George Hales reflects on D-Day and the impact of WWII on the world of sports

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - YESTERDAY WAS THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF D-DAY.
THERE WERE REMEMBANCES AROUND THE WORLD TO HONOR THE THOSE WHO PARTICIPATED IN ONE OF THE GREATEST MOMENTS OF WORLD WAR TWO AND TO HONOR THOSE WHO PAID THE EXTREME SACRIFICE.

MGN

THOSE IN MY AGE GROUP NEED NO REMINDING BUT FOR YOUNGER FOLK IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHY THERE WAS AN INVASION AT ALL.

SIMPLY IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE AXIS TYRANNY AND THE FINAL DEMISE OF ADOLPH HITLER.
IT HAD TO BE DONE BUT IT WAS COSTLY BOTH IN LIVES AND MATERIAL.

THE SPORTS WORLD AND ITS STARS OF THAT ERA ALSO ANSWERED THE CALL TO DUTY.

SO TONIGHT AS WE STILL REFLECT ON THE EVENTS OF MANY YEARS AGO WE SHOULD RECALL THOSE WHO WORE A DIFFERENT UNIFORM IN CIVILIAN LIFE AND CHANGED.
IT WAS A DIFFERENT WORLD BACK THEN.

YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN DIDN'T HAVE TO BE ASKED TWICE WHEN IT CAME TIME TO SERVE THEIR COUNTRY.
NOT ALL WERE ON THE BEACHES OF NORMANDY BUT WERE AFFECTED ONE WAY OR ANOTHER OVER TIME.
MORE THAN 500 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYERS WORE THE UNIFORM DURING THE WAR.
AND THAT WAS JUST BASEBALL.
INCLUDED WERE STARS LIKE TED WILLIAMS, STAN MUSIAL AND JOE DIMAGGIO.
THEY GOT A LOT OF PUBLICITY AND DESERVEDLY SO.

BUT VERY LITTLE HAS BEEN WRITTEN OR SAID ABOUT THOSE WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION.
FOR INSTANCE ELMER GEDEON, FROM CLEVELAND, OHIO WAS A THREE SPORT STAR AT MICHIGAN BUT SIGNED WITH THE WASHINGTON SENATORS BASEBALL TEAM.
AFTER PEARL HARBOR HE WAS DRAFTED AND ENDED UP IN EUROPE.
AS A CAPTAIN IN THE GROUP KNOWN AS THE BRIDGE BUSTERS HE PERISHED WHEN HIS B-26 WENT DOWN IN FLAMES.
GEDEON WAS 27.
THEN THERE WAS HARRY O'NEILL, A CATCHER HIGHLY REGARDED BY THE SENATORS AND THE A'S.
HE ONLY GOT TO PLAY IN ONE MAJOR LEAGUE GAME BEFORE HE ENLISTED IN THE U.S. MARINES.
O'NEILL HAD A STELLAR CAREER LEADING GETTYSBURG COLLEGE TO CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BASEBALL, FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL.
ELEVEN DAYS AFTER AMERICANS RAISED THE FLAG ON TOP OF IWO JIMA'S MOUNT SURIBACHI, O'NEIL WAS SHOT AND KILLED IN A BLOODY BATTLE.
HE WAS ALSO 27.
I PICKED OUT THESE TWO ATHLETES BECAUSE THEIR NAMES ARE RARELY, IF EVER, MENTIONED.

IT WAS A DIFFERENT ERA WITHOUT AGENTS, CONTRACTS AND LONG TERM DEALS.
AMERICA WAS AT WAR AND THAT WAS ENOUGH.
ON THAT FATEFUL DAY IN JUNE 1944 YOGI BERRA WAS THERE.
THE FUTURE HALL OF FAME CATCHER HELPED STORM THE BEACH AT NORMANDY IN A NAVAL SUPPORT CRAFT.
HE MANNED A MACHINE GUN ON THE WAY IN.

IN MORE RECENT TIMES THERE WAS PAT TILLMAN.
HE PASSED ON AN NFL CAREER.
INSTEAD OF A THREE YEAR, 3.6 MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT HE JOINED THE ARMY RANGERS.
HE DIED IN AFGANISTAN.
THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ATHLETES WHO HAVE JOINED WITH THEIR NOT SO FAMOUS BROTHERS AND SERVED ON THE FIELD OF BATTLE FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

WE HONOR THE MEMORY OF ALL DURING THIS SPECIAL TIME OF REMEMBERING THOSE WHO WADED ASHORE 75 YEARS AGO IN FRANCE.

I WAS ASKED THIS WEEK WOULD AMERICAN YOUTH RESPOND THE SAME WAY IF THIS WERE EVER TO HAPPEN AGAIN?
I COULD ONLY ANSWER...WE ALWAYS HAVE AND I BELIEVE WE ALWAYS WILL.

THIS IS GEORGE HALE WITH MY PERSPECTIVE ON SPORTS