Your Turn: Which athletes and cards with military ties are most memorable to you?

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When Fleer produced an 80-card set documenting the career and the life of Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams back in 1959, it included something that wasn’t all that common for sports cards at the time but is something that we’ve seen a little bit more of in recent years.


It included a selection of cards showcasing the Hall of Famer’s time in the military.

For those who don’t know, Williams missed parts of five baseball seasons — three from 1943-1945 in the Navy reserves for World War II where he learned to be a pilot and then part of the 1952 and 1953 seasons. In his second stint, he was a fighter pilot serving in the Marine Corps in the Korean War where he flew 39 combat missions.

Williams is far from alone as many stars from that era missed time serving in the military.


With an upcoming issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly, we’ll be taking a look at notable athletes with military ties — big names from the past and present — as well as the cards and other potential sports collectibles that are of note.

As part of that package, we’d like to hear from you. We’d like to showcase your takes on who’s who when it comes to military athletes and card sets. In the comments below, we’d like to hear who you think about …

— Who are the most-notable athletes (any sport) with military ties?

— Who would you choose as the best of the best from the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines?

— Which cards or card sets (athletes or others; sports or non-sports) stand out to you as memorable and why?

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  1. chrisolds 2 April, 2014 at 11:31

    Some names to get you guys thinking …
    Abner Doubleday
    David Robinson
    Roger Staubach
    Bob Feller
    Willie Mays
    Pat Tillman
    Jackie Robinson
    Joe DiMaggio
    Joe Louis
    Yogi Berra
    Bill Bradley
    Christy Mathewson
    Pee Wee Reese
    Tom Seaver
    John Wooden
    Whitey Ford
    Tom Landry
    Nolan Ryan
    Ty Cobb
    Roberto Clemente
    Larry Doby
    Mike Anderson
    Rocky Bleier
    Hobey Baker
    Jesse Ventura
    Bobby Jones
    Jack Dempsey
    Warren Spahn
    Hank Greenberg
    Ken Norton Sr.
    Chad Hennings
    Ahmard Hall
    Ty Cobb
    Curt Simmons
    Stan Musial
    Leon Spinks

    … and so on

  2. robert belenzon 2 April, 2014 at 11:40

    Without doubt, number 1 has to be Jerry Coleman! Former Yankee, Rookie of the Year, MVP 1950 World Series, San Diego Padres Manager, and finally Hall of Fame broadcaster…all pale to the fact that he was the only major leaguer to see combat in both World War II and the Korean War.

    Nicknamed “The Colonel” and so modest and humble, he didn’t even make Chris’s list above!

  3. Zeprock 2 April, 2014 at 13:52

    I’m sticking to baseball since that’s what I know.

    – Who are the most-notable athletes (any sport) with military ties?
    Top 5 – Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio.

    – Who would you choose as the best of the best from the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines?
    Army – Willie Mays, Navy – Stan Musial, Air Force – Joe DiMaggio, Marines – Ted Williams.

    – Which cards or card sets (athletes or others; sports or non-sports) stand out to you as memorable and why?
    Other than the obvious 1959 Fleer Ted Williams set, I’d have to pick Topps American Pie, UD A Piece of History and of course Topps Distinguished Service insert set from 2007. Honorable mention to Upper Deck Goodwin Champions.

  4. Jason K 2 April, 2014 at 14:16

    One guy I’m surprised nobody has mentioned yet… Stan Musial.

    Musial enlisted during World War II and entered the United States Navy on January 23, 1945. He was initially assigned to noncombat duty at the Naval Training Station in Bainbridge, Maryland. In June 1945, he was assigned to Special Services in Hawaii, and was assigned to a ferry launch unit to bring back damaged ship crews entering Pearl Harbor where he was able to play baseball every afternoon in the naval base’s eight-team league. After being granted emergency leave to see his ailing father in January 1946, he was briefly assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard before his honorable discharge from the Navy as a Seaman Second Class in March 1946.

    In 2007, Musial received the Navy Memorial’s Lone Sailor Award, which honors Navy veterans who have excelled in civilian life.

  5. Charlie DiPietro 2 April, 2014 at 14:37

    The List of MLB and NFL Players who have served this country through military service is long and includes many Hall of Famers. Tom Landry, as a freshman at The University of Texas, enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served in WWII as a B-17 co-pilot, flying 30 missions and surviving a crash in Belgium.

    WWII claimed the life of 21 NFL members. Maurice Britt played end with the 1941 Detroit Lions and earned the nation’s highest honor, The Congressional Medal of Honor. Jack Lummus, who was awarded his medal posthumously, was an end with the 1941 New York Giants.

    WWI claimed the life of 8 MLB members. Baseball Hall of Famer, Christy Mathewson volunteered for military service at the age of 38 during WWI. Christy Mathewson was also a 1900 Walter Camp All-American as a football player at Bucknell. While serving in France, Mathewson was accidentally exposed to poisonous gas. This exposure later led to Tuberculosis and his death in 1925.

    WWII claimed the lives of MLB players Elmer J. Gedeon and Harry M. O’Neill. The Korean War claimed the life of MLB player Robert Neighbors during his service in the United States Air Force.

    To all those who laid down their life in service to their country, you have my highest respect and deepest thanks.

  6. Ryan Benford 3 April, 2014 at 11:11

    David Robinson, will never forget waiting 2 years for him to show up in the NBA because he had a 2 year commitment to the Navy. I’m pretty sure he could have gotten out of his commitment had he wanted to, but chose to do his duty and keep his word. Much Respect.

  7. MICHAEL RUNYON 3 April, 2014 at 18:59

    Military cards are one of the subsets of my collections. In particular navy cards. Whether they feature the navy or the driver was sponsored by the navy. As long as it features the navy I am all over it. While I do not have all of the racing ones yet it is a labor of love. The Brad Keselowski are some of the hardest to get and the most expensive due to his popularity. Not only do I try to collect all of the navy cards i try and get theme serial numberd 68/??? because 68 is the hull number of the USS NIMITZ. The NIMITZ is the ship I was stationed on. Also there are some ebay previews and Beckett samples that have eluded me over the years.

    Another ex war hero that is in the NASCAR HALL OF FAME is Bud Moore. He not only is a championship Owner and HOFer he particpated in DDAY.

    He received 5 purple hearts and 2 bronze stars.

    There are so many other navy cards from all companies that I still would love to have. There is a USS NORTH CAROLINA memorbilia card that i need and the list is too many to mention


  8. Ted Rhodes 4 April, 2014 at 21:52

    My top three athletes would be:

    1.Ted Williams (enlisted in WWII received a commission and then was recalled and was shot down by the North Korean in the 1950’s.

    2. Pat Tillman

    3. Rocky Blier

    I think a set of current service members would be great. There has been no time, other than the last 15 years, that our country has fought two wars with a 100% volunteer force.

  9. Rick 5 April, 2014 at 19:59

    Not a Red Sox fan or Ted Williams… But that man was pretty much amazing at anything!

  10. Dave 8 April, 2014 at 05:39

    The list is long and would, in itself, make an excellent feature in this or any other magazine. But I do think there needs to be a special feature on Pat Tillman; while many athletes in the past also served during wartime, and far too many also lost their lives while serving, it should be noted that Tillman gave up his NFL career at its height, during a time when there was absolutely no chance of his being compelled to serve, then took one of the toughest routes through the Army’s enlisted corps (and one virtually guaranteed to put him into combat). That act, along with his later writings and efforts to reign in the war and the tragic circumstances surrounding his death, puts him a notch above the rest in my humble opinion.

    I’ve also had a good deal of respect for former Cowboys DT Chad Hennings, who not only served in the first Gulf War but had to finagle a seat in an A-10 because it was one of the only combat aircraft with a large enough cockpit to accommodate his frame.

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