2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Andrew Hendriks
As November 11th approaches, our thoughts shift to those individuals who made a vast number of personal sacrifices in order to preserve the quality of life we have become accustomed to today. We remember their courage, we reflect on their perseverance, and above all else, we appreciate their dedication to a core of values that have made North America such an incredible place to call home some 70 years after the last great war.
Much like WW1, many public figures joined the allied effort in the second world war. Actors, musicians and athletes alike jumped at the opportunity to trade in their accomplished careers for a military uniform and the opportunity to do their part in the fight for liberty and justice.
Bob Feller was one of these figures.
On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Feller was en route from his home in Iowa to Chicago in order to sign an extension on his contract with the Cleveland Indians. It wasn’t until he was half way to his destination when the Tribe’s fire-balling right hander first heard the news bulletin announcing Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
Rather than hammering out a new deal with Cleveland, “Bullet Bob” proceeded to walk into a recruiting office when he arrived in Chicago the next day, enlisting in the Navy and formally joining the military effort overseas.
Feller wasn’t the only major league star to do so.
Over 500 pro players left their respective organizations, joining the allied forces over the winter of 1941-42. Of these men, stand outs likeTed Williams, who had hit .401 during the 1941 season, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg andJoe DiMaggio led by example, inspiring other athletes and civilians alike to get involved.
With a large majority of major league regulars choosing to enlist in the service, the league was nearly forced to cease operations ahead of the 1942 season, a harsh reality that would deprive legions of fans, not to mention the troops over seas, from a welcomed distraction when faced with the rigors of war.
In February of 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote a letter to commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, stating how it would be best for North American’s to have the majors remain in operation during the war.
With intentions of not only using the game as a symbol of the undying American spirit, but also a well deserved outlet for overall recreation, baseball continued to field teams during the war years, enlisting 100s of minor league players to supplement it’s various big league rosters.
This decision opened the door for countless individuals who were given the shot to live out their dreams, while stoking the morale of Americans across the country and abroad.
Charlie Mead of Vermillion, Alta., was one players responsible for keeping baseball alive during the second great war. Signed by the Detroit Tigers he began his pro career with the in 1940 with class-C Hot Springs Bathers and class-C Henderson Oilers. He spent 1941 with class-C Texarkana Twins and the next year with class-B Winston-Salem Twins.
He signed with the New York Giants in 1943 and spent 97 games at double-A Jersey City Giants before getting the call.
Suiting up for the New York Giants, Mead appeared in 87 games between the years of 1943 and 1945, belting a total of three home runs and hitting .245 while patrolling the outfield at the famed Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan.
He made his debut Aug. 28, 1943 making 34 starts at age 22, going hitless asVan Mungo pitched the Giants to a 12-0 win over the Boston Braves and Red Barrett. Mead had his first hit in the majors of Whitlow Wyatt in a 4-1 loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers. His first homer came Sept. 28 when he took Ray Starr deep in a 5-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field. He made the second most starts behind Hall of Famer Mel Ott, the Giants playing manager in right field and three more in centre. On the season he hit .274 with one homer and 13 RBIs in 37 games.
The next year in 1944, he hit .179 with one homer and eight RBIs in 39 games. Mead went deep against Freddy Schmidt in a 10-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in a 10-6 loss and knocked in a pair in a 5-4 win over the Boston Braves. He made 11 starts in left, four in right and three in centre.
His third career homer game in 1945 when he homered againstLefty Wallace in a 7-3 loss to the Boston Braves. He batted .270 with one homer and six RBIs in 11 games, as he started 10 times in right.
When the troops returned home following an ally victory in 1945, many of the reserve ballplayers were given their release, opting to return to the minors or finding other post-baseball careers outside of the game.
Mead, who was a mere 24 years old by the end of the 1945 season, decided to continue his career as a professional, signing on with the unaffiliated Vancouver Capilanos of the Class B Western International League, where he would become a star over the course of the next six seasons, helping the Caps take home league titles in 1947 and 1949 respectively.
As a 32 year-old in 1953, the 6-foot-1 outfielder would enjoy one of his finest seasons as a pro, hitting 25 homers to compliment a batting average of .328 in 135 games with the Calgary Stampeders of the same WINT.
The following season would be his last, finishing his outstanding career having played in just under 2.000 pro contests with a minor league slash line of .293/.314/.455, also playing class-A Memphis Chickasaws, Veracruz Azules in Mexico, class-A Lewiston Broncs and the class-A Yakima Bears.
After deciding to hang ‘em up in 1954, Mead and his family moved to Victorville, Calif. where he began a new career as a circuit technician with an upstart phone company. When he wasn’t traveling during the later years, his spare time was often spent on local sandlots, coaching little league teams and imparting his years of wisdom to any who inquired.
Despite his quiet demeanor, the Canadian slugger never shied away from helping those who wanted to make the most of their talents on a diamond, teaching countless ballplayers the finer points of the game and even lending his experience to help play an integral role in securing one young man a pro contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A soft spoken man by nature, Mead was never one to brag about his accomplishments, be they in the game or otherwise.
“If he were in the room with me right now, he’d be giving me a dirty look after saying all these nice things about him” said his wife with a laugh.
Earlier this year, the Canadian baseball community was dealt a disheartening blow when at age 93, Mead passed away peacefully.
No longer with us in person, his memory will live on in the hearts of the countless people touched by his years of dedication to this great game.
Individuals like Charlie Mead helped keep the national pass time alive during some of the darkest days in North American history. Like then, his life’s impact will continue to help keep this game alive for generations to come.
— Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter @77hendriks