Milt Rosenstein: 20-Game Winner Killed in WWII
Rosenstein starred in baseball and basketball at Ellenville High School, and went on to play amateur baseball during the summer of 1940 with Saugerties A.C. The team played its home games at Cantine Memorial Field in Saugerties (about 40 miles northwest of Ellenville on the Hudson River), and Rosenstein â€“ a 6-foot, 187-pound left-hander â€“ was the ace of the staff along with burly right-hander Eddie Wallace. At a time when town baseball was a big attraction, Saugerties A.C. played in front of good-sized crowds against opponents like the Hudson Whalers, General Electrics, Kingston Recreations and the Pittsfield Pros. They also regularly played traveling Negro teams such as the New York Black Yankees, Detroit Clowns and Homestead Greys. On August 10, 1940, Rosenstein pitched Saugerties A.C. to a 2-1 win over the inmates at Sing Sing Prison. Allowing just four hits, the 20-year-old struck out 13.
In 1941, Rosenstein signed with the Miami Beach Flamingos of the Class D Florida East Coast League. The Flamingos were managed by Max Rosenfeld, who had briefly played as an outfielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1930s. Aged 38, Rosenfeld was also playing in the outfield for the Flamingos and was in the outer pastures on many occasions as Milt Rosenstein compiled a team leading 20-12 won-loss record, a superb 2.63 ERA and a league-leading 238 strikeouts.
On June 11, after having struck out 15 Miami Wahoos batters the night before, he hurled two hitless innings to close the game for the Florida East Coast League All-Stars against the Fort Pierce Bombers, albeit in a losing cause.
The Flamingos, helped by future major leaguer Gene Beardenâ€™s 17 wins (Bearden had been the ace of the Flamingosâ€™ staff the previous year with an 18-10 record), finished second in the league standings just three games behind the West Palm Beach Indians. They beat the Fort Pierce Bombers in four games in the first round of the playoffs, and then clinched the league championship beating the Indians in six games. Rosenstein hurled a 5-0 three-hitter in the second game on September 11, made a ninth-inning relief appearance the following day, and made his final appearance of the season in the fifth game before a record crowd of 1,203 at Flamingo Park on September 14. Rosenstein pitched six innings in that contest and was relieved by Jack Embler who claimed the 6-5 win in 11 innings.
In just one season as a professional ballplayer, Milt Rosenstein was a 20-game winner, a circuit strike out leader and a star performer on a league championship team. On December 5, 1941, it was announced that he had been purchased by the Atlanta Crackers, pennant winners of the Class A1 Southern Association.
The young hurlers future looked extremely bright, but on March 17, 1942, his baseball career came to an abrupt halt with a call from Uncle Sam. He entered military service with the U.S. Army at Camp Blanding, near Jacksonville, Florida, and later that year was stationed in California where he attained the rank of corporal.
In December 1942, Rosenstein returned home to Ellenville on furlough to spend a few days with his parents. It may have been the last time he was home as he was later assigned to the 126th Infantry Regiment of the 32nd Infantry Division in the Pacific Theater.
In October 1944, 24-year-old Rosenstein â€“ now a staff sergeant â€“ was heading for the island of Leyte, part of the Visayan Islands in the central Philippines, where the Allied campaign was launched for the recapture and liberation of the Philippines.
The 32nd Infantry Division landed at Leyte on November 14, and went into action along the Pinamopoan-Ormoc highway. Two days later they relieved the 24th Infantry Division at Breakneck Ridge and captured the town of Limon in bitter hand-to-hand combat against the Japanese.
On November 28, 1944, little more than three years after hurling the Miami Beach Flamingos to victory, Rosenstein was seriously wounded in action and died later that day. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.
Milt Rosensteinâ€™s body was returned home to Ellenville, New York in 1949. Services were held at the Hebrew Aid Synagogue on February 3, with Rabbi Jacob I. Nislick officiating. He was buried, with full military honors, at the Hebrew Aid Cemetery in nearby Wawarsing, New York.
Milt Rosenstein is one of 137 former professional baseball players who lost their lives in military service during World War II.
Gary Bedingfield (www.baseballinwartime.com)