Meet George Yankowski

Nathan Rueckert

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. 

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  • Donna Collins: June 12, 2019

    Mr. Yankowski,

    Thank you for your service. You were among the greatest Americans ever to live. Freedom is not free and it is because of men like you, that we live free today. My only fear is that kids today do not respect the flag and our country.

    My family is a baseball family. I have nephews that coach from High School to College baseball. We love the sport.

    May God bless you and your family, and bless our President and leaders that they make the right decisions.

    Thank you
    Donna Collins

  • Mary Lynn Patterson: June 04, 2019

    Dear Mr. Yankowski,
    Thank you for your service. I love baseball stories and this is one of the best that I have read. God bless you and God bless America!

    Mary Lynn Patterson

  • Pat and Ken Davis: June 04, 2019

    Hi George, We thank you for yiur service. You are an inspiration to the young people of Watertown..
    We have fond memories of you and Mary at Oakley Country Club.. We hear how you are doing from Ninna.

  • Denise Munger Passaretti: June 04, 2019

    Thank you Sir. I am blessed to know you and to have shared a friendship my parents created. There are so many ‘photographic’ memories I can pull from my mind. Our home town, Watertown has been graced with your mentoring, coaching and your grand stature. You Sir have lived a full life.

  • Katy: May 28, 2019

    Dear George,
    Thank you for everything. I have a son who will be 29 next week. He played baseball all the way through high school, and while it was not his favorite sport (he also wrestled and played football and soccer) he did enjoy the hours out on the ballfield with his buddies.
    When my son graduated from high school he went on to college where he received his Bachelors degree in History and his Masters
    degree in History with an emphasis in Middle Eastern studies.
    With those degrees and a lot of elbow grease, he was able to secure a position at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. This was a huge accomplishment for a small town Iowa boy.
    Whenever I go to Washington DC, I tour the monuments that have been erected to thank presidents, diplomats and soldiers. My heart both breaks with sadness and explodes with pride when I read about the men and women who gave up their lives to fight in wars that protected us all.
    Thank you for sacrificing your baseball career to fight for our freedom. Thank you for being a soldier. Thank you for being the kind of man we should all look up to. May the rest of your days be blessed.

  • Kenneth Lewis: May 28, 2019

    George, Thank you for your service!

  • Sandy Laver: May 28, 2019

    Thank you for your service to our Country Mr. Yankowski! May God continue to bless you and your wonderful family!

  • Jan Broneer: May 28, 2019

    Thank you George for an honorable life, well-lived. Your service and bravery are beyond reproach and being a baseball lover is just the icing on the cake! I lift you and all those who have served and died for our country in prayer on this Memorial Day. Thank You!💕

  • Karen M. Czaplewski & Thomas A. Czaplewski: May 28, 2019

    George, I am a friend of your son’s…….and my husband and I both know how proud of you he is. He, as well as all of your fellow Americans, are very fortunate to have an individual such as you, who risked your life for our freedoms. My husband and I read this story and both feel sincere gratitude for you and all of the American soldiers who have defended our country and so many others during World War II. So many of us are indebted to you, and we extend a sincere “Thank you for your Service!”

    God Bless you and God Bless America!

  • David Haner: May 28, 2019

    Mr Yankowski, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I know your son George very well and he’s told me stories that you’ve told him about your brief baseball career.
    It must have been very exciting to meet the likes of Babe Ruth and Joe “D” and the rest of those great players of that era.
    Between the war and baseball, it seems to me that you lead an exciting life, but anyway
    I’d like to thank you for your service and one sniper to another GodBless you sir,
    Semper Fi.

  • Michael Drago: May 27, 2019

    Thank you for your service George! We take so many moments in our life for granted and you are the hero who fought for our freedom!

  • Harold Vick: May 27, 2019

    If all Americans today had your courage and devotion, this would be a much better nation. Thank you. Your family must be extremely proud of you.

  • Pete: May 27, 2019

    Thank you and your fellow patriots for your your service and for being a shining example of what it means to be an American hero.

  • Susan Sosinski: May 27, 2019

    Dear George!
    Thank you for your service to our country and to the game we love… you are truly an testament to that statement “Home of the Brave”…

  • Joan Speranza McLoughlin: May 27, 2019

    George, Today and every day, I say thank you. Thank you for your service allowing us the freedom and lives we know today. My father served in WWII, in the army in the Fighting 69th infantry. While he sometimes spoke of his fellow soldiers, rarely did he speak of his time in action. He shared little over the years regarding his active service but did divulge some details over time including his infantry was first in Dachau when the war had ended. Naively, the troops were excited thinking it was truly something to celebrate. While the end of the war and the end of it’s atrocities were certainly something to celebrate, my father admitted they were not prepared for what they would find. The malnourished and emaciated victims of those who survived were not what the infantry expected. When I think of of my father and all who served, I can only imagine the real life drama and horrors experienced, yet, all of you served with bravery and conviction. Some making the ultimate sacrifice and some having to live with the experience of war’s memories forever. I am blessed to be an American, and blessed to have you and all our brave men and women serving our great country. It is because of all of you, we do have this great country to call our home. Thank you. God bless.

  • Mick: May 27, 2019

    Mr. Yankowski, Thank you for being the kind of person that makes this country so special. Thank you for your service and thank you for living a life that is so worthy of telling others about. God bless you and your whole family.

  • Melissa Jenkins: May 27, 2019

    Thanks for your service. My dad was also in WWII and he loved baseball. He played in a small town adult league after the war. He coaxed little league in his home town for 40 years and affected the lives of many young men. I have read your generation was the greatest of all time. So thankful you were willing to put yourself in harms way so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today. Thank you Mr George. Have a great Memorial Day!

  • Mary Owens: May 27, 2019

    George, thank you for your service to our great country! I think you might have played ball with my father-in-law, Bob Kennedy Sr. God bless you.

  • Mary Owens: May 27, 2019

    George, thank you for your service to our great country! I think you might have played ball with my father-in-law, Bob Kennedy Sr. God bless you.

  • Brandon: May 27, 2019

    Thank you for your service George. God Bless!

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