Meet George Yankowski
Posted on May 27 2019
Meet George Yankowski. He's 96 years old and is currently the oldest living former Major League Baseball player to play as far back as 1942. He was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics at the age of 19 as a catcher and played 6 games that year under a manager by the name of Connie Mack. Maybe you've heard of him.
6 games in the big leagues...then World War II happened. As was the case with many young men in that day, George was drafted to serve our country to fight against the oppressive Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.
Yankowski was a sniper who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Nearly 90,000 American soldiers lost their lives in that battle. His courage and bravery earned him the French Medal of Honor for his time of service in France. The picture above is from that ceremony.
When George returned from the war, he tried out again for the Athletics and made the team. Players back then didn't make the kind of money they do today and George asked for an extra $200-300 per year. Incredulously, Connie Mack was having a bad day and released him saying that if he weren't a veteran he would have had him black balled in the league.
Yankowski went on to play in the minor leagues for several years and finally, in 1949, was brought up to play with the Chicago White Sox. He caught in 12 games that year and never made it back after that season. A brief cup of coffee, as they say, in the big leagues spread across 2 seasons in 7 years.
A career of 31 at bats in 18 games, 5 hits and no home runs doesn't sound impressive. But that's not why we're remembering George Yankowski today.
I think about the character of Moonlight Graham in the movie Field of Dreams, who appeared once in the big leagues as a pinch hitter and never got a chance to play again. As the movie portrays, he went on to become a small town doctor using his God given talents in a way to help his community and save lives.
This reminds me a bit of George Yankowski. Although him catching against a young Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio are fun stories to tell; and him rubbing elbows with Babe Ruth when he managed the Service Mens' All-Star Team is really cool, it's how he valiantly served our country that makes this a story worth sharing on this Memorial Day. How he sacrificed for our country. How he fought for his fallen soldiers and friends. How we reap the reward of freedom from his labor to this day.
George's son, George Jr., recently became a customer of ours and shared these stories with me. It's an honor to be able to share them now with all of you. George is receiving one of our new "America's Game" shirts in a few weeks and I really hope he wears it proud because George Yankowski embodies what "America's Game" is all about.
If you feel moved to write a note of gratitude to George for his service to our country, feel free to leave it in the Comments below (or for those who received this via email, reply to your email). Leave your name and where you are from and I will print all of your responses into a letter to George on your behalf.
Never forget. Freedom isn't free. Thank the service men and women in your lives and remember those who paid the ultimate price.
Nathan Rueckert, Founder
Baseball Seams Co.