70 years later, Normandy commander showcases arm at MLB armed forces tribute
June 5, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (June 5, 2014) -- All eyes were on Retired Col. Jack Brooks as he took the field at Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals on Memorial Day 2014, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. With more than 37,000 baseball fans on site, that's a lot of eyes.
"I wanted to get this right," Brooks said, who said he practiced throwing the ball in his back yard a few times to prepare for the day.
Preparing for important days is something that Jack Brooks knows better than most. Seventy years ago, Brooks was a company commander at the Normandy Invasion of World War II, and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, of the 1st Infantry Division "Big Red One." His company landed on the Easy Red Sector of Omaha Beach. For anyone, that single day on the beaches of Normandy would be enough to round out your resume, but Jack Brooks continued to serve not only for the remainder of World War II, but again in Korea, and once more in Vietnam. In each of these three conflicts, he served as a proud member of the 1st Infantry Division.
At Kauffman Stadium, the crowd roared at the announcement of the 94 year-old pitcher. All remained standing as he aligned the ball in his hand to form a two-seamed fastball and let it fly. The ball may have bounced once or twice on its way, but the aim was right on target as it made its way to Kansas City Royals Catcher Brett Hayes. The ovation was deafening.
"I am honored just to be a part of this," Brooks said as he walked out onto the field. "I am proud to represent some really great men."