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Eddie Grant

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Edward Leslie Grant (Harvard Eddie)

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[edit] Introduction and the Ultimate Sacrifice

"His memory will live as long as our game may last." - Kenesaw Mountain Landis

"Harvard" Eddie Grant died during deadly fighting in World War I, and is the most prominent major league baseball player to ever die in combat. (Several more prominent Japanese stars died in World War II, most notably Eiji Sawamura.) General John Pershing had ordered the troops to move forward against the Germans in their trenches. On the day in question, Grant's commanding officer had died, and Grant was put in charge of his battalion while searching for a lost battalion. Grant was hit by two shells and died in the Argonne Forest.

[edit] Early life and schooling

Eddie Grant was an infielder for Franklin High School in Franklin, MA, then played on teams while attending Dean Academy and Harvard University. He then played for various semipro, outlaw and minor league teams, and in the major leagues for the Cleveland Naps, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants for ten years until he retired to his law practice. He had attended Harvard Law School during the offseason of 1908-09 and received his law degree; he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar, and for the rest of his baseball career he practiced law in Boston during the winter months.

In 1902, he distinguished himself as the freshman basketball team's top scorer and, according to the Harvard Crimson, "a valuable team man and excellent left-handed batter" for the freshman baseball team. As a sophomore Eddie played varsity basketball and tried out for varsity baseball, but before the first game he was declared ineligible for having received money playing in an independent league the previous summer.

[edit] Major leagues

Eddie Grant was one of four players from Harvard University who broke into major league baseball between 1901-05. After a major league cup of coffee in 1905, he spent 1906 at Jersey City and then was in the majors for 74 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1907.

Eddie Grant was a typical Deadball Era third baseman: average offensively, as attested by his lifetime .249 batting average and .295 slugging percentage, but defensively reliable, particularly against the bunt. "As a batter [Grant] was noted for his ability to sacrifice."

Grant had a career of 10 seasons, appearing in 990 games. He finished in 1915, and was 32 when he retired from the major leagues. He appeared in the 1913 World Series for the New York Giants, scoring a run as a pinch-runner in Game 2. John McGraw was his manager from 1913 to 1915 with the Giants.

[edit] France

When the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, he became the first major leaguer to enlist (Hank Gowdy was the first active major leaguer to do so). After four months of officer training in Plattsburgh, New York, Grant was commissioned as captain of Company H of the 307th Infantry Regiment and sent to Camp Upton on Long Island for several months of training with the troops he would lead.

Arriving in France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, Grant's division saw some combat before being assigned to the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the final great American drive of the war. On October 2, 1918, the 307th Regiment launched an attack in the Argonne Forest, a rugged, heavily wooded area with thick underbrush, deep ravines, and marshes. His battalion was on a mission to rescue the "Lost Battalion" trapped behind German lines.

By the morning of the third day, October 5, Eddie Grant was exhausted. He hadn't slept since the beginning of the offensive, and some fellow officers noticed him sitting on a stump with a cup of coffee in front of him, too weak to lift the cup. One of his troops, a former policeman at the Polo Grounds, remembered: "Eddie was dog-tired but he stepped off at the head of his outfit with no more concern than if he were walking to his old place at third base after his side had finished its turn at the bat. He staggered from weakness when he first started off, but pretty soon he was marching briskly with his head up."

Later that day the 307th was moving forward when Major Jay, as he was carried past on a litter, ordered Captain Grant, the highest-ranking officer left in his battalion, to assume command. The major had hardly spoken when a shell came through the trees, wounding two of Grant's lieutenants. Eddie was waving his hands and calling out for more stretcher bearers when a shell struck him. It was a direct hit, killing him instantly. Grant was buried in the Argonne Forest, only a few yards from where he fell. Later his remains were moved to the Romagne Cemetery.

[edit] Remembrance

A monument in Grant's honor was unveiled at the Polo Grounds on Memorial Day, 1921, and a highway in the Bronx, a baseball field at Dean Academy (now Dean College), and two American Legion posts still bear his name.

In the early stages of World War II, Judge Landis advocated Grant for the Hall of Fame to honor the courage and the sacrifice that Grant represented.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2-time NL At Bats Leader (1908 & 1909)
  • 2-time NL Singles Leader (1909 & 1910)

[edit] Related Sites

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