I “avoided” the draft by joining the US Army Reserves in 1968. Since I was already in, the draft was not a concern for me. On draft night, I arrived late in joining a group of frat brothers listening to the numbers being called. Of the remaining numbers, mine was never called. I never found out my number until May 8, 2018, when I Googled the subject and discovered for the first time that I was No. 21! Wow! I would have gone to Vietnam….for sure.
I joined the Reserves in 1968, in an absolute effort to not be drafted. My joining split my tenure at Mizzou at the midpoint, as I began as a freshman in ’65-66, and graduated in 1970. I played varsity baseball (’69, & ’70) and was also on the freshmen team, ’65-‘66.
In my sophomore year, 1967, I was one of two final cuts not to make the MU varsity traveling squad. At the time I was enrolled in pre-med, in over my head, and struggling to maintain a “C” average. I dropped off the team, when Coach Simmons said, “I understand, but no player has ever dropped off my team, then came back to start for me.” Nonetheless, I did what I had to do. I switched majors to Public Administration, brought my grade average up, (also helped my fraternity win the intramural softball championship for the first time ever), and then transferred to KC Metro Jr. College for one semester, (awaiting my call up to Basic Training), while increasing my grade average further.
In August of ’68 I went to basic training through December of that year, was trained as a clerk typist, and returned to Mizzou & baseball for the second semester, in January, 1969. I might add, I reached the best shape of my life while at basic training in Ft. Jackson, SC. which was extremely helpful that season. Upon returning to MU, where I had previously played 2nd base, I became a starter at 3rd base. I had a respectable season, but hitting only around .250.
A humorous article appeared in the Maneater newspaper at the end of that season, highlighting “next year’s team prospectus.” My ability was described as such: “Pound for pound, he is probably our most potent hitter coming back next season; however he is a defensive liability. His errant throws are picked up more accurately by radar, than Tiger 1st basemen.” I couldn’t have agreed more, as I had a case of the “yips,” when throwing to 1st. I was motivated by this article, and brought the article into Coach Simmon’s office, shared with him, then asked: “Coach, do you think I could move to the outfield next year.” He replied, “Ya know, I was thinking of that.”
The rest became history, at least for me. My errant overthrows to first base in 1969, became assists (I led the conference), with long accurate throws from center field in ’70. The weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. My hitting exploded. I led the conference in hitting average, up to the last weekend, (when I dropped back a few spots the last two games), yet made 1st Team All-Conference “Outfield”, and was nominated for All-American, by Coach Simmons.
Bottom line, the time away for the Army stint was a huge benefit for my baseball career, yet I have always felt that I somewhat shirked my duty of defending my country…as many others less fortunate than me lost their lives in the Vietnam war. Ironically, when I returned to my KC unit, from basic, I volunteered to become a cook. That exposure led me to start my own business, in 1973, in fast food service. I have recently retired after 45 years. It all began with my Reserve unit.