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Alan Wray (Alan Lightner)

 

Date and Place of Birth: 1919 Stockton, CA
Date and Place of Death:    January 12, 1945 nr. Saarbrucken, Germany
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Outfield
Rank: Corporal
Military Unit: Company A, 276th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

Alan Wray, born Alan W. Lightner, was born in Stockton, California, and played semi-pro ball alongside his older brother Orland “Al” Lightner in California during the late 1930s. In 1938, they were both playing for the Modesto Hawks of the semi-pro California Valley League, when Orland was signed by the Bellingham Chinooks of the Class B Western International League. The Chinooks finished second to the Yakima Pippins in the league standings that year and clinched the championship in the playoffs.

In 1939, however, the Chinooks, with a depleted pitching staff, were a different team. Due to financial difficulties, the league had taken over the team in mid-season and Orland “Al” Lightner, who in addition to playing first base was also the team’s traveling secretary, was appointed manager on August 17. The roster limit restrictions were lifted a week later, and Orland signed his younger brother Alan, who was still playing with the Modesto Hawks. Alan Lightner used his middle name as his last name, and as Alan Wray he made 14 appearances as an outfielder for the Chinooks and batted .273.

The Bellingham franchise was purchased by a private entity for 1940, and moved to Salem, Oregon. Alan Lightner returned to California to play semi-pro baseball with the Shannon Rangers in Modesto, while Orland “Al” Lightner remained with the club and had a career-year, batting .291 with 94 RBIs in 143 games.

Alan Lightner entered military service on October 9, 1942, and served in Europe as a corporal with Company A of the 276th Infantry Regiment, 70th “Trailblazers” Infantry Division. The division landed at Marseille, France, in December 1944, and reached the front on December 28, near Bischweiler on the west bank of the Rhine River. The division defeated German forces at Phillipsbourg and at Wingen, before moving to an area south of the heavily fortified German town of Saarbrucken in mid–January 1945. Corporal Lightner was reported missing during the action at Saarbrucken. It was later confirmed he had been killed on January 12, 1945. Alan Lightner is buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium.

Older brother Orland went on to become sports editor of the Oregon Statesman newspaper and one of the nation’s most noted college basketball officials in the 1950s and 1960s, working four Final Fours. He named his first-born son, Alan Wray Lightner, in honor of his younger brother.

Year

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1939 Bellingham Western Int'l B 14 55 6 15 2 0 0 3 .273

 

Alan W. Lightner

Alan Wray Lightner's grave at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium.

Date Added May 29, 2012 Updated June 13, 2014

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