Herbert Biedenkapp – Outfielder
Note: his is player biography is part of our feature, The 29th Infantry Division’s Blues and Grays: the men behind one of the Army’s best World War II baseball teams by Drew Sullins, Colonel (Retired), U.S. Army
Little is known about Herbert Biedenkapp and unsuccessful attempts have been made to reach out to two of his grandchildren, but he has been positively identified in the two team photos and at least some of his story is known. Herb Biedenkapp was from baseball mad Brooklyn, New York and grew up a borough away from his 29th Division teammate, Ken Hess.
He went to Bushwick High School where he patrolled center field for the Tigers. In a pre-season sports page preview to the 1940 season, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle labeled Biedenkapp “diminutive” due to his small stature and said that he “can be pressed into service” for the upcoming season, and indeed, he was. In an April 19, 1940 game, Biedenkapp homered for Bushwick leading the team to a victory over St. John’s Prep 8-6.
By the end of the season, the Daily Eagle was saying that Biedenkapp “would make any coach dance with glee.” The Daily Eagle, which also called Biedenkapp “tiny,” acknowledged that he’d turned himself into a .400 hitter while naming him to their All-Brooklyn team for the 1940 season. Clearly, the Daily Eagle was fascinated with Biedenkapp’s size, and they were not incorrect. In the two 29th Division team photos he is clearly the smallest player on the team and appears to be quite a bit shorter than the 5’8” George Ortega. Given Biedenkapp’s ability at the high school level, and his making it on to the 29th Division’s roster, which was replete with accomplished athletes, perhaps he resembled a 1940s version of the Houston Astros 5’6” sensation Jose Altuve.
After the Army, Herbert Biedenkapp married Lillian Buckley and they had two sons, Thomas and William. After living in Brooklyn, they moved out to the suburbs of Suffolk County, Long Island where they raised their family. Herbert passed away on February 5, 2006 and is buried in the Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island. Lillian followed on May 23, 2012 and was interred with her husband at Calverton. In addition to their two sons, they had three grandchildren.