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Dick Whitman

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: November 9, 1920 Woodburn, OR
Date and Place of Death:    February 12, 2003 Peoria, AZ
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Outfielder
Rank: Master Sergeant
Military Unit:  83rd Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Dick C. Whitman was born on November 9, 1920, in Woodburn, Oregon, 30 miles south of Portland. A star center fielder in high school, he also played semi-pro baseball with the Silverton Red Sox, alongside future big leaguers Johnny Pesky and Joe Erautt. Pesky, Erautt, and Whitman all made the 1939 national semipro All-Star team.

From 1940 to 1942, Whitman continued to play baseball as a standout at the University of Oregon, captaining the varsity team his senior year. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in June 1942, and assigned to the Santa Barbara Saints of the Class C California League. After 21 games Whitman was batting .425 with a .609 slugging percentage and he spent the remainder of the season with the Durham Bulls of the Class B Piedmont League, where he batted .273 in 64 games.

It was a promising start to his career but in November 1942, Whitman was inducted for military service. He lost the next three years to the Army and saw action at the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, where he served with Company F, 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division, and was wounded on January 8, 1945, in the vicinity of Bihain, Belgium, when a shrapnel fragment pierced his back, came out through his shoulder and grazed his head. Master Sergeant Whitman, who earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and three battle stars, also suffered frostbite to his toes during that time in the bitter cold, icy conditions. Nevertheless, by June 1945, and with the war at an end, Whitman was pitching for his battalion ball team in Germany.

Whitman was with the Dodgers in 1946, making his major league debut on opening day April 16, against the Boston Braves. In 104 games he batted .260 with 31 RBIs. He was assigned to the Montreal Royals of the Class AAA International League in 1947 but played a further 60 games with the Dodgers in 1948, and remained with the big league club in 1949, appearing in one game of the World Series against the New York Yankees. He was then sold to the Phillies for 1950, where he batted .250 in 75 games and played in three World Series games, before finding himself back with the Dodgers’ organization for 1951.

Whitman never returned to the major leagues but continued to play in the minors. He was with the St. Paul Saints of the Class AAA American Association from 1951 to 1953, the Montreal Royals in 1953 and 1954, the Pacific Coast League’s Portland Beavers in 1955, and served as player-manager with the San Jose JoSox of the Class C California League in 1956 and 1957.

Dick Whitman later worked as a manager for the San Jose Water Company for 29 years. He passed away February 12, 2003, in Peoria, Arizona, aged 82.

Date Added December 18, 2017

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