Of the thousands of professional athletes – in major league baseball, basketball, and football, in tennis and golf – only a handful served on active duty during the years of the Vietnam War. This was a major difference between Vietnam and World War II, when major leaguers flocked to enlist by the hundreds, often to the detriment of their careers.
One of those who did serve in Vietnam was Lieutenant Al Bumbry. He grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he attended Virginia State before spending 11 months in Vietnam, returning home with a Bronze Star. “The thing Al is most proud of,” said his manager, the redoubtable Earl Weaver, “is that in Vietnam, he never lost a man.”
The speedy Bumbry, always known as a good defensive outfielder, spent 13 seasons in the majors, the first 12 with the Baltimore Orioles. In 1973, he was the American League's “Rookie of the Year,” when he batted .337 and, in one memorable game in September, hit three triples.
In 1980, the year he was chosen for the All-Star team, he became the first Oriole to get 200 hits in a season. In 1987, he was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Since his retirement as a player, he has kept in the game as a major and minor league coach. He has also made community appearances throughout the year on behalf of the Orioles.