Vladimir S. Patton; Decoding the Jobs Report; the Science of Gun Violence; Ballplayer/War Hero Eddie Grant
Good morning, it’s Monday, October 5, 2015. Another regular season has come to a conclusion in Major League Baseball. Get ready for a playoff season slated to last a full month. Yes, MLB now resembles professional hockey, meaning that baseball’s 2015 “October Classic” will almost certainly end in November.
My thoughts this morning are with an early 20th century New York Giants’ third baseman named Eddie Grant. It’s not for anything he did on the baseball field, although he did have a shining moment in the 1913 World Series. It’s for what he did on the fields of France during the First World War. On this date in 1918, 35-year-old Edward Leslie Grant lost his life trying to rescue a lost battalion of fellow U.S. Army infantrymen.
I’ll have the outlines of Eddie Grant’s story in a moment. First, let me direct you to RCP’s front page, which contains the latest poll averages, political news and video, and aggregated opinion pieces ranging across the ideological spectrum. We also have a complement of original material from RCP’s reporters and contributors:
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Vladimir S. Patton. In a column, I offer some thoughts on fallout from the Obama administration’s “leading from behind” foreign policy.
Obama Vague on Next Steps in Syria. The president declined to say what the administration will do if Russia increases its military involvement, Alexis Simindinger reports.
Inexperience Not to Blame for Declining U.S. Influence. In RealClearDefense, Rebecca Heinrichs asserts that “false premises” underpinning Obama’s worldview lie at the heart of America’s global missteps.
Why Serbia Is a Country to Watch. RealClearWorld editor Joel Weickgenant explains that the Balkan nation’s role in the refugee crisis has major implications for the European Union.
Reality Catches Up With Jobs Reports. In RealClearMarkets, Louis Woodhill asserts that the September employment numbers were not just bad -- they confirmed that economic stagnation is the new normal.
What Science Says About Gun Violence. Ross Pomeroy writes that the tragically large number of killings involving firearms in the United States has provided researchers a plethora of data to dissect. He spotlights some findings here.
Is Colorado Environmental Model Good Enough for Obama? The state is either the vanguard or the guinea pig for regulatory experimentation regarding energy extraction, writes RealClearEnergy editor Bill Murray.
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Eddie Grant was born in 1883 in Franklin, Mass., the first American municipality named after Benjamin Franklin, and went to Harvard where he studied history and law while starring in baseball and basketball. He played semi-pro baseball one summer, as many college athletes did at the time, which cost him his college eligibility, but he stayed in school and graduated in 1905.
On a trip to Boston that summer, the Cleveland Indians signed the local kid to play infield for them. In his August 4, 1905 big league debut he went 3 for 4 while playing second base. The Indians thought they’d found a gem, but when Eddie struck out four times the next day, they released him.
He wasn’t done, though. Eddie worked on his game and by 1907 he was back in the majors to stay, this time in the National League, playing for Philadelphia. He played four seasons for the Phils, three for Cincinnati, before going to the powerhouse Giants, then managed by the legendary John McGraw.
Eddie Grant wasn’t a great player, but he was a selfless one who helped his team win in myriad ways. He lacked home run power, which was the norm in the “dead ball” era, and only hit around .250, but he was a rangy third baseman with a strong arm, a fleet-footed base runner, and was skilled at advancing runners, especially via the sacrifice bunt.
That talent proved to be an omen.
Knowing that his future in organized baseball wouldn’t last most of his working life, Eddie Grant planned ahead. While his teammates spent their nights on the road in saloons, Eddie would attend the opera. They played poker on the train; he smoked a pipe and read books. Some of them were law books. In the off-season of 1908-1909 was admitted to the Massachusetts bar. (His education carried over onto the ballfield too. Eddie never called for a fly ball by yelling, "I got it!" The college grad used the grammatically correct, "I have it!")
Sportswriters at the time, most of whom hadn’t gone to college themselves, gave him nicknames such as “Harvard Eddie” or “Attorney Grant.”
If that sounds patronizing, it probably was, but there was a grudging respect there, too, partly because of the selfless way Eddie played the game.
The box score from the 1913 World Series shows that Eddie Grant came to the plate once and made an out -- but also that he scored a run. I couldn’t quite figure this out until I came across a New York Times account of Game 2, courtesy of magazine writer Kevin Coyne.
John McGraw had inserted Eddie as a pinch-runner in the 10th inning.
“Attorney Eddie Grant, came through from second base like the Twentieth Century Limited traveling past a flag station,” wrote the Times reporter. He scored the winning run for the Giants, in the only game New York would win in that Series.
He played two more years for McGraw, retiring after the 1915 season and was practicing law in Boston when the United States entered World War I in April 1917. Eddie immediately enlisted, and was commissioned a captain in the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division.
A year later, Eddie’s unit was in France fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Outside Paris, the warring nations were negotiating an armistice. In the Argonne the troops were fighting for their lives.
Nine companies in Eddie’s division advance too far, and found themselves cut off and surrounded. Without adequate supplies and little cover, the 554 Americans in the “Lost Battalion” hunkered down as German snipers began picking them off one by one. It was, wrote Kevin Coyne, “a hellish microcosm of a brutal war that was claiming casualties at a horrific rate.”
As it happened, the Lost Battalion was commanded by Maj. Charles Whittlesey, a friend of Eddie Grant’s. They were law school classmate and in the same officer training program. But as everyone who knew him noted at the time, Eddie would have gone after the missing Americans no matter who was leading them.
He was killed by a German artillery shell on October 5, 1918, two days before what was left of the Lost Battalion was rescued. “When that shell burst and killed that boy,” said Whittlesey, “America lost one of the finest types of manhood I have ever known.”
“Eddie Grant has played his last game of baseball,” Baseball Magazine announced. “Somewhere in France his grave is topped with a simple wooden cross, the last eloquent tribute to the soldier dead. But the memory of a brave man and a gallant gentleman will adorn the annals of sport long after the wooden cross has crumbled beneath the winds and ruins of that France he died to save.”
His grave was later moved to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in France, interred along with 14,245 other Americans. Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote a poem in Captain Grant’s memory. In 1921, the Giants erected a monument to him in centerfield of the Polo Grounds. It can be seen in some of the photographs of Willie Mays’ famous catch in the 1954 World Series.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics