Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller died yesterday. The New York Times has a 2006 interview in which Feller discussed his enlistment in the Navy during World War II, which shortened his baseball career by several prime seasons. He's both level-headed and quite moving:
I went on inactive duty in August 1945, and since I had stayed in such good shape, and had played ball on military teams, I was ready to start for the Indians just two days later, against the Tigers. More than 47,000 people came to see me return — there was such a patriotic feeling, with V-J day so fresh in everyone’s minds. Even though I hadn’t pitched in the major leagues in almost four years, I struck out the first batter. I wound up throwing a four-hitter and winning, 4-2. ...
A lot of folks say that had I not missed those almost four seasons to World War II — during what was probably my physical prime — I might have had 370 or even 400 wins. But I have no regrets. None at all. I did what any American could and should do: serve his country in its time of need. The world’s time of need.
I knew then, and I know today, that winning World War II was the most important thing to happen to this country in the last 100 years.