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Bob Savage

Ballplayers Wounded in Combat

 

Date and Place of Birth: December 1, 1921 Manchester, NH
Date and Place of Death:    July 26, 2013 Berlin, NH
Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Lieutenant
Military Unit: Company D, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations

John R. “Bob” Savage was born on December 1, 1921, in Manchester, New Hampshire. He played varsity baseball and basketball at St. Joseph’s High School and pitched for the Atlantic Oilers in the City Twilight League after graduation. In September 1939, Savage attended Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, which offered an excellent athletic program, and he soon became the school’s number one pitcher. Savage began receiving offers from professional scouts including the Tigers and Athletics but chose instead to remain at Staunton.

During the summer of 1941 he played for Claremont in the Northern League, then returned to Staunton the following year. Another great season was had with Staunton crowned as state champions and, again, major league scouts making offers to Savage.

Bob Savage chose to sign with the Philadelphia Athletics and reported straight to the major league club for the 1942 season. He made his major league debut on June 24, and pitched eight games during the course of the season with no wins, one loss and a 3.23 ERA.

Because Savage had competed three years of Military Science and Tactics at Staunton, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the draft board allowed him to finish the four-year course. On March 10, 1943, Savage joined the Army and was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas, for 13 weeks of basic training. “It was a tough 13 weeks but may just have saved my life,” Savage said later.

After basic training, Savage was sent to a staging area outside of Youngstown, Ohio, where he remained for about three weeks and then was sent to the port of embarkation at Norfolk, Virginia. He was soon on a ship that was headed to Casablanca, North Africa, with Company D, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

Savage was later shipped to a replacement center in Naples, Italy. “My new home was in the town of Conserta, which faced Monte Casino,” he recalls. “The Germans had occupied a Benedictine monastery on top of the mountain and held off the allied troops for several months.

“My outfit left Naples and traveled by trucks a few miles short of our destination. The rest of the journey was on foot. Sometime during this walk, the enemy sent a barrage of mortar fire into our line of troops. Several of our boys were killed. I got hit in the back. Luckily, I had put everything but the kitchen sink in my knapsack, It got torn to pieces, but just a small amount of shrapnel lodged in my back. It seemed that it wasn’t very long before medics got to us and moved the wounded to a safe area. There was an aid station very close to the front. We were all examined and then sent to a MASH-type hospital where the shrapnel was removed from my body. From there, we were sent to a hospital near Naples.”

Savage spent about a month recovering in Algiers, and was then sent back to the replacement center in Naples. Days later he traveled by boat to Anzio.

“Our company was stationed on the line about 100 yards from the enemy,” he recalled. “There was absolutely no movement on either side of the frontline during daylight. All movement was at night. We were on line about 10 days when our battalion moved back to the beaches for a rest. The Anzio beachhead was about 10 miles deep and 12 miles long. The ocean was at our backs, and mountains surrounded us.

“While we were at rest, the company formed a baseball team and scheduled a game with an ordinance outfit. The Company Commander, Captain Stocker, had been a catcher in the Three-I League.” Savage pitched a no-hitter that day.

In August 1944, Savage, now a lieutenant, was part of the Allied landings in southern France. “On my birthday, December 1, 1944,” he explained. “I was waiting to cross a small stream that had a one-way temporary bridge along the Rhine River. While waiting for traffic to go in my direction, I was standing next to my jeep, when an artillery shell landed close by. I hit the dirt but still was wounded on my leg, wrist, and face.

“When I got up, I realized I still had to get the jeep across the stream. I was able to drive to my destination, which I think was no more than a mile away. I was taken to an aid station nearby and then transported to a hospital by an ambulance that had to pass over the same bridge where I had been wounded. Fighting had settled down, so we had no trouble during our journey. I was on the mend fairly soon after surgery, but I remained in the hospital for about six to eight weeks.”

Savage returned to his company after it had crossed the Rhine, and the war was winding down. “I got hit a third time shortly after I returned to action,” he says. “This time, I was in a foxhole when a shell hit a tree and a flat piece of it hit me on the top of my head. This caused a pretty large bump. I went to a first-aid station and the medics gave me a pill and sent me back to my unit.

“This injury did count for my third Purple Heart, but it was my lucky one. On the last day of the war, everyone was firing their rifles in the air and a spent bullet knocked my helmet off. I spent the rest of the day indoors.

“A few days before the end of the war, our division liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. This has to be my worst memory. I haven’t spoken about this experience more than ten times in the last half century and probably will not speak about it again. Our unit ended the war in Saltzburg, Austria.”

With the war over, thoughts turned to leisure pursuits and a division baseball team was formed. The 3rd Infantry Division’s home field was a fair grounds in Saltzburg where they played for about a month. In July 1945, the division moved to a town outside of Frankfort. Savage pitched well and the competition was keen. He left for home in early September and was discharged on September 30, 1945.

In 1946, Savage posted a dismal 3-15 record with the last-place Athletics. The following season was his best in the majors with an 8-10 record and 3.76 ERA. He was back with the Athletics in 1948 and was selected off waivers by the St. Louis Browns for 1949. Savage later played with the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League. He was given his release by the Seals in June 1953.

After his playing days were over, Savage worked for many years for Wilson Sporting Goods, later opening his own sporting goods store. He also taught physical education at Gorham High School in New Hampshire.

“My final career was in politics,” he explained. “In 1983, I ran for and was elected to the position of Clerk of the Probate Court (Register of Probate). I retired after two terms on January 1, 1986, to enjoy the golf courses of northern New Hampshire and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Bob Savage passed away on July 26, 2013, in Berlin, New Hampshire. He was 91 years old and is buried at Randolph Cemetery, Randolph, New Hampshire.

Date Added December 22, 2017

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