Allied-occupied Germany following the Nazi surrender. Playing for the 115th Engineers in a series of games in Heidelberg, Spahn was cited in newspaper reports as: “The hottest pitcher in Germany is Lieut. Warren Spahn, Boston Brave-owned hurler last with Hartford. Over a recent four-game stretch, Spahn allowed only one unearned run in hanging up a quartette of decisions, allowed nine hits and struck out 73.”
Records show that Spahn defeated the 19th Corps team in three straight, giving up four hits and striking out 20 in the first game, giving up only one single and striking out 18 in the second, and giving up two singles and striking out 19 in the third. The fourth win came against the 32nd AAA Brigade, when he allowed two hits while striking out 17.
A baseball signed by members of the 115th Engineering Group, with “Warren E. Spahn” among the 14 signatures, was recently donated to the Hall of Fame by Richard Avitable, whose father played on the team.
“Before the war I didn’t have anything that slightly resembled self-confidence,” Spahn told the Associated Press in August 1946. “Then I was tight as a drum and worrying about every pitch. But now I just throw them up without the slightest mental pressure.”
Spahn, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973, passed away on Nov. 24, 2003, at the age of 82.
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum