Particularly during wartime, joining the military often means putting on hold important aspects of one’s life, such as college or marriage. The unexpected draft notice can also signal the end of a college athlete’s hopes for a career in the pros. For Thomas Chapman, a promising young pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, his military service would end his baseball career. Other veterans, such as Robert “Rocky” Bleier and Gregory Gadson, continued their participation in sports after military service. The two men were both severely wounded during their wartime service, but Bleier went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers during perhaps the teams’ best decade, while Gadson channeled his love for football into supporting the New York Giants as an Honorary Team Captain. For other service members, such as Rose W. Spence and Agnes G. Patterson, Donald Huston and Daniel Callaway, civilian sports and military career merged, and they merely put on a different uniform and played and fought for their country on other fields of competition around the world.
No matter their chosen sport, or whether they were professional athletes or amateurs, the men and women featured here found that service to their country, on the battlefield and in athletic competition, would employ all of the natural abilities and skills that they had forged on the playing fields of America’s sand lots, schoolyards, and stadiums.