Stranded Base Runner

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In Playing with the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy, a World at War, and a Field of Broken Dreams, first-time author Gary W. Moore vividly recounts his father’s life story, a tale he first heard the day before his father passed away from a heart attack on May 13, 1983.

Warren Eugene Moore, known to friends as Gene, was born in the dusty town of Sesser, Illinois on March 19, 1926. As the title of his son’s book suggests, Gene quickly discovered that he possessed the gift to hit, throw, and. more importantly. catch a baseball, and was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 15.

“He was a true baseball prodigy,” Gary Moore wrote on playingwiththe “From the time my father could walk, the game fascinated him. He spent his happiest times playing baseball with the other boys and older men in Sesser on a field they nicknamed ‘The Lumberyard.’ Some of Gene’s teammates were twice his age, but they didn’t mind having Gene around because he was the best catcher, had the best arm, and the best bat.”

Before the young phenom could make it to the big leagues, America was thrust into World War II, and the Moore family along with it. Gene’s brother Ward enlisted in the Army the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and Gene joined him in the service as soon as he was of age. The Dodgers made arrangements with the Navy to field a baseball team for entertaining the troops, and Gene soon found himself playing in the Azores and North Africa. When the war shifted to Europe, the team returned stateside, where baseball was no longer a priority.

“His team became part of the detail at Camp Ruston in Louisiana,” Gary wrote. “He and the other Team Navy baseball players guarded the captured sailors from the U-505, a German submarine or U-boat. Gene developed an understanding of his wartime enemy and taught part of the imprisoned crew how to play baseball to pass the time.”

Playing with the Enemy is a great read for lovers of baseball, history buffs, or anyone who ever played catch with their father. A very personal story that collides with great historical forces, it already has been picked up by Oscar-winning producer Gerald Molen for a feature film. Think Big Fish meets Field of Dreams, with a dash of Bull Durham thrown in. The film adaptation is currently in pre-production and Gary’s son, actor Toby Moore, is slated to play his late grandfather.

“Success is not a destination, but a journey,” Gary wrote. “Dad’s story is an example of how life does not always turn out as you plan, but there is more than one road you can travel and it is what we make of the journey that determines the value of our life.”

With spring training upon us, Playing with the Enemy effectively reminds us of the promise that each new baseball season offers, and should help diehards hang on until the boys of summer start playing serious ball. 

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