Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice


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Buddy Blattner

 

Date and Place of Birth: February 8, 1920 St Louis, Missouri

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position:
Infield
Rank:
Seaman First Class
Military Unit:
US Navy

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

 

Robert G “Buddy” Blattner was born on February 8, 1920 in St Louis, Missouri. At Beaumont High School, he played baseball, basketball, and tennis. He became a three-time Missouri State High School tennis singles champion, and twice won the Midwest Junior Davis Cup Championship. Furthermore, Blattner was a member of the USA table tennis team in 1936 and 1937, twice capturing a World's Table Tennis Championship in Europe when he played in the world championships in Prague, London and Vienna.

 

But baseball was his true love, as well as playing in high school, Blattner played Junior Legion and municipal ball before signing with the St Louis Cardinals following high school graduation in 1938.

 

The Cardinals assigned the young infielder to Columbus of the American Association his rookie year. He was sent to Decatur in the Three-I League in 1939, where he hit .269 with 54 RBIs, and joined the Sacramento Solons of the Pacific Coast League in 1940.

 

Blattner had two strong seasons in the PCL. He hit .278 in 1940 and followed that with 100 RBIs, 17 home runs and a .294 batting average in 1941. The 22-year-old joined the Cardinals in 1942 and made his debut on April 18. He played 19 games but struggled at the plate and was assigned to Rochester of the International League for the rest of the season.

 

On October 15, 1942, Blattner entered military service with the Navy. He was assigned to the Naval training base at Lambert Field, Missouri, where he was attached to the physical education department. Blattner played baseball in 1943 at Lambert Field for manager Hal Schumacher.

 

He was assigned to Bainbridge Naval Training Station in 1944, and played for the Bainbridge Commodores with Elbie Fletcher, Fred Chapman, Dick Sisler and Dick Bartell. The team had a record of 56 wins and 15 losses that season, defeating four major league clubs and clinching the Fifth Naval District championship.

 

Bainbridge Commodores 1944
The Bainbridge Commodores of 1944 (Blattner is middle row, second from right)

 

Following the 1944 season, Blattner was assigned to Aiea Barracks in Hawaii, where he continued to play baseball. He was assigned to the USMC Island Command on Guam in 1945.

 

Blattner returned home on December 5, 1945. His contract was purchased by the New York Giants and he got off to a flying start, appearing in 126 games, batting .255 and hitting 11 home runs. In 1947, he played 55 games with the Giants and spent most of 1948 with Jersey City in the International League.

 

Blattner was drafted by the Phillies for 1949 and appeared in 64 games, batting .247. He left the playing field but not the game, after the 1949 season. Blattner began a broadcasting career as the play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Browns in 1950. He was then hired by the NBAs’ St Louis Hawks, broadcasting over 800 games in an eight-year span. He soon became the first radio/TV spokesman for the NBA, broadcasting six NBA All-Star Games.

 

Blattner later became the voice of the California Angels for seven years and spent an additional seven years as lead broadcaster for the Kansas City Royals. He was twice elected to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and received the St Louis Browns Historical Society Award for Distinguished Broadcasting in 1989.

In 1962, he founded the Buddy Fund. A sports charity, providing athletic equipment to established, well managed athletic programs for underprivileged youngsters.

 

Blattner retired from broadcasting in 1976 and retired to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

 

Created December 16, 2007.

Copyright © 2007 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.