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Jim Donovan


Date and Place of Birth: 1916 South Boston, MA
Date and Place of Death:    June 23, 1943 Fort Benning, GA
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Second Base
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Military Unit: US Army
Area Served: United States

James J. Donovan, Jr., was born in South Boston, Massachusetts in 1916. The son of James and Katherine Donovan, young Jim attended the English High School in Boston where he excelled as an athlete.

In 1938, he signed as a second baseman with the Rome Colonels of the Class C Canadian-American League, making an immediate impression on manager Bill Buckley during spring training. When opening day came around, Donovan was Buckley's starting second baseman. He singled against the Amsterdam Rugmakers on May 16 but was hitless in his other appearances and was released by Buckley as the Colonels flirted with the basement position.

Aged 22, Donovan enrolled at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois in the winter of 1939. He was a sensation on the freshman football team and left Millikin after one semester to pursue a career as a halfback in professional football. Over the next couple of years he played pro football with the independent St. Louis Gunners, the Boston Shamrocks and the Boston Irish-Americans, while working at the Fore River Shipyard during the off-season.

On June 19, 1942, Donovan, aged 26, enlisted with the Army. He attained the rank of sergeant with an infantry regiment while stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, then attended Officer Candidate School at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and Fort Benning, Georgia. He graduated as a second lieutenant on January 22, 1943 and volunteered for paratrooper service.

On June 23, 1943, 2/Lt. James Donovan was killed in a parachute training jump at Fort Benning. A Requiem Mass was held at Gate of Heaven Church in Boston on June 28, 1943. He was survived by his parents (his father was aide to Fire Commissioner William A. Reilly at the time) and sibblings Edward, John, Paul, Robert, Rosemary and Mrs. Betty Trayers.

Two of Donovan's teammates on the 1938 Rome Colonels also lost their lives during World War II. George Gamble, an outfielder who became a fighter pilot, was killed in Indo-China in December 1944. Frank Janik, also an outfielder who served as an infantryman, was killed at Okinawa in April 1945.














1938 Rome Canadian-American D                  

Thanks to Todd Rudat, Assistant Archivist & Research Associate at Millikin University's Staley Library for help with this biography.

Date Added January 27, 2011 Updated May 5, 2014

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