There have been a few former major leaguers that were killed over the years in various wars. On this day in 1952, former St. Louis Browns shortstop Bob Neighbors became the last player killed in action in baseball history.
Over the course of major league history, twelve players made the ultimate sacrifice during combat, giving their lives to defend the United States. From the Spanish-American War right through the Vietnam War, these conflicts have been felt throughout baseball history. It was on this day in 1952 that Bob Neighbors became the last major leaguer to be killed during warfare.
Neighbors had a seven game major league career, coming up late in the 1939 campaign for the St. Louis Browns. In his eleven at bats over seven games, he hit a home run, scored three runs, and struck out once. He made just one error in his 12 chances at short, with below average range despite solid defense in the minors.
In 1942, Neighbors traded his baseball uniform for a military uniform. His first wife had died in a car accident, and Neighbors joined the Army, serving as a pilot. Stationed in Oklahoma and Alabama, Nieghbors did not see combat action during World War Two, and had the opportunity to continue playing baseball despite his military commitments.
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After the war, Neighbors remained in the military. While he did play for, and manage, the team at Maxwell Air Base, he would not return to professional ball. Neighbors worked his way up in the military, eventually achieving the rank of Major.
When the Korean War broke out, Neighbors saw combat action. He was a part of the 13th Bomb Squadron of the Third Bomb Crew, when he flew a night mission on this day in 1952. He and his crew reported that they were hit, and were not heard from afterwards. When hostilities ceased, and prisoners were exchanged, neither Nieghbors nor his two crewmates were brought back, leading to the speculation that he was killed when his airplane fell to Earth.
While other minor league players would be killed in action, Neighbors became the last former major leaguer to be killed as a result on combat. Although he is officially listed as being missing in action, it is far more likely that Neighbors, along with his crewmates aboard his plane, were killed when their aircraft went down.
On this day in 1952, former shortstop Bob Neighbors went for his last flight. In doing so, he became the last major leaguer to be killed during wartime in baseball history.