Sports Heroes Who Served: Minor League Baseball Players Answered the Call to Serve

Written by The Frontier Post

David Vergun

Sports Heroes Who Served is a series that highlights the accomplishments of athletes who served in the U.S. military.

Billy Southworth Jr.

Billy Southworth Jr. had baseball in his blood. His father was Baseball Hall of Fame manager William Harold Southworth.

The young Southworth played five seasons, 1936 to 1940, in the minor leagues with the Cardinals, Philadelphia Athletics and lastly with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On Dec. 12, 1940, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, was then commissioned and flew bombing missions in Europe in 1942 and 1943 during World War II.

In early 1945, he was killed when his B-29 Superfortress crashed in Flushing Bay, New York.

Gus Bebas

Gus Bebas played baseball in 1939 and 1940 in the minor leagues with the Chicago White Sox.

On Jan. 23, 1940, he enlisted in the Navy. In early 1941, he was commissioned as a naval aviator. As the pilot of an SBD Dauntless dive bomber, he was assigned to Bombing Squadron 8 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.

On June 6, 1942, he participated in the Battle of Midway, braving heavy antiaircraft fire from Japanese warships. One of his bombs damaged a Japanese heavy cruiser, the Mogami, thereby earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

While on a training mission off Naval Air Station Barbers Point Oahu, Hawaii on July 19, 1942, he was killed in a crash.

On May 15, 1943, the destroyer escort USS Bebas was commissioned. It was named in his honor. The vessel participated in numerous Pacific campaigns, including the Battle of Okinawa.

Bernard Dolan and Matthew S. Lanighan

Army Cpl. Bernard Dolan and Army Sgt. Matthew S. Lanighan were best friends. Dolan was a pitcher and Lanighan was a catcher. They played together in a number of minor league baseball teams.

In 1918, they enlisted in the Army, as the U.S. had entered World War I the previous year.

Both were assigned to an artillery unit of the 78th Infantry Division in France. Both were killed during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and are buried at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.

An obituary, Dec. 11, 1918, in the Lockport (N.Y.) Union-Sun & Journal newspaper reads: “The two boys were inseparable pals. In the Army they were allotted places in ranks side by side and thus they went into the battles of France.”

Clarence Milton “Milt” Drumm

Clarence Milton “Milt” Drumm, born in 1889, grew up on a farm in Kansas. He left the farm to play in a number of baseball minor league teams in Kansas and Nebraska from 1910 to 1917.

In 1917, after the start of World War I, Drumm was commissioned in the Army.

On May 28, 1918, his unit, the 28th Infantry Regiment, captured the village of Cantigny, France, from the German 18th Army. Drumm, a second lieutenant, fearlessly led his platoon through shell and machine-gun fire and lost his life in the battle. He was 28 and was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery.

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