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Carl Heidel

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat


Date and Place of Birth: April 22, 1923 Pittsfield, MA
Date and Place of Death:    August 1986 Pittsfield, MA
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Private First-Class
Military Unit: US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Carl R. Heidel was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on April 22, 1923. A left-handed pitcher, he was a star athlete at Pittsfield High School and went on to pitch at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, in 1942.

After two years at Colgate, Heidel was due for military service and was signed by Yankees' scout, Paul Krichell, to a contract with the Piedmont League's Norfolk Tars. The 20-year-old was looking forward to starting his professional baseball career upon his return from service.

Heidel was with the army and fought in Europe. In Germany, on January 17, 1945, Private First-Class Heidel was with other troops awaiting replacements in a temporary shelter, when a mortar shell dropped through the log roof and exploded. Lucky to be alive, his left hand - his pitching hand - was badly mangled by shrapnel.

Heidel was shipped home to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and after a year of medical attention and rest, the hand was in much better shape but the third finger was useless for gripping a baseball. The army continued to do all they could to help the young ball player.

Army doctors had high hopes today of repairing the bullet-pierced pitching hand of Carl Heidel, a war casualty, so that he might twirl for Norfolk of the Piedmont League. Physicians said that physiotherapy was being applied at Lovell General Hospital [at Fort Devens] to loosen a tendon caught in a bullet scar prior to performing an operation which would make his ring finger supple enough to take up pitching. The operation probably will be performed within a month.

In August 1945, Heidel underwent an operation to trasplant a tendon at Cushing General Hospital in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Upon his return to Pittsfield, one of the first people he met on North Street was Tommy Caliento, his former Pittsfield High and American Legion teammate. Caliento was also wounded in Germany.

In 1946, Heidel returned to his studies at Colgate and to see if he could still pitch effectively. "Carl Heidel, Colgate's southpaw pitcher, uses up a tube of airplane glue in every game he hurls," wrote Hugh Fullerton, Jr., in 1946. "The third finger on his pitching hand, numb since wounded by shrapnel, develops cuts and blisters. The airplane cement protects the finger and keeps the cuts closed."

Against the odds, Heidel could still pitch and was named Colgate's captain for 1947. Still under contract with the Yankees, he turned out for the Sunbury Yankees of the Class B Inter-State League following graduation in May 1947, but was optioned to the Amsterdam Rugmakers of the Class C Canadian-American League in July. Still with the Rugmakers in 1948, the 25-year-old finished the season with the Manchester Yankees of the Class B New England League. It was to be his last season in professional baseball.

Carl Heidel passed away in August 1986. He was 63 years old and is buried at Pittsfield Cemetery, Pittsfield.

Date Added December 27, 2017

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