Vince Stukoski - Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Vince Stukoski

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1925 Swoyerville, PA
Date and Place of Death:    December 23, 1959 Wilkes-Barre, PA
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Private
Military Unit: 128th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Vincent Stukoski was born Vincent Rydzewski, to Stanley and Mary Rydzewski, in Swoyerville, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His father was a miner who died in 1944, but approximately four years prior to that, Vincent began using his mother's maiden name of Stukoski. Indeed, he pitched for Swoyerville High School as Vince Stukoski.

Stukoski was an outstanding pitcher in high school, hurling four no-hitters, and was signed by the Wilkes-Barre Barons of the Class A Eastern League, pitching his first professional game two days after graduation in 1943. Stukoski had a strong rookie year, making 20 appearances (17 as a starter) and was 10-7 with a 3.45 ERA. After the season ended, Stukoski entered military service, reporting to New Cumberland Reception Center on October 4.

Private Stukoski served overseas for 11 months as a rifleman with the 128th Infantry Regiment of the 32nd Infantry Division, and was seriously wounded during the bitter fighting on Leyte, in the Philippine islands. A Japanese bullet struck him in the neck and damaged a nerve. His left leg and both arms were left paralyzed. After receiving first aid, Stukoski was given further treatment behind the lines before being evacuated from the area. In March 1945, he was presented with the Purple Heart by Major General Frederick Gilbreath, commanding general of the South Pacific Base Command. Shortly afterwards, he was flown to the United States for treatment at the Thomas M. England General Hospital in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Stukoski was still at the hospital in April 1946. His right arm showed signs of improvement, but his pitching arm remained paralyzed.

In 1948, Stukoski was presented with a lifetime pass to all major and minor league games. George M. Trautman, president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs announced in May of that year, that passes would be made available to "all players whose careers were ended because of injuries or illness received in the line of duty."

In April 1949, Stukoski was invited to throw out the first ball at the Wilkes-Barre Barons home opener. Vince Stukoski never recovered from his wounds. He was just 34 years old when he died at Wilkes-Barre Veterans Hospital on December 23, 1959.

Date Added January 28, 2018

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