Thank God for National Review.

It just may be one of the last bastions of published rational thought. (The HCP notwithstanding, of course.)

When a former Ohio high school basketball standout – and future NBA Hall of Famer – says something that stirs controversy regarding Communist China and its deep-pocket connections to the pro basketball league, leave it to NR’s Rich Lowry to remind us of a time when American star athletes let their actions speak louder than their words.

In his Oct. 21 essay “Once Upon a Time, an American Athletic Star Bombed the Chi-Coms” (, Lowry reflects on a Major League Baseball Hall of Famer who is widely considered the greatest hitter whoever lived.

“Ted Williams did his duty to his nation,” Lowry writes. “The NBA season begins this week, in the wake of the league’s disgraceful kowtowing to the regime in Beijing, in pursuit of an extra increment of revenue. Our athletes once weren’t so transnational in their orientation, or so willing to toss aside American values, or so deferential to Chinese Communists. In fact, once upon a time, one of the greatest American sports stars of all time risked his career – and his life – to fly dozens of missions against the North Korea forces and their Chinese allies in the Korean War.”

Williams served as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and flew 39 missions in Korea with Marine Aircraft Group 33, earning the rank of captain. He received the Air Medal three times and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

How about that?

“One can only imagine what the famously gruff, profane Splendid Splinter would say about highly paid celebrities bending a knee to the power that, in league with its North Korean partner, tried to shoot him from the sky,” Lowry observes.

In addition to Williams, more than 500 other Major League Baseball players served in the military during World War II alone, including Stan Musial and Joe DiMaggio.

According to a May 2013 New York Times’ article two Major Leaguers – Elmer Gedeon and Harry O’Neill – died serving their country during World War II.

Gedeon’s B-26 burst into flames following a mission in Operation Crossbow. O’Neill was shot and killed in action at Iwo Jima.

Other notable Major Leaguers who served as part of the Greatest Generation included:

• Cleveland Indians star pitcher Bob Feller. Feller spent two years on the USS Alabama, seeing combat at Kwajalein, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.

• New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Berra volunteered to pilot rocket boats in front of the other landing craft at D-Day on June 6, 1944. The boats used their rockets and machine guns to hit enemy positions on the coast and draw their fire so the other ships could land.

• Milwaukee Braves pitcher Warren Spahn. Spahn, who won more than 300 games as a starting pitcher, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He would fight as an engineer in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Bridge at Remagen.

• New York Yankees outfielder Hank Bauer. One month after the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bauer enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served with the 4th Raider Battalion and G Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. While deployed to the Pacific Theater, Bauer contracted malaria on Guadalcanal. He recovered and earned 11 campaign ribbons, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts in 32 months of combat. He later received the Navy Commendation Medal. Bauer was wounded his second time during the Battle of Okinawa, when he was a sergeant in command of a platoon of 64 Marines. Only six of the 64 Marines survived the Japanese counterattack.

Of course none of these former players had any concerns about a $1.5 billion broadcast contract with Communist China or lucrative Nike shoe contracts.

No, they saw a duty to serve and unlike many today, they Just Did It.

The Greatest Generation, indeed.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.