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Gene Stack


Date and Place of Birth: December 14, 1918 Saginaw, MI
Date and Place of Death:    June 26, 1942 Michigan City, IN
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Corporal
Military Unit: US Army
Area Served: United States

Stackie, who was a smiling youngster with a world of promise became not only the first major leaguer to be drafted but also the first to die in service.
Francis Sargent, Lowell Sun July 7, 1942

Gene Stack (born Eugene F. Stachowiak) signed a professional contract with the Chicago White Sox in 1940, and was assigned to the Lubbock Hubbers of the Class D West Texas-New Mexico League, where he had a sensational rookie season. In 31 games, he had a 19-11 record and 3.84 ERA, and his 238 strikeouts were second highest in the league. "I was 13 that summer," recalled Bill Cope of Lubbock. "We had a sandlot baseball league of four or five teams and played on a field across from the old Texas Tech gymnasium. Somehow, Gene Stack and another Hubber, Steve Sakas, learned about the games and started coming there some afternoons when they were in town and watched and encouraged us and gave us some pointers. We thought this was great because these were real professionals and our idols and we were at the ballpark for just about every Hubbers' game." [1]

Despite Stack's 19 wins, Pat Ralsh's career-best 20 victories and Ed Schweda's leaguetopping .422 batting average, the Hubbers only managed a third place finish behind Pampa and Amarillo, but it was enough to get in the playoffs. Playing the Amarillo Gold Sox, the Hubbers swept the first round playoff series in three games with Stack beating the Gold Sox, 7-5, in the opening game on September 5. The Hubbers then faced the fourth-placed Borger Gassers in the finals. The Hubbers took the first game, 7-6, and Stack won the second game, 14-0, on September 9, allowing just four hits. The Gassers bounced back to win the next three games but were again halted by Stack, who hurled a 9-1 win in the sixth game on September 13, in front of an overflow crowd that lined both sides of the playing field. Stack struck out seven that day and allowed seven hits. The championship, however, was clinched by the Gassers the following day as Robert Crues hurled a 5-0 shutout.

Chicago White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes was singing the youngster's praises at the end of the season and announced in December 1940 that he was inviting Stack to join the White Sox at their 1941 Pasadena, California, training camp. In the meantime, however, Stack received his military draft notice and was ordered to report for duty at Fort Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan, on January 7, 1941, making him technically the first player from a major league roster to be drafted by the military.

To the professional baseball world it may have seemed that the young hurler had swapped flannels for khakis, but Stack still found plenty of time for baseball. He became a mainstay of the Fort Custer Reception Center team. With a line-up that included the Tigers' Hank Greenberg, and minor leaguers Bob Ogle, Truman Connell and Jack Egan, the team was coached by Captain George Zegolis, former Wayne University player, and won the national amateur championship of the American Baseball Congress on September 29, 1941, with a 3-2 win over Charlotte, North Carolina. [2]

Stack married Burchette Ellison of Lubbock, Texas, in April 1942, and continued to hurl for the Fort Custer team during his second year in military service. On Friday, June 26, 1942, the team traveled to Michigan City, Indiana, for an evening game against the semi-pro Michigan City Cubs who, earlier that year, had unsuccessfully bid for a place in Organized Baseball's Michigan State League. Stack had an unusual off night, allowing eight hits in a 5-2 loss. On the way back to camp late that night, the team stopped for something to eat at the Gingham Inn on Highway 12, four miles west of Michigan City. Stack got up from his table, walked over to the jukebox and inserted a couple of coins before returning to his seat, where he promptly slumped to the floor. The 24-year-old pitcher was dead.

At the time, it was believed Stack had suffered a heart attack, but it was later revealed by Lieutenant-Colonel Harry R. Brown, executive officer at Fort Custer, that an autopsy disclosed he had actually died from pneumonia. [3]













1940 Lubbock W. Texas-New Mexico D 31 246 105 121 238 19 11 3.84


Eugene Stack

Gene Stack

Gene Stack signing in at the Fort Custer Reception Center in January 1941

Gene Stack

Gene Stack (right) salutes Captain George Zegolis at Fort Custer

Gene Stack

Lt. Col. Hammond D. Birks, commanding officer of the Reception Center at Fort Custer, receives the Bailey Trophy for clinching the American Baseball Congress (ABC) championship of 1941 from H. Arthur Smith of the ABC. Gene Stack is just behind Lt. Col. Birks.

Gingham Inn

The Gingham Inn, where Gene Stack's life ended

1. www.baseballinwartime.com/in_memoriam/ stack_gene.htm. Retrieved November 11, 2008.
2 1941 was the last time the amateur world series was held until after the war.
3. El Paso Herald-Post, June 30, 1942.

Thanks to Bill Cope of Lubbock, Texas for help with this biography. Thanks also to Astrid van Erp for help with photos for this biography.

Date Added: March 17, 2012 Updated August 3, 2017

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