Monday, May 30, 2011

A Day to Remember

Today is Memorial Day, a day where we need to remember the sacrifices others have made on our behalf. While many like to trumpet how those brave men and women died for our freedoms, I say we just need to remember them. They were the kids down the street, our cousins and people we went to high school with.

This man was serving in the Navy during World War Two:

Card #257 -- Yogi Berra and Coaches, New York Mets

As a gunner's mate, he participated in shuttling troops to the Normandy beachhead on D-Day.

Of course, he returned to resume a Hall of Fame career as one of the finest catchers to play the game. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1972, as well as having his uniform number retired by the Yankees. He also became the Mets' manager that year, after the sudden death of Gil Hodges in the spring. In 1973, he called the shots for a team that came all the way from last place to the World Series. He would remain at the position until 1975 and then went back over to the Bronx to become a coach there.

Roy McMillan is the only coach shown here who wasn't a member of Gil Hodges' staff. 1973 was his first season with the team as a coach; he had played with the team as a shortstop from 1964-'66 while winding down his career. When Yogi was fired in 1975, McMillan was his interim replacement until Joe Frazier took over. McMillan died in Texas in 1997.

Joe Pignatano was a former Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger who was tagged to play with the Mets in their disastrous inaugural season. He finished his career as only a '62 Met could aspire to: his final at-bat saw him hit into a triple play. He became a coach under Hodges in Washington and joined him with the Mets in '68 and he stayed with them until 1981 as a bullpen coach. He was known for growing a vegetable garden in the bullpen at Shea Stadium.

Rube Walker was a backup to Roy Campanella in Brooklyn, but might be better known as the last card from the '55 Dodgers Rocky Dennis needed to complete his team set in the film Mask. After retiring as a player, he became a minor league manager before moving onto a major league coaching staff. He was the pitching coach in New York, where he mentored Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman. He was with the team from 1968 through 1981, working with several mangers. Walker died of lung cancer in 1992.

Eddie Yost was also in the Navy during World War Two. After Uncle Sam let him return to the ballfield, he became one of the most consistent players for the Washington Senators in the 1950s. He was known as "The Walking Man" due to his ability to draw a base on balls. He bagam coaching while he was still a player for the 1962 Angels and moved to Washington under old teammate Mickey Vernon. When Gil Hodges became the Mets' manager in 1968, Yost moved with him and served as the team's third base coach until 1976. He went to Boston, where he coached through 1984.

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