Joseph Davis Blalock – 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
Joe Blalock had a few things in common with his teammate, Erv Prasse. They were both commissioned officers, both in the 115th Infantry Regiment, both married, and both college football All-American receivers. Blalock grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and was a star athlete at Charleston High School where his football and baseball exploits would earn him an athletic scholarship to Clemson University.
Box scores from The Tiger, Clemson’s student newspaper, show that Blalock was also a capable college baseball player, but it was football where he truly excelled. In looking at Clemson baseball box scores, a trend is evident in that Blalock was absent from the baseball team during Clemson’s spring football practice. This included a spring exhibition game against the International League Baltimore Orioles. It’s clear why. The 6’2” 210-pound Blalock was an integral player on Clemson’s football team and was practicing with the team.
A three-year starter from 1939-41, Blalock helped lead the Tigers to a 6-3 victory over Boston College in the 1940 Cotton Bowl capping an 9-1 season and a number 12 national ranking. Blalock was selected to All-American teams in 1940 and 1941 becoming Clemson’s first two-time All-American. In 1942, like Prasse, he was drafted by the NFL’s Detroit Lions, but never played professional football.
Joe Blalock entered the Army as an infantry officer and eventually made his way to Europe. 1st Lt. Blalock was awaiting assignment in the replacement depot on October 26, 1944, along with fellow Clemson alumnus, Capt. Charles C. Shirmer, when Shirmer was sent to become the commander of Company C, 115th Infantry Regiment. Four days later, Blalock would join Shirmer as one of his platoon leaders. It was not a good time to be joining the 29th Infantry Division, which was at the time enduring brutal and unforgiving combat as it was pushing into Germany in the Roer River plain area of the well defended Siegfried Line.
On November 17, 1944, Capt. Shirmer was killed leading his company in an attack near the German town of Baseweiler. And Blalock, with his platoon, was nearby. In a 115th Infantry After Action Report, Blalock talked of being quickly pinned down in flat and open terrain and unable to move for several hours without drawing enemy fire while seeing several of his soldiers killed before his eyes. Making matters worse, for more than a month, they had been outdoors in unimaginable cold rain, mud and muck that was causing significant non-battle casualties in large numbers due trench foot. One of those would be Blalock who was evacuated on November 26, 1944, after a month of nearly continuous combat. He would rejoin his unit on January 12, 1945, and ultimately become part of the division’s baseball team after V-E Day.
Blalock would return to South Carolina after the war, his baseball journey not quite over. He settled in Camden and caught on with the local Camden Chiefs of the independent Palmetto League where he played from 1946-48. He was mostly an outfielder, the position he played at Clemson, but he also pitched occasionally and became known for hitting prodigious home runs. He also played with and against future Los Angeles Dodgers skipper Tommy Lasorda who did a minor league stint in 1947 in South Carolina. The two became friends and according to Blalock’s son, Alec, and they visited each other and corresponded for many years after.
As Blalock was playing minor league ball, he also attended the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy and became a pharmacist. He and his wife, Bennie, raised three sons in Camden, SC. Sadly, on August 21, 1974, Blalock died at relatively youthful age of 55 from a respiratory ailment. He is a member of the South Carolina state sports hall-of-fame and the Clemson University Athletics Hall-of-Fame.
Continue to Wesley “Lefty” Howard – Pitcher