Post officials last week dedicated the ballpark behind Magrath Sports Complex to a promising young pitcher who, in the early 1940s, left his childhood home in one of Fort Drum’s “lost villages” and turned down an offer to play Major League Baseball to serve his country.
“One of the ugliest truths of war is its complete disregard for the potential of young people who carry its burden on the front lines,” said Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander. “Staff Sgt. Truman A. Cool was killed the day after his 23rd birthday in the Italian Campaign at Anzio in 1944.”
The dedication of the Staff Sgt. Truman Cool Memorial Ball Fields both memorialized that heroism and celebrated the awe-inspiring talents of a blue-eyed son of the North Country, a boy with a ruddy face and a knockout swing who grew up throwing a baseball on land near Remington Pond.
Known then as LeRaysville, the village was one of a dozen or so off-post locales assimilated by the U.S. Army in 1941 to meet the training needs of World War II and beyond.
Rosenberg said those communities represented more than 525 families and others who sacrificed for their nation’s defense.
The foundations of those lives are still visible today, he added, “in the ruins of homesteads, in the remains of the Lewisburg Iron Furnace and in the inscriptions on hundreds of tombstones.”
By all accounts, Cool was not only a well-respected resident of LeRaysville but also one of the North Country’s top baseball players. Rosenberg said major league scouts were among the screaming spectators at Evans Mills High School games where Cool was a “whiz” on the field.
“(He was) a young man with the world laid out before him – the embodiment of potential,” Rosenberg said. “What an incredible amount of love for country, what an incredible amount of patriotism it must take to turn away from a professional baseball career. But that is what Staff Sgt. Cool did.”
Dr. William Delaney, a younger LeRaysville boy whom Cool looked after and mentored, said he remembers his childhood idol being as good a player on the mound as he was at bat.
“Although pitchers are said to be poor hitters, that wasn’t true with Truman,” Delaney said. “More often than not, he (drove) the ball out into the tall grass behind the outfield fence.”
Delaney cited the skills of another player on the team in attempting to measure Cool’s talents on the diamond.
“Perhaps proof of the team’s ability lies in the fact that George Kissell played for the St. Louis Cardinals and subsequently coached them into his eighties,” he said. “In (my) eyes, Truman (was) a better player than George.”
Two of Cool’s nephews who were born in LeRaysville and later moved to Adams said although they were too young to remember him, their uncle was a legend of sorts growing up.
“My dad talked about him a lot,” said Gerald Cool, fighting back tears. “He is someone we just really respected.”
Also overcome with emotion, Leonard Cool said he appreciated the memorial ceremony at Fort Drum.
“I never imagined anything like this ever happening,” he said.
Delaney commended post officials for naming the four baseball fields after one of their own, “an infantryman and a ballplayer.”
As an amusing aside, he suggested enhancing Cool’s memory in future play by calling a hit a “Trumanizer” and a homerun a “Cooler.”
Cool was killed in action May 23, 1944, on the shores of Anzio, Italy. He was serving with the 3rd Infantry Division.
During World War II, he also fought in Allied campaigns in North Africa and Sicily.
“By naming these fields in his honor,” Rosenberg concluded, “every Soldier who plays the game here – a game that Staff Sgt. Cool loved – will have the opportunity to be inspired by his courage and patriotism.
“In this, we see that war could not snuff out the potential of so great a man.”