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xxv PROLOGUE The 1913 Army–Navy Baseball Game Excitement ran higher than usual on May 31, 1913, in Highland Falls, New York, heightened by concern for the injury-­plagued home team. The entire six-­ hundred-­strong corps, high-­ranking officers from both services, distinguished visitors, Middies, and four thousand cheering spectators jammed the stands. With clear windless skies over the Catskills, the temperature holding steady at 70 degrees and low humidity, it was a perfect spring day for great college baseball . Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower ’15, rallying the cadets massed behind the Army bench, led his cheerleaders in the “Long Corps Yell.” The band played fight songs as the fast-­ paced game peaked at the end with the score tied at the bottom of the ninth with no outs. A tall, gangly Yearling with an upright stance and an easy swing, strode slowly to the plate, his gait steady and measured. It had been a long hard struggle to get there. Omar Nelson “Brad” Bradley ’15 entered West Point as a backup appointee who got very lucky when Congress changed the admissions law and the first choice failed the entrance tests. By the time he arrived, the Plebe’s nightmare, Beast Barracks, was over. That three-­ week-­ long grueling orientation and rite of passage, skirting the edge of serious physical abuse, was the field on which the Class of 1915 formed first bonds and impressions of the place and each other. Missing Beast Barracks was only one of Plebe Bradley’s problems. A surfeit of great upperclassmen athletes meant that he faced a hard slog to get on the baseball team, one of his main goals. That varsity bench, the oldest of the academy’s organized teams, was deep and full of players already wearing the “A.” Samuel Strang Nicklin (known as Sammy Strang and nicknamed “The Dixie Thrush”) was Army’s tough coach, a hard-­drinking veteran of World War I and xxvi Prologue The 1913 Army-Navy Baseball Game an ex–big leaguer who had played both infield and outfield for the Giants. He saw Cadet Bradley’s potential and quickly took to encouraging and needling the Missourian in equal measure but also praising him for his powerful throwing arm and ability to hit a curve. Bradley rode the bench that first season, and most of the next, along with other classmates—­ Leland S. “Homerun” Hobbs ’15, and “Honest John” W. Leonard ’15—­ who would be great players and generals . Sammy was in no hurry to play the underclassmen when he had such a deep bench of veteran outfielders, but he advised Bradley to “keep your eye on left field.” When he got his chance, it was apparent that his powerful throwing arm was a wild force not yet under control. In one game, three opposing runners were on base with two outs. The next batter hit a drive right at Bradley’s head, which he caught on the bounce and threw home to nail the runner at the plate. The ball sailed over the catcher’s head by twenty feet on its way out toward the parade ground. An impressed officer shouted to Sammy, “‘That Mr. Bradley has a wonderful whip.’ ‘Wonderful,’ the coach yelled back, ‘Three runs scored on his overthrow !’”1 As Sammy put it, “Bradley was a line-­drive hitter. But throw? Heavens! In one game he threw the ball over the backstop. The catcher couldn’t have got it with a 30-­ foot ladder.”2 Spectators, however, loved the show and came to hope that Bradley would hurl one from the outfield to the plate, no matter how close it came. In time the control did come, and his arm became so feared in college baseball circles that the word went out, “don’t run on Bradley.”3 The season was plagued by injuries that dug deep into the regular starting nine right up to the day of the big Army-­ Navy game. First among the benched was a good friend, the team captain Otis K. “Wop” Sadtler ’13. The term “Wop” stood for “WithOut Papers” and was a pejorative of the time for illegal immigrants—­ not, as some might assume, especially for Italian arrivals . Indeed, several Irish friends had the same nickname.4 Sadtler was a star second baseman, base-­ stealer, and ace-­ bunter, but he had sprained his ankle sliding into home in the Notre Dame game, which put him out for the rest of the season. To make matters worse...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826273925
Related ISBN
9780826221360
MARC Record
OCLC
1002300081
Pages
490
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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