Bill Ladson

Military matured Seaver, Bumbry, Gleason

Military matured Seaver, Bumbry, Gleason

Playing Major League Baseball isn't the only thing Tom Seaver, Al Bumbry and Roy Gleason have in common. The trio also served in the military.

With Veterans Day upon us, not only do we pay homage to these ballplayers for their service, but to all veterans, such as Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra and Ted Williams to name a few, who served in the military.

Being in the military seemed to change the lives of Seaver, Bumbry and Gleason. Take Seaver: He joined the Marine Corps in 1962 out of high school, and it instilled discipline in him. He credits the military for helping him become a Hall of Fame pitcher.

"It's a very important reason why I'm in Cooperstown," said Seaver, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1992. "The principles that I learned in boot camp were the principles that I took to the mound -- focus, dedication, work ethic. I wouldn't have made it in the Majors without the Marine Corps."

The National Baseball Hall of Fame will host a Veteran's Day celebration today to honor the men and women of the armed forces, including 68 Hall of Famers who served during wartime.

Bumbry played in the big leagues for 14 seasons, mostly with the Orioles. He is not sure if he would have lasted that long if he hadn't gone into the army. Bumbry will be the first to acknowledge he had a lot to learn after being drafted by Baltimore in the 11th round of the 1968 Draft. In early '69, Bumbry had a .178 batting average for Class A Stockton before going into active duty in Vietnam later that year.

"I went up there [in Stockton] for three months, and I stunk up the place. I was terrible out there," Bumbry remembered. "I was glad to leave there because I wasn't playing and I was doing so poorly. I had my doubts about my ability to play baseball."

Then he went on active duty for almost a year. He won the Bronze Star for never losing a man in his platoon.

Once he returned to the States to play baseball in 1971, Bumbry realized he had the confidence to play baseball again. By 1972, he was in the big leagues and went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year in 1973. Bumbry helped the Orioles reach the postseason four times.

Bumbry said getting maturity in the Army helped improve his skills in baseball. Suddenly, he could hit the baseball with consistency and was a major player in the Orioles' lineup.

"I'm playing in the big leagues, so how do you explain that? I matured when I was in the army as a result of going to Vietnam and being a platoon leader," Bumbry said. "I had to make sure I got back and my platoon got back. I think the maturity factor helped me."

Gleason thought he had a future in baseball. In 1963, he earned a World Series ring with the Dodgers and had a five-year Minor League career before being drafted into the Army in 1967.

Gleason was injured during the Vietnam War and doesn't have any bitterness about serving in the Army. By the time he returned to the United States in 1968, he lost his World Series ring during his tour of duty and his skills on the baseball field eroded. The Dodgers, however, gave Gleason a replica of the ring he lost in 2003.

"Things happen. I'm blessed to be here," Gleason said. "It was just a few bumps in the road."

In fact, Gleason wishes the military draft still existed. He felt the military shaped his life.

"You are very disciplined. [The Army] breaks you down in basic training. They build you up right away," Gleason said. "They are disciplined to the point where they give you an order, you respond and you react immediately. There is no question about carrying it out. I wish they would draft people today to give kids discipline and respect."

Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.