Friday, March 27, 2015
While reading the book “The Train to Crystal City”; which I will review here on Monday; I ran across a new character who had heretofore been unknown to me. That’s a long way of saying I never heard of him before. What a story! I mean both the book; as well as the story of this man named Bert.
While flying a P-38 over Germany during the war, Bert was shot down. As a result he lost his leg and was traded in a POW exchange with Germany in early 1945. I know, you’re saying “So what? A lot of guys were wounded, maimed and came home when the war was over.” And you’re right about that. But there’s something special about Bert’s story.
On August 4, 1945; only 7 months after being exchanged as a POW; Bert was home and working. He had mastered the art of walking on an artificial leg while a POW in Germany. So, when he came home he was quick to return to work. Actually, it was kind of an extension of his old job.
The night of August 4, 1945 saw the Washington Senators baseball team being soundly whipped by the Red Sox. In the 4th inning the score was already 14-2. Bert was watching the game anxiously; he really loved the Senators and wanted the team to win. But things weren’t looking too good on that score.
While Bert probably wasn’t that surprised at the manager’s decision to put in a relief pitcher, he was surprised at the choice of the man who would be pitching. It would be Bert.
You see Bert was a pitcher before the war; and afterwards; in only 7 months’ time, he had become the Pitching Coach for the Washington Senator’s. And on the night of August 4, 1945, he made history; when he took the pitcher’s mound and became the first man with an artificial leg to pitch in a Major League Baseball game. You may know him as Bert Shepard.