Sports connections to Veterans Day


Veterans Day commemorates the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. It is interesting to note that after playing only one game, the remainder of Army's 1918 season was canceled because of the war. However, Navy "celebrated" with a 127-0 pounding of Ursinus on Nov. 16 -- just five days after the armistice. It remains the largest margin of victory in school history.

Here is a collection of notable sports connections to Veterans Day, focusing primarily on U.S. service academies and professional athletes who served during wartime:

U.S. service academy profiles: U.S. Air Force Academy, established in 1954, current enrollment 4,500; U.S. Military Academy, established in 1802, current enrollment 4,400; U.S. Naval Academy, established in 1845, current enrollment 4,400. Note: These are the service academies that participate in Division I athletics. Others include the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

Notable service academy contributors to America's wars: Ulysses S. Grant, U.S. Military Academy; Robert E. Lee, U.S. Military Academy; Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Military Academy; Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. Military Academy; Omar Bradley, U.S. Military Academy; George S. Patton, U.S. Military Academy; Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Military Academy; John J. Pershing, U.S. Military Academy; Chester Nimitz, U.S. Naval Academy; William Halsey, U.S. Naval Academy.

Service academy graduates to become U.S. president: Ulysses S. Grant, U.S. Military Academy, 18th president, 1869-77; Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. Military Academy, 34th president, 1953-61; Jimmy Carter, U.S. Naval Academy, 39th president, 1977-81.

Notable NFL head coaches who also coached at service academies: Leeman Bennett, Navy assistant, 1969, Falcons, Buccaneers; Joe Bugel, Navy assistant, 1969-72, Cardinals, Raiders; Eddie Erdelatz, Navy head coach, 1950-58, Raiders; Rick Forzano, Navy head coach, 1969-72, Lions; Chan Gailey, Air Force assistant, 1979-82, Cowboys; Frank Gansz, Army assistant, 1974, Air Force assistant 1964-67, Chiefs; Sid Gillman, Army assistant, 1948, Rams, Chargers, Oilers; Al Groh, Army Plebe coach, 1968-69, Air Force assistant 1978-79, Jets; Ray Handley, Air Force assistant, 1978, Giants; Vince Lombardi, Army assistant, 1949-53, Packers, Redskins; John Mackovic, Army assistant, 1967-73, Chiefs; Bill Parcells, Army assistant, 1967-69, Air Force head coach, 1978, Giants, Patriots, Jets, Cowboys; John Rauch, Army assistant, 1959-61, Raiders, Bills; Bobby Ross, Army head coach, 2004-06, Chargers, Lions; Lou Saban, Army head coach, 1979, Patriots, Bills, Broncos; Nick Saban, Navy assistant, 1982, Dolphins; Les Steckel, Navy assistant, 1977-78, Vikings. Other notable coaching ties: New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's father, Steve, was a longtime assistant with Navy; ESPN analyst Lee Corso was an assistant at Navy from 1966 to '68; ESPN analyst Bob Knight was the head basketball coach at Army from 1965 to '71; Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski played for Knight at Army in the late '60s and later was Army's head coach from 1975 to '80.

Heisman Trophy winners from service academies: Doc Blanchard, 1945, Army; Glenn Davis, 1946, Army; Pete Dawkins, 1958, Army; Joe Bellino, 1960, Navy; Roger Staubach, 1963, Navy.

National football championships won by service academies (AP and UPI coaches' polls only): Army, 1944; Army, 1945.

No. 1 vs No. 2 service academy matchups: Dec. 2, 1944, No. 1 Army 23, No. 2 Navy 7; Dec. 1, 1945, No. 1 Army 32, No. 2 Navy 13.

Unbeaten football seasons among service academies (minimum 8 games): Army -- 1914, 9-0-0; 1916, 9-0-0; 1922, 8-0-2; 1944, 9-0-0; 1945, 9-0-0; 1946, 9-0-1; 1948, 8-0-1; 1949, 9-0-0; 1958, 8-0-1. Navy -- 1910, 8-0-1; 1911, 6-0-3; 1926, 9-0-1. Air Force -- 1958, 9-0-2.

Most consecutive outright Commander-In-Chief's trophies: Navy, 6 (2003-present); Air Force, 6 (1997-2002); Air Force, 4 (1989-1992).

Commander-In-Chief's trophy titles (all-time): Air Force, 16; Navy, 11; Army 6; ties, 4.

Service academy bowl records: Army, 2-2, last appearance 1996, last win 1985; Navy, 6-8-1, last appearance 2008, last win 2005; Air Force, 8-10-1, last appearance 2008, last win 2000.

Service academy players/coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame (alphabetically): Air Force -- Chad Hennings, 1984-87; Buck Shaw, 1956-57; Brock Strom, 1956-58. Army -- Bob Anderson, 1957-59; Earl Blaik, 1941-58; Doc Blanchard, 1944-46; Paul Bunker, 1899-1902; Chris Cagle, 1926-29; Bill Carpenter, 1957-59; Charles Daly, 1901-02; Glenn Davis, 1943-46; Pete Dawkins, 1956-58; Arnold Galiffa, 1946-49; Edgar Garbisch, 1921-24; John Green, 1943-45; Don Holleder, 1953-55; Harvey Jablonsky, 1931-33; Lawrence Jones, 1926-29; Doug Kenna, 1942-44; John McEwan,1913-16; Frank Merritt, 1942-43; Robin Olds, 1941-42; Elmer Oliphant, 1915-17; George Poole, 1944-46; Mortimer Sprague, 1925-28; Joe Steffy, 1945-47; Arnold Tucker, 1945-46; Alex Weyand, 1911-15; Harry Wilson, 1924-27; Jim Young, 1983-90. Navy -- Ron Beagle, 1953-55; Joe Bellino, 1958-60; Buzz Borries, 1932-34; George Brown, 1942-47; John Brown, 1910-13; Slade Cutter, 1932-34; John Dalton, 1908-11; Gil Dobie, 1917-19; Dick Duden, 1943-45; Steve Eisenhauer, 1951-53; Tom Hamilton, 1924-26; Bill Ingram, 1926-30; Jonas Ingram, 1904-06; Napoleon McCallum, 1981-85; Skip Minisi, 1944-47; Bob Reifsnyder, 1956-58; Clyde Scott, 1944-48; Dick Scott, 1945-47; Roger Staubach*, 1962-64; George Welsh, 1973-81; Don Whitmire, 1941-44; Frank Wickhorst, 1924-26. Note: * Also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A number of amateur and professional athletes have served in the military in wartime. Here are a notable few (alphabetically):
•  Yogi Berra was playing in the New York Yankees' farm system when he was drafted. He operated a machine gun on a Navy rocket boat off Omaha Beach on D-Day.
•  Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steelers running back, was drafted in 1968 and served in Vietnam. His right foot was injured by a grenade blast, but he returned to help the Steelers win four Super Bowls.
•  Al Blozis, an All-Pro tackle for the New York Giants, was killed in France in World War II.
•  Joe DiMaggio, a New York Yankees center fielder, went into the Army in 1942 after seven All-Star seasons. After three years, he returned to help the Yankees win four World Series titles between 1947 and '51.
•  Art Donovan, who became a Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts, enlisted in the Marines and fought in World War II in the Pacific.
•  Bob Feller, a Cleveland Indians pitcher, enlisted within days of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He served on a battleship in the Pacific, where he was a gun-crew chief.
•  Billy Fiske, a bobsled gold medalist for the U.S. in 1928 and '32, was the first American pilot killed in World War II. He was shot down in 1940 in the Battle of Britain.
•  Danielle Green, a Notre Dame women's basketball player (1995-2000), lost her left arm to rocket fire in Iraq in 2004.
•  Tom Harmon, the 1940 Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan, was a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps. In 1943 he survived a crash in Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) and being shot down over China.
•  Tommy Hitchcock, considered by some the greatest polo player of all time, was killed on a test flight in World War II.
•  Tim James, a former Miami Heat forward, was drafted in the first round of the 1999 draft and played three seasons in the NBA. He is currently in Iraq after enlisting in the Army a year ago.
•  Bob Kalsu, a guard on the 1968 Buffalo Bills, was the only NFL player killed in Vietnam. A first lieutenant in the Army, he died on July 21, 1970. His wife gave birth to their son the next day.
•  Bill Koll, a college wrestler at what is now Northern Iowa, fought at Omaha Beach on D-Day. He went on to win three NCAA wrestling titles -- he never lost a college match -- and be a member of the 1948 U.S. Olympic team.
•  Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys coach, was co-pilot of a B-17 bomber during World War II, flying 30 missions in Europe.
•  Joe Louis, a former heavyweight champion, volunteered for the Army during World War II, performing in many charity boxing matches to raise money for the war.

•  Christy Mathewson, a Hall of Fame pitcher, accidentally inhaled poison mustard gas in World War I, which led to his contracting tuberculosis that killed him in 1925.
•  Joe Pinder, a minor league pitcher in the 1930s and '40s, was killed on D-Day at Omaha Beach. He was shot while bringing radio equipment ashore from landing craft. He was awarded a Medal of Honor.
•  Dean Rockwell, who went on to coach the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team in 1964, fought at Omaha Beach.
•  Warren Spahn, a Boston/Milwaukee Braves pitcher, fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
•  Roger Staubach, a Dallas Cowboys quarterback, served in Vietnam after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy.
•  Pat Tillman, an Arizona Cardinals defensive back, served in the Army from 2002 to '04. On April 22, 2004, he was killed in a friendly-fire incident while on patrol in Afghanistan.
•  Cecil Travis, a Washington Senators shortstop, had a major league-leading 218 hits in 1941, the year Joe DiMaggio had a 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams hit .406. After the season, Travis went into the Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and suffered gangrene in one of his feet because of exposure to the cold. Part of the foot had to be amputated.
•  Ted Williams, a Boston Red Sox outfielder, became a Marine pilot after the 1942 season. He served as a flight instructor during World War II. He was called back to active duty in 1952 and flew 39 missions in Korea.