March 3 – Happy Birthday Bud Souchock

I guarantee you that very few Yankee fans have ever heard of Steve Souchock. That’s too bad because the guy was a genuine hero, not on the baseball field but on the battlefield. Better known by his nickname of “Bud,” Souchock’s story begins in a town called Yatesboro, Pennsylvania, in the heart of coal-mining country, where he was born on March 3, 1919. He became a great high school athlete but he couldn’t think about college because with the country in the midst of a depression, his coal-miner Dad became ill and Souchock needed to find a job. He went to Detroit, hoping to work in the auto industry but grew homesick and returned to Yatesboro. He got a tryout with a Washington Senator farm team in nearby Greensberg. They offered him $65 a month to play for the team but within a year, the club went bankrupt and Souchok became the property of the New York Yankees. During the next three seasons he developed rapidly as a ballplayer but America’s entry into WWII changed his career path. He turned in his bat for a gun. Souchock enlisted in the army and was sent to France where he was made part of a tank destroyer battalion. He eventually became commander of his own gun crew. He would take that crew all the way to Germany during the final two years of the War, fighting so valiantly along the way that he was awarded both a silver and a bronze star. If you know any military veterans ask them what it takes to win either of these medals. Better yet, Google these commendations and find out for yourself. It will help you better understand the sort of exceptional soldier Steve Souchock actually was.

By the time the war ended and he got back to baseball, Souchock was already 27-years-old. To accommodate all the ballplayers returning from service to their country, Major League Baseball expanded the big league rosters from 25-to-30 players. Those five extra slots made it possible for Souchok to make his big league debut in pinstripes during the 1946 season and it was a pretty decent opening act for the returning war hero. He appeared in 46 games that season, mostly as a backup first baseman. He got 26 hits in 86 at bats to average .302 and hit his first two big league home runs. The following year, Souchock’s batting average fell 100 points and the well-stocked Yankees gave up on him, trading him to the White Sox. Souchok would spend just one season in the Windy City before returning to Detroit, where he was once a homesick auto worker. He would remain with the Tigers as a utility player for the final five years of his big league career, never earning a starting position during that time. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 83.

This Hall-of-Fame outfielderthis one-time Yankee reliever and this former Yankee starting pitcher also celebrate  birthdays today.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1946 NYY 47 94 86 15 26 3 3 2 10 0 7 13 .302 .362 .477 .838
1948 NYY 44 126 118 11 24 3 1 3 11 3 7 13 .203 .248 .322 .570
8 Yrs 473 1326 1227 163 313 58 20 50 186 15 88 164 .255 .307 .457 .764
DET (5 yrs) 298 829 771 108 204 39 11 38 128 7 49 100 .265 .311 .492 .803
NYY (2 yrs) 91 220 204 26 50 6 4 5 21 3 14 26 .245 .297 .387 .684
CHW (1 yr) 84 277 252 29 59 13 5 7 37 5 25 38 .234 .303 .409 .712
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/21/2014.

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