Harry O'Neill (catcher)

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Harry O'Neill
Harry O'Neill (catcher).jpg
Born(1917-05-18)May 18, 1917
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 6, 1945(1945-03-06) (aged 27)
Iwo Jima, Bonin Islands, Japanese Empire
Place of burial
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1942–1945
RankFirst Lieutenant
Unit25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsPurple Heart
Alma materGettysburg College

Harry Mink O'Neill (May 8, 1917 – March 6, 1945) was a professional baseball player who appeared in one game for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1939, as a catcher. O'Neill and Elmer Gedeon were the only two Major League Baseball players killed during World War II.[1]

Collegiate athletics[edit]

O'Neill distinguished himself as a very gifted college athlete. At Gettysburg College, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder sometimes called "Porkie,"[2] led the school's baseball, football and basketball teams to league championships. After graduation, he was the subject of a bidding war between two American League teams, eventually signing with his hometown Athletics.[1]

Major league appearance[edit]

Harry O'Neill
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 23, 1939, for the Philadelphia Athletics
Last MLB appearance
July 23, 1939, for the Philadelphia Athletics
MLB statistics
Games played1
Plate appearances0

As the third-string catcher for the Athletics, O'Neill appeared in just one game, as a late-inning defensive replacement.[3] In a lopsided road loss to the Detroit Tigers on July 23, 1939, O'Neill caught the bottom of the 8th inning, and did not have a plate appearance.[4]

Military service and death in World War II[edit]

Following his time with the Athletics, O'Neill played in 16 games with the minor league Harrisburg Senators and also played semi-pro basketball and football.[5] After the outbreak of World War II, O'Neill enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1942, and rose to the rank of first lieutenant with the Weapons Company, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division. In January 1944, he took part in the amphibious assault on Kwajalein. On June 16, 1944, the second day of the Battle of Saipan, he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel, then treated for weeks back in the US. He returned to active duty in July, in time to participate in the Battle of Tinian.[5] He was killed by a sniper at Iwo Jima on March 6, 1945.[1] Among his surviving family was his young wife, Ethel McKay O'Neill.[2]


Of the 500-plus major league players who served in the military in World War II,[1] O'Neill and Elmer Gedeon were the only players killed, both at age 27. The two have become symbols of "baseball's sacrifice" in the war effort. As the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum proclaims: "Ballplayers, like every other American citizen, understand the importance of giving one's self for their country."[6] In 1980, O'Neill was inducted into Gettysburg College's Hall of Athletic Honor for baseball, football and basketball.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Weintraub, Robert (26 May 2013). "Two Who Did Not Return". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Bedingfield, Gary. "Baseballs's Greatest Sacrifice: Harry O'Neill". Gary Bedingfield's Baseball in Wartime. Gary Bedingfield. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Harry O'Neill Stats". baseball-almanac.com. Retrieved 2 Oct 2016.
  4. ^ "Retrosheet Boxscore: Detroit Tigers 16, Philadelphia Athletics 3". retrosheet.org. Retrieved 2 Oct 2016.
  5. ^ a b Bedingfield, Gary. "Harry O'Neill - Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice". Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  6. ^ Kuper, Simon (2005-05-07). "Stars saved from ultimate pitched battle". Financial Times. Archived from the original on May 27, 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-02.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]