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Fred Price

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: August 19, 1917 Oneonta, NY
Date and Place of Death:    July 11, 1994 Brooklyn, NY
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: First Base
Rank: Captain
Military Unit:  US Army
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Fred Price was the first professional ballplayer to voluntarily enlist for military service during WWII, and holds the distinction of being the longest serving.

Frederic P. Price was born in Oneonta, New York, on August 19, 1917. He was educated in Brooklyn at Erasmus Hall High School where he was a three-letter star in baseball, football and soccer. He attended George Washington University, Washington, DC, where he played baseball and basketball, attracting the attention of New York Giants' scout Pancho Snyder, and played for the Lormawood Club during the summer. Price left college after his first year and joined the Giants' spring training camp at Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1937. He was sent to the Greenwood Giants of the Class C Cotton States League for the season and batted .233 in 139 games. The next year - 1938 -he was with the Fort Smith Giants of the Class C Western Association where he hit .277 in 141 games. Price advanced to the Clinton Giants of the Class B Three-I League in 1939, and batted .260. Still with Clinton in 1940, he hit .245 in 115 games and hoped to gain the first base job at Jersey City in the International League the following year

But shortly after the season's close on October 30, 1940, Price volunteered for military service. At that time - a year prior to Pearl Harbor - when military service meant serving a year and missing only one season, a newspaper reporter asked the 23 year-old why he had volunteered. Price explained, "Well, you've got to get the thing over with, and I thought I might as well do it now."

Private Price was assigned to Camp Upton on Long Island. Following six weeks of basic training he was assigned to Company D at the 122nd Reception Center, Camp Upton, and was detailed to drill recruits in fundamental marching. During this time he had a few opportunities to play semi-pro baseball with Barton's Nighthawks. When questioned at the time about whether he ever expected to pick up his baseball career again, Price explained, "If I didn't love baseball I think I would stay in the Army for a career. But I don't think the world would seem right to me if I couldn't play baseball. When my year is up I will apply to Commissioner Landis for reinstatement and report back to Bill Terry [Giants manager]."

Unfortunately for Price, that time never came. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor around the same time he should have been mustered out of the service. He would go on to see 32 months of active duty in the Pacific, during which time he would rise to the rank of captain, win three battle stars and earn a Purple Heart after receiving shrapnel wounds in his right knee during the Battle of Savo Island. He was hospitalized for two-and-a-half months and didn't walk for two months.

On January 14, 1946, Price finally got his honorable discharge from the army. He had served over five years and was now 28 years old. Persuaded by his wife and father, he decided to give baseball a shot and joined the Giants' spring training camp in Miami, Florida. "After five years in the army with practically no baseball activity, I'll admit I've got a real fight ahead of me to stay in the big league.

"As a married man with a three-year-old son, I've got to think about my future. But my wife and father persuaded me to try my hand at the sport this once and they sold me on the idea a couple of months in Florida would be good for me both physically and mentally.

"If I can't land in the majors or a double A league, I'll think seriously about quitting the game and going back to college to get my degree in physical education, so that I can teach and coach on the side. When you're a family man, you realize baseball is not so much a game as a means of livelihood."

With Johnny Mize holding down the first baseman's job for the Giants, and competition from Roy Zimmerman and Mike Schemer, who both had big league experience, there was little room for Price. He joined the semi-pro Brooklyn Bushwicks for 1946, and then played for various semi-pro teams over the coming seasons, including Equitable Life, the 1950 Greater New York Commercial League champions.

Fred Price died on July 11, 1994, in Brooklyn, New York. He is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Date Added December 22, 2017

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