Dodger Minor Leaguer Taught Baseball to Germa

Gary Moore, a first-time author, does a excellent job of telling the story of his father, Gene, a highly recruited 15-year-old baseball phenomenon from a small, poor town in southern Illinois whose promising career was interrupted by World War II. The unusual books has already been snapped up by a Hollywood film company that will begin shooting the story later this year.

The story winds from small-town baseball diamonds to northern Africa, from a steamy military post in Louisiana to a minor league ballpark in Mississippi.

Moore, who lives in suburban Chicago, began the book immediately after his father survived a heart attack, realizing that he will not live forever and finally convinced him that his story should be told.

Gene Moore was a young catcher on a city baseball team. His ability to cut down would-be base stealers and his long-ball hitting drew the attention of Major League Baseball scouts, including one for the Brooklyn Dodgers who came to the poor coal-mining town, and signed him to a contract.

As a point of reference, this was not Gene "Rowdy" Moore who had a full career with stops in Brooklyn (1949-1940), St. Louis (Cardinals and Browns), Boston and Washington.

The 16-year-old young catcher was named rookie of the year as a member of the Dodgers' then-Class C minor league team in the summer of 1941, slugging 20 home runs, leading the league in assists and being chosen on the Southeastern League All-Star team. It looked like he would be in the majors in a few years.

But that December the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Gene joined the military, choosing the Navy was assigned to a Navy baseball team. Their job was to play ball against an Army team to give American troops a break from the bloody fighting in North Africa.

After D-Day, the Navy baseball team was sent back to the States. They were then assigned a top secret mission to guard a German submarine crew that had been captured in the Mediterranean. The German crew's U-boat - U-505 - was the only one captured intact by the Americans and to this day is on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

The Germans were held at Camp Ruston, La. After weeks of boring duty, Gene talked the commanding officer into allowing him and his ballplayer teammates to teach the Germans the game of baseball. The description of that time and the interaction between the Americans and the Germans is priceless and inspired the title of the book, "Playing With the Enemy."

A badly broken leg destroyed Moore's chances for a major league career when the war was over and he ever made it to the Major Leagues, but he left a unique legacy of perseverance and his life story runs the gamut of human emotions.

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