ALFRED "FRED" CERBO, Sr.
World War II
Introduction—This is a conversation I had with Fred Cerbo Sr. on April 29, 2007. I asked him for information about his military service and he began to tell me over the phone. When I am speaking (Bob Meli) “BM” will be before the statement and when Fred Cerbo Sr. is speaking “FC” will be before the statement.
BM—What year did you graduate Hackensack High School?
FC—I went to Hackensack High School from 1941 to 1943 and graduated in 1943. If I remember correctly 63 or 69 guys from my graduating class was at Fort Eustice Virginia the summer after graduation. It was like a big reunion. I was drafted 2 weeks after graduation.
BM—I heard you were a good pitcher in high school.
FC—I did alright. I always tell everybody my claim to fame was pitching batting practice to the NY Giants at the Polo grounds during my senior year in High school.
BM—You mean you got to throw batting practice once?
FC—No, I would throw batting practice once or twice a week when they had home games at the Polo grounds during 1943 my senior year in high school. Mel Ott was the player manager then and they had Ernie Lombardi a famous catcher during that time, I would be wearing those old wollen uniforms, they were hot boy, and Mel Ott would say “kid just sit in the corner here and don't say anything and you can stay.” Boy what a thrill, here I am a high school kid sitting in the N.Y. Giants dugout. I remember Mel Ott used to hit homeruns in the Polo grounds by pulling it down the Right field line it was only 269 feet.
We played some good ballplayers when I was in school Larry Doby from Paterson Eastside and a guy by the name of Dick Kryhoski from Leonia. We would play an out of league one game at home for each of us with Eastside.
BM—I always thought Larry Doby was a better hitter than Jackie Robinson because he had more power, what did you think?
FC—I thought so. Bob you know the field house in right field where the Hackensack High School team used to play, Larry Doby hit the roof of the field house! One game I was pitching we were winning in the last inning 1-0 and Paterson Eastside got a runner on first with Larry Doby coming to the plate and my manager comes out and says” Don't give him anything to hit he can hit anything” before he reached the dugout Doby had hit a two run homer to beat us.
After high school the Giants wanted me to go to the minors and play but I told them I was drafted so I couldn't make any commitment at that time. It was the same for everybody then so it really was no big deal.
Well anyway after Hackensack High School it was off to camp Eustice Virginia like I said and when it was time to leave to go to another camp I was held back with about 15 other guys to get the camp ready for the next group of guys coming in. A bunch of guys were sent to camp Ruckear in Hawaii with the Alabama 98 th division, they stayed in Hawaii for the rest of the War. We used to call them the pineapple division. I went to Fort Mead and from there was shipped overseas to a Replacement Depot in England . They would ship guys out to different Divisions that needed men. I was sent to Patton's Army with the 35 th Infantry Division which was made up of men from the National Guard of the states
FRED CERBO SR. World War II
Kansas , Nebraska , and Missouri . I was with all these guys from the Midwest . I was put on anti aircraft gunner and then moved to artillery with a Howitzer gun.
We landed on Utah Beach 5 days after the invasion. By then the Germans had only been driven 1mile in and 1mile wide.
BM—Were you in the Battle of the Bulge?
FC—Yes, It was funny we were told we were being sent to Southern France for thirty days. We were all thinking man this is great, some R and R and two days later Patton tells us we are going back the Germans broke through. So we go back and let me tell you Patton made a difference. We fought through the Battle of the Bulge but not at Bastogne and that part, anyway we are driving towards Berlin and we stop 40 miles from Berlin in a town called Magdeborg Germany and spent the last two weeks of the war there and you want to know why?
FC—Because Patton wanted to get to Berlin before the Russians so we could control Berlin . Eisenhower who was running the European operations didn't want to chance Patton getting into a confrontation with Russia so he didn't send us any gas. So there we were by a chicken farm for two weeks eating eggs because we ran out of gas. We ate eggs for the last two weeks of the war only 40 miles from Berlin .
BM—What did you do after the war?
FC— I was in the service from the summer of 1943 to 1945, and after that I went back to play ball for the Giants organization in Ohio for the Springfield Giants class D ball. I did that for a couple of years but then gave it up because we were getting moved around a lot with guys returning from the war and the war years changed things for me. I'm not complaining we all did what we had to do. I have some great memories from the service a lot of laughs a lot of good times and some heart ache to, but boy it was some experience let me tell you.
NOTE; When Fred Cerbo pitched batting practice for the N.Y.Giants in his senior year he threw to two Hall of Fame players, Mel Ott 511 homeruns, Joe Medwick 324 batting avgerage 540 doubles, and Ernie Lombardi who as a catcher batted 306 lifetime over a 17 year career.
Larry Doby —from Paterson, I believe during the 1990s was finally put into the Hall of Fame who Fred Cerbo pitched to in High School. Larry Doby was the first black ball player in the American League arriving in the majors only a few months after Jackie Robinson. He suffered the same trials Jackie Robinson did. Larry Doby's stats are, 13 years, 1515 hits, 243 doubles, 52 triples, 253 homers and a 283 lifetime batting avgerage.
DICK KRYHOSKI—from Leonia played 7 years at first base for 5 different teams he had a 265 avgerage with 45 career homers, a journeyman
By: Bob Meli April 29, 2007
Background image of Operation Overlord - the code name of the Allied invasion of France June 1944 obtained from:http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/operation_overlord.htm