Today is Veteran's Day, and for this school teacher, that means a day off. God bless the troops!
Seriously though, it is a unique experience to be a teacher on Fort Hood, an Army base that is the largest active duty post in the nation. All but one of my students (I think) has a parent in the military, and all but two live on post. Veteran's Day is a big deal here.
It's also pretty big for my hometown of San Diego. If you're not aware, America's Finest City is also a military town, as evidenced by the camouflage uniforms worn every Sunday to honor the troops.
In addition to the Joaquin Benoit card from this year's Update set, here are the rest of this year's Topps cards that featured the boys in the camo uniforms:
The yellow bordered ones are from Series 1, the burnt orange is from Series 2. Half of these guys are gone, while two (Clayton Richard and Colt Hynes) weren't on the roster at the beginning of the season. By my count (I could be wrong) the Padres went 7-8 this season in Sunday home games, which is a little a-typical, since they actually did pretty well at home (48-33, .593). Quite a different team on the road, though (29-52, .358)
I found on a Padres fan site, Gaslamp Ball, a list of the seven Padres who served in the military. While I don't have cards for Jason Szuminski or Fred Stanley, here are cards for the other five, plus a guy you've probably heard of who played for the Padres during the Pacific Coast League days.
I didn't want to pirate all the info from GLB, so I'll just say that there are some pretty patriotic Padres in these pictures. Of course, Teddy Ballgame is the most famous. Actually, all but the Williams were taken from my Team Set binder. Kinda neat how that worked out. The Williams is one of my all time favorite Padre cards, but I love the 1971 set that is represented by Earl Wilson. Hard not to bring up the Mother's Cookies card of Champ Summers, that's a great one as well.
Of course, when you're talking about beloved Padres icons who are also veterans, the conversation can begin and end with Jerry Coleman. Nicknamed "The Colonel", his military service was such an integral part of his life that his statue in Petco Park doesn't picture him as a World Series champion infielder, as a Padres manager, or as a Hall of Fame broadcaster. He is shown in his pilot gear. I have some pictures of his statue, but it has since been updated, including a pedestal to add height, and spacing out the pictures behind it so they are not obscured by the statue (they also added a fourth image to make it symmetrical). This image also pirated from GLB.
I have eight baseball cards from Jerry's days as a player, but I chose to show these five for a particular reason. While I love any image of Jerry on the field or swinging a bat, it's the words on the back of these particular cards that I love. Each of these five mention his military experience. While it may not have been uncommon to have ball players that were also vets, I think it speaks to the incredible live that Jerry lived.
Here are the two Bowman cards. Probably my two favorite Jerry cards, since the '51 was my first Coleman card, and I think the '52 is the best looking one. Still, pretty minimal info on his military experience on these two.
His 1957 Topps card elaborates slightly on his military career, mentioning that he was "in the Marines for three years before joining Binghamton in '46." Also mentions that he is "the Yanks' trouble shooter", which I thought might be a military reference as well, but I think it is just some awkward phrasing on Topps' part.
Here's probably the coolest card back, due to the size of his '56 Topps' card cartoon. In the middle panel, it says "He saw action as a Marine in World War II and Korea". Also mentioning that he batted .287 and got five hits in the World Series in 1950 is a cool panel as well.
Jerry's '54 Bowman card sums it up pretty well. If anything, Jerry was as much as you could ask for in a "modest hero". It also mentions that as a "bomber pilot, Jerry has over 100 missions to his credit in World War II and the Korean conflict" and was a "Captain in the Marine Air Corps in Korea."
Special thanks to Jerry, his family, and all veterans on this important day. America is a pretty great country, warts and all, and I think it's foolish to believe that that our military doesn't have anything to do with that.
God bless America.