Buck Templeton - Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Buck Templeton

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: July 14, 1918 Statesville, NC
Date and Place of Death:    February 27, 2011 Bath, NY
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Shortstop/Second Base
Rank: Technician Fifth Grade
Military Unit:  Battery B, 60th Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations

Webster A. "Buck" Templeton was born in Statesville, North Carolina, on July 14, 1918. He attended Statesville High School and signed as a shortstop with the Mooresville Moors of the Class D North Carolina State League in 1938, batting .297 in 81 games.

The following year, Templeton raised his average to .306 with the Moors, helping them clinch the league title along with a 23-win performance from Dick Robinson, a 21-win season from Clyde Teague and the .343 batting average of future Reds and Giants outfielder Garland Lawing. Templeton’s 100 runs scored tied for first place in the league and he also stole 34 bases, while his .924 fielding average was best among the league’s shortstops. Mooresville went on to clinch the play-off title that season and in October the team sold five players – Templeton, Teague, Lawing, John Liske and Jim Milnar – to the Cincinnati Reds’ Durham farm club of the Piedmont League.

Shortly afterwards, the Durham club changed hands and came under the ownership of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Templeton was assigned to the Elmira Pioneers for 1940 - the Dodgers' Class A Eastern League affiliate. Templeton was only with Elmira until June, but it proved to be enough time to meet his future wife Helen Aber, although the couple would have to wait until late 1945 to get married. Templeton played 20 games with Elmira under the management of former National League catcher Bill Killefer, before being optioned to the Anniston Rams of the Class B Southeastern League. Anniston finished in last place in 1940, and Templeton batted an uninspiring .257 as the club’s lead-off hitter. However, he enjoyed a strong finish to the season. On August 11, he went 4-for-5 with two doubles in a 9-2 win over Gadsden. Then, on August 21, he had two hits in the 9-run first inning of a 19-0 whitewash against Jackson, finishing the day with four hits in six at-bats including two doubles. On September 1, he was 4-for-4 in a 5-3 win over Gadsden.

Templeton spent the spring of 1941 with the Reading Brooks of the Inter-State League battling for the shortstop job with Vince Polito. It was a battle he didn’t win and the Dodgers organization offered the 22-year-old a contract with Elmira (where he’d played in 1940), but he turned it down to play with the semi-pro Burlington (North Carolina) Mills team of the Inter-City League.

Nevertheless, it was not long before Brooklyn lured Templeton back to organized ball and he joined the Dayton Ducks of the Class C Mid-Atlantic League for 61 games, batting .251 with 28 RBIs. Templeton finished the 1941 season with Akron – a New York Yankees’ franchise – of the same league, where he played 27 games and batted .233 as the Akron Yankees claimed the league title.

Templeton’s baseball career came to an abrupt end when military service beckoned in 1942. He was inducted in the army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on February 4, and served as an artillery spotter/radio operator with Battery B, 60th Field Artillery Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division. The division landed in the invasion of North Africa on November 8, 1942, fought through the barren country of El Guettar, and across the mountains of Sedjenane and Sicily. At the battle of Maknassay in Tunisia in March 1943, Templeton was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. His citation read as follows:

The President of the United States of America...takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class Webster Templeton...for gallantry in action...against the enemy at Djebel, Maemia, Maknasay, Tunisia, on 25 March 1943. A soldier of a nearby organization was wounded by enemy machine gun fire and left lying on the battlefield. Private First Class Templeton, accompanied by an officer, voluntarily and without hesitation went through heavy and close enemy machine gun and small arms fire to reach the wounded soldier and administer first aid to him. The gallantry and concern for the welfare of a wounded comrade with complete disregard for his own, displayed by Private First Class Templeton, reflect great credit upon himself and the command and are deserving of the highest praise.

In November 1943, the 9th Infantry Division were in England and landed at Utah Beach, France, on June 10, 1944 (D-Day Plus 4). The division was involved in the Normandy, Northern France and Ardennes campaigns, during which time Corporal Templeton earned the Bronze Star and also the Purple Heart for wounds received in the summer of 1944.

At the beginning of 1945, Templeton’s mother was taken seriously ill and confined to Long’s Hospital near the family home in Statesville. The Red Cross unsuccessfully tried to locate Corporal Templeton so that he might be given an emergency furlough to visit his mother. But in February 1945, news was received that he had arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, after more than 30 months duty overseas.

His mother was “overjoyed when she received word” reported the Statesville Daily Record on February 26, 1945. Templeton made it home before his mother passed away on March 22.

Corporal Templeton returned to Europe a month after his mother's death, and reached France about the time of the German surrender. It wasn’t long before he was on his way home again. “Thirteen letters marked ‘Returning to the USA’ have been received at the home of Corporal Buck Templeton – a pretty safe bet that Buck is on his way home and will show up here in at most no time,” reported the Statesville Landmark on June 4, 1945. However, it was not until September that Buck Templeton arrived on a troopship in New York in September 1945. Waiting for him was Helen Aber. They were married in Elmira, New York, on October 8, 1945.

Buck Templeton didn’t return to professional baseball after the war although he played fast-pitch softball in Elmira, and coached youth league baseball for many years. A gifted baseball coach, two of Buck’s sons – Bob and Bill – were offered contracts to play professional baseball but chose to pursue other career options.

Buck Templeton, a World War II hero of the minor leagues, passed away on February 27, 2011 in Bath, New York. He was 92 years old and is buried at Saint Peter and Pauls Cemetery in Elmira, New York.

Buck Templeton
Buck Templeton on Elmira Pioneer Day at Dunn Field in Elmira, August 26, 2001,
honoring former Pioneers.

Date Added February 3, 2018

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