Tex Deets - Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Tex Deets

Ballplayers Decorated in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: July 13, 1913 nr. Abilene, TX
Date and Place of Death:    November 5, 1992 TX
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Master Sergeant
Military Unit: 369th Bomb Squadron, 306th Bomb Group and 429th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Group US Army Air Force
Area Served: European and Mediterranean Theater of Operations

 John T. "Tex" Deets, Jr., was born on July 13, 1913, near Abilene, Texas. His family soon moved to Ector, Texas, where he grew up on his father's farm, and graduated from Ector High School, in 1930. Deets pitched in the local Red River Valley League, before enlisting in the army. He was stationed at Fort D. A. Russell in Marfa, Texas, where he pitched for the baseball team and attracted a great deal of attention. His release from the army was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds organization in 1938. Deets pitched for the Muskogee Reds of the Class C Western Association that year and was 19-15 with a 4.45 ERA.

In 1939, he pitched for the Waterloo Red Hawks of the Class B Three-I League and was 11-13. In 1940 Cincinnati sent Deets to the Birmingham Barons of the Class A1 Southern Association. Selected to pitch the season opener against New Orleans, he pulled a muscle and was forced out of the game. The Barons dropped him from their roster and he was picked up by the Durham Bulls of the Class B Piedmont League, where he was 9-9 with a 3.68 ERA.

On May 9, 1941, Deets re-enlisted, this time joining the Army Air Corps. By the summer of 1942, he was pitching for the Fort Bragg team in North Carolina.

In 1943, Technical Sergeant Deets was assigned to the 369th Bomb Squadron of the 306th Bomb Group in England, as a waist-gunner on a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. He flew on 25 bombing missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross with four Oak Leaf clusters, taking part in raids on the submarine pens at St Nazaire, Kiel, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Paris, Schweinfurt, Hamburg, Hamm and Lorient.

"Kiel was my toughest raid," Deets told the Waterloo Daily Courier on May 9, 1944. "It was over Kiel that I saw my first burst from German rocket guns. It scared me so much I wanted to bail out. "Those Germans could really lob that flak up at us,"

After his tour of duty was completed, Technical-Sergeant Deets was assigned to Alexandria Army Air Field in Louisiana where he was a gunnery instructor and played baseball with the Alexandria Army Air Field Bombers, leading them to the Louisiana Army Air Force championship.

Deets volunteered for a second tour of duty and flew B-17s with the 429th Bomb Squadron of the 2nd Bomb Group at Amendola Airfield, Italy. On December 17, 1944, Deets' B-17G, nicknamed "Helen Belle", suffered engine problems on a bombing mission of the North Oil Refinery at Blechhammer, Germany. Losing altitude, the crippled B-17 left the formation and, three hours later, made a wheels down landing at Esbesto, Yugoslavia. No one was injured.

After the war, Deets, 32, returned to professional baseball for one season. In 1946, he was 12-6 with a 2.83 ERA pitching for the Montgomery Rebels of the Class Southeastern League and made two brief appearances for the Dallas Rebels of the Class AA Texas League.

Military life seemed to be where Deets was most comfortable, and he returned to the Air Force in 1947, and was stationed at Fort Worth air base where he pitched for the baseball team. In 1956, with the rank of master sergeant, he was stationed at Perrin Air Force Base (AFB) in Sherman, Texas. He had not pitched in several years, but in 1957, during a tournament at Perrin AFB, the 44-year-old pitched a double-header and won both games.

In 1960, after 20 years of service, Deets retired from the USAF at Randolph AFB, Texas, and moved back home to Denison, Texas, where he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for 19 years.

Tex Deets passed away on November 5, 1992. He was 79 years old and is buried at Georgetown Cemetery in Pottsboro, Texas.

Date Added February 6, 2018

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