Bert Robert Shepard (June 20, 1920 – June 16, 2008) was an American left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who pitched in one game for the Washington Senators in 1945 after having had his right leg amputated after his fighter plane was shot down in Germany during World War II while he was serving as a pilot in the Army Air Forces.
Born in Dana, Indiana, the 5"11", 185 lb. left-hander taught himself to walk and then to pitch with an artificial leg while confined in a German POW camp. He had been gunned down near Berlin on his 34th mission as a P-38 fighter pilot, his life was saved by a doctor in the German Army.
In 1945 Shepard was back in the United States and hoping to resume his pitching career. Prior to the war, he had pitched for minor leagues all across the country. During spring training in 1945, he impressed Senators owner Clark Griffith enough to be hired as a pitching coach. He pitched exhibition games and batting practice, and one regulation game, making him the first man with an artificial leg to pitch in a major league baseball game.
On August 4, 1945 Shepard got the call to enter in the fourth inning of a home game in which the Senators were well behind the Boston Red Sox. It was Game Two of the fourth consecutive doubleheader in which Washington was playing, with a fifth scheduled the next day as well. Shepard made headlines, not only for being in the game itself, but also with 5⅓ innings of impressive relief, allowing only three hits and one run. He struck out his first batter. The final score was Red Sox 15, Senators 4.
In between games of a doubleheader on August 31, Shepard received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in World War II. He later went on to be a player/manager in the minor leagues until 1954. He was a key participant on the National Amps baseball teams of former servicemen with amputations secondary to war injuries. After retiring from baseball, Shepard worked for IBM and Hughes Aircraft as a safety engineer. Shepard won the U.S. amputee golf championship in 1968 and 1971.
Shepard died at age 87 in Highland, California.
The game of August 4, 1945 was notable for two other events as well. Shepard came in to relieve teammate Joe Cleary, who would be the last native of Ireland to pitch in a major league game. Also, outfielder Tom McBride tied a major league record with 6 runs batted in in the fourth inning.
- Milestones: Bert Shephard, July 7, 2008, TIME Magazine, p. 18
- Weintraub, Robert (2013) The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball’s Golden Age. New York: Little Brown and Company, pages 137-138
- Dennis Snelling: A Glimpse of Fame, McFarland & Company, Jefferson N.C., 1993, pp. 115-134
- Richard Tellis: Once Around The Bases, Triumph Books, Chicago, 1998, pp. 107–120.
- Baseball in Wartime
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- BaseballLibrary - biography & photograph
- BaseballLibrary - Once Around the Bases
- Baseball Guru - Bert Shepard and the Missing Foot
- New York Times obituary, June 19, 2008