Today is Memorial Day. That means most of us have the day off of work and are meeting family and friends for a barbecue. And, while rightfully so, we honor all military veterans for their service to our great land, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who never came back. So while you’re grilling your burgers, and sipping your refreshing beverages, take a moment to reflect on those who paid the ultimate price so you could live free.
Memorial Day was first observed in the years following the Civil War and was made an official day of remembrance in 1971. Originally called “Decoration Day” the name changed when it became an official federal holiday.
Memorial Day is also a day when all 30 MLB teams will be in action. Each team will have their Salute to Service men and women and moments of silences will pervade the ballparks before each game. The Detroit Tigers, like all Major League teams, have a deep connection with the military. During the turbulent times of the World Wars, Tigers fans saw names like Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, and Charlie Gehringer all serve time in the military. All across America, baseball became a reprieve for a continent strewn in the middle of world conflicts. But on this Memorial Day, we’re not saluting those that came back, though we should honor them daily; today, we’re saluting one American hero who gave his life for our freedom.
A Cup of Coffee –
The common refrain among Tigers fans is, “Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.” In the case of Robert Gustav “Bun” Troy, the idea of “once” is a literal concept. Born in Germany in 1888, Troy’s family moved to McDonald, Pennsylvania, where, in a farming community, he grew to love the game of baseball. He was signed by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1910 and was commended for his fastball and curveball. However, he never made it out of their farm system and eventually made his way to the Adrian Lions in 1923. It was here that Troy, after producing a 23-14 record, caught the attention of Detroit Tigers owner Frank Navin. Navin purchased the lanky lefty’s contract after the minor league season ended, and he made his debut on September 15, 1912.
On this day, “Bun” Troy made his major league debut against Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators. In front of 6,550 fans at the newly constructed Navin Field, Bun toed the rubber to match up against one of the greatest hurlers of all-time. And, for a little while at least, he outdueled The Big Train. The Tigers led the Senators 3-0 heading into the seventh inning. After hurling six innings of shutout baseball, the wheels fell off for Troy. Some misplays in the field led to four unearned runs and the end of Bun’s debut. His final line: 6.2 innings pitched, 4 runs (all unearned), one strikeout, and three walks. The Tigers fell to the Senators 6-3, with Bun Troy taking the loss.
This was his only appearance, ever, in Major League Baseball.
In 1913, the Tigers brought Troy to spring camp where he failed to make the roster. He toiled through two more minor league seasons before hanging up the cleats — the cleats that just barely had any Major League dirt in them — for good. He headed back to Pennsylvania where he worked until 1917 when the Army and the First World War came calling.
An American Hero –
As was the case with most European conflicts, America at the beginning of the Great War remained neutral. However, when German submarines began to sink American ships and the British leaked the Zimmerman Telegram, the hand of America was forced. It was in 1917 that Robert “Bun” Troy decided to fight for his new country by enlisting in the Army. There were no qualms for him about fighting against his homeland of Germany, given that America had become his home. For it was in America that his family had made their way, and it was in America where Bun became a Major League baseball player. Troy served the United States as a Lieutenant in the “Blue Ridge Division,” Company G of the 319th Regiment.
Troy’s division took part in the Battle of Somme, the battle of Saint-Mihiel, and the Muse-Argonne Offensive. It was here that Bun Troy suffered a bullet wound to the chest, an injury that would take his life in October 1918. After sustaining the wound, Troy was taken to an evacuation hospital but eventually passed due to the nature and severity of the wound. His body was buried in France, then later exhumed and transferred to Robinson’s Run Cemetery in his hometown of McDonald, Pennsylvania.
Robert “Bun” Troy’s baseball career was nothing spectacular. But if measured on only that we do him a disservice. By all accounts, this is the true definition of an American hero. A boy, with Big League dreams, who made it and then later served the country he came to love. While his dream of being a Big Leaguer may have only lasted for one short afternoon, the memory of Robert “Bun” Troy should continue to live on. Were it not for the sacrifice he — and millions of others have made — we would not be able to enjoy the freedom we all share in, each and every day. So as we grill out and enjoy our refreshing beverages this Memorial Day, let us not forget the reason why we are able to do what we do. It is because of the selfless sacrifice of men and women — like one of our very own Tigers — that we remember those fallen on Memorial Day.
God bless you and your family, and God bless America.
In Memory of Robert Gustav “Bun” Troy
August 27, 1888 – October 7, 1918