major league baseball's patriotism

With all of the patriotic messages we receive when watching a major league baseball game over a major holiday like the Fourth of July I began to wonder. I know that there are probably 50 Hall of Famers and at least 500 or more other MLB players who saw service in WWI, WWII and Korea. I also know that Roy Gleason was the only major league player wounded in Viet Nam.

However who was the last major league player to do a two year hitch in any of the services, either before beginning his major league career or after. I know it was popular in the 60’s to join the reserves and do six months but I am not interested in those people. Anyone know the answer?

Well, it would have been Shin Soo-Choo, but his 2 year obligation to serve in the South Korean army was waived.

one free bump?

Define “last.” I know that Hoyt Wilhelm was the last World War II vet to play in the majors (until 1972). I don’t think any Korean vet was playing at that point, and players in the 60s routinely avoided the draft by being in the Reserves.

Either you are a superstar that shoots up through the leagues right out of high school or you are playing year round trying to make it. Not a lot of time for joining the military.

Wrong sport, I know, but…

Rocky Bleier of the Pittsburgh Steelers is about the only semi-recent athlete I can think of in ANY of the big-time American sports who saw any combat before playing his sport professionally. And, of course, Roger Staubach served five years in the Navy before joining the Dallas Cowboys (I don’t think he ever did anything heroic in the Navy; I vaguely recall he was the commander of a supply ship).

Now, I can think of several guys who went to U.S. service academies but were released early from their commitments to the Army, Navy or Air Force (before the end of the Cold War, a service academy graduate was expected to spend 5 years in the military after graduation), and played in the NFL.

Chad Hennings, a pretty good defensive lineman for the Aikman-era Dallas Cowboys was in the Air Force for a few years before his early discharge.

But I can’t think of any recent baseball players who spent significant time in the military before playing in the major leagues. LOTS from the WW2 era, several from the Korean War era, but nobody more recently.

And even a few who weren’t released early.

Roger Staubach was a Naval Academy graduate. He graduated from the Academy in '64, but did not begin his NFL career until '69, though he mostly served stateside.

Napoleon McCallum was another Naval Academy graduate ('85 graduate). While he was stationed stateside, the Navy allowed him to play for the Raiders in 1986. However, when he was transferred to a different ship, he was no longer able to do this, and didn’t play again for the Raiders until 1990.

Again, not a baseball player, but NBA star David Robinson was released early from the Navy, even though he graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis. That was partly because his great height limited the kinds of duties he could fulfill (at 7+ feet tall, he couldn’t be a pilot, couldn’t serve on a sub, couldn’t serve on most ships…).

Well I was thinking more of the latest date that any former or eventual major league player might have served his two years. Specifically I wondered if any obscure player (such as Gleason) might have gotten drafted in the late sixties or early 70’s and done his time. I strongly doubt anyone volunteered a la Pat Tillman, but I was hoping someone would know definitively.

Bob Kalsu of the Buffalo Bills died in action July 21, 1970 in Viet Nam.

Bill Lee was in NASA, right?