Negro Leagues stars served with honor during WWI
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Jud Wilson, born in Remington, Va., was a tried and true D.C.-area man who joined the U.S. Army in June of 1918. He served in Company D of the 417th Service Battalion as a corporal and then returned to the nation’s capital, where he played on local semipro teams until signing with the Baltimore Black Sox in 1922. Wilson starred professionally on the diamond for decades, including with his hometown Homestead Grays and in Cuba. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, and is the only Hall of Famer to be buried on those sacred grounds.
An early superstar, Louis Santop’s baseball career was perhaps the most influenced by his military service. Even his nickname, “Big Bertha,” in reference to his spectacular home run power, was derived from the World War I long-range artillery weapon.
When the slugger initially reported to Fort Dix in July of 1918, he’d been entrenched in baseball for nearly a decade, forming the legendary “kid battery” with Cannonball Redding and excelling on the diamond from New York to Cuba. Santop was initially discharged for being “physically unfit” with an arm that was “broken and badly twisted,” but when he reported again that winter in Norfolk, Va., he was deemed healthy enough to serve. He was a member of the U.S. Navy from 1918-1919 and was discharged at age 29.
The Hall of Fame and Museum honors Charleston, Rogan, Santop, Wilson and the 64 other baseball legends who served their country with bronze medallions in the Plaque Gallery, and celebrates visiting veterans by offering free year-round admission to active duty and retired career military members.
Isabelle Minasian is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum