Staff writer Doug Roberson lists five big-time athletes who left the playing fields to serve in the military.
1. Ted Williams
The former Red Sox player spent five years as a pilot and flight instructor during World War II and the Korean War. Williams enlisted in the Naval reserves in 1942 and was called to active duty in November of that year. He was discharged in 1945. He was called back into service in 1952 and flew 39 missions during the Korean War as a Marine. Despite his military service, Williams played baseball for 19 years, finishing with a .344 career average. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966.
2. Roger Staubach
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Staubach served as a supply officer in Vietnam. He joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969 as a 27-year-old rookie. He didn’t become a starter until his third season. By the time he retired after the 1979 season, Staubach had won two Super Bowls and passed for 22,700 yards and 153 touchdowns. He also rushed for 2,264 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
3. Pat Tillman
Because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Tillman left the Arizona Cardinals following the 2001 season to join the Army. He became a Ranger and was killed by friendly fire during a battle in Afghanistan in 2004. Tillman was drafted by the Cardinals in the seventh round in 1998 after a standout career at Arizona State. He played for the Cardinals for four seasons.
4. David Robinson
The former Spurs player served on a submarine for two years after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987. He joined San Antonio in 1989, leading the Spurs to championships in 1999 and 2003. He was named the league’s MVP in 1995. He retired in 2003 with a career scoring average of 21.1 points per game and rebound average of 10.6 per game. He was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
5. Warren Spahn
The former Braves pitcher earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Spahn rejoined Boston in 1946 (he received a call-up in 1942) and went 8-5 with a 2.94 ERA. He finished his career with 13 20-win seasons, going 363-245 with a 3.09 ERA. He won the Cy Young Award in 1957 and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1973.
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