FAR FROM HOME
It was misting; the field was wet; our shoes squished as we tried to walk lightly across the grass.
We were looking for a baseball player, a former major leaguer.
His name was Eddie Grant. Edward L. Grant, to be precise, a third baseman who had bounced around the Major Leagues — Cleveland, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and New York where he finished his career with the Giants.
His stats were not great with a batting average of .249, a total of 844 hits in the nearly 10 years he played, and 153 stolen bases.
Yet Eddie Grant is one of the most impressive baseball players ever to put on a uniform.
That is because he not only put on a baseball uniform but because he also put on the uniform of the US Army as one of the very first men to enlist when America went to war in 1917. He was one of the very few major leaguers to do so.
By the time Grant signed up, he’d retired from baseball and already had a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Harvard, as well as a flourishing law practice in Boston. He also had a nickname, Harvard Eddie, given to him by teammates who chided him about his education and his refusing to call for a fly ball with “I’ve got it.” Not grammatical, he said, so he hollered, “I have it.”
It was his sense of patriotism and duty that made him feel honor-bound to serve his country.
Within a few months of enlisting, he was in France as a captain in the 77th Infantry Division fighting in the deadly Meuse-Argonne Offensive. One-by-one, his superior officers were killed, and Grant assumed command leading his troops on a grueling four-day search for “the Lost Battalion.”
On October 5, 1918, Grant led the men through the rugged terrain of a hilly, wooded area. It was his last command: a shell exploded and killed him.
Today Eddie Grant, baseball player, lawyer, soldier and patriot, lies in Plot A, Row 2, Marker 24 of the solemnly beautiful Meuse-Argonne Cemetery in northeastern France.
We found his grave there in the midst of his fellow soldiers. Nearly 15,000 of them rest in that cemetery alone, all of whom gave their lives in what was called The Great War, the War to End All Wars.
His name is carved on a marble cross — clearly, simply — and incredibly touchingly. We stood still and tried to take it all in — the names, the lives, the sacrifices. For a moment, history and its heroes were very close.
Then we walked back to our car slowly, almost afraid to disturb the silence and sacredness of the site.
How insignificant all the Hall of Fame squabbles become in the shadow of the elegant monument to a brave and selfless man.