Drafted 1953-1955 during Korean War
This is a conversation I had (Bob Meli age 53) with Sal Meli my dad's first cousin, in June 2008 at the age of 74.
“I played on the J.V. team during 1950 even though I always went with the varsity team when they had games. They had a great team a lot of good ballplayers on it. Chet Hanulak, he went on to play for the Cleveland Browns football team.
Aldo Cerbo he was the best pitcher on the team but Herman West was a real good lefty. I did good in my Junior and senior year. I loved to play ball. I was a pitcher and I had only lost two games in two years and one was to Rutherford and it was a tough loss on a miss played ball. Anyway I really want to pitch against them the next time we play them. I am sitting on the bench and I really want to ask if I can pitch against them but you never told Carl Padovano what to do you always waited for him to tell you. Well he sees I have something on my mind so he asked me what was wrong so I told him I really would like to pitch. So he said go ahead. Well I loved Carl he was a good man, but now I gotta produce! Well I go out and strikeout 13 out of the first 14 batters I face and we win 15-0. I loved playing for Carl, he was such a good man.
I remember when I got drafted because I had to report to basic training on my birthday, May 14, 1953. The war had just ended while I was in training but I still had to serve the two years. I was in Florida in a baseball school with the Washington Senators organization at the time I got notified after about one month in Coco Beach Florida . Then when I got notified I had to go into the service and that ended my baseball career. I was OK but when I came back from the service things changed.
I was stationed in Austria for 17 months. We were only 20 minutes from Hitler's Eagles Nest headquarters retreat. They made it into a night club for the GI's. You know who was stationed with me there was Meadow Lark Lemon the famous Harlem Globe Trotter. He was drafted just before he really started with them full time, he went on furlough once and he played in Europe with them. He wasn't a bad baseball player. He played first base. I don't tell this story much because I feel so stupid when I think about it. I was 21 years old a good athlete and me and Meadow Lark Lemon worked in the motor pool together. Well he would say when we had a brake “a Sal lets go have a catch with the basketball.” So the first time I don't think anything of it so we go outside and he starts doing all those tricks with the ball and then he would throw the ball and hit me right in my forehead. After awhile I just said stop I just could not catch the ball and he was laughing at me. When I was a cop in Hackensack the Globe Trotters were playing at the Teaneck Armory and I went there with my partner Herbie Johnson and we went in the locker room and I introduced Meadow Lark Lemon to Herbie and we had a few laughs it was fun.
I visited the family in Italy while I was stationed in Austria and that is where I met my first wife. I went back and forth on furlough and we would go on dates like you see in the movies with everybody following going down the street. Then we got married and she came to America with me.
After the service and getting married I had to get a job so I became a cop. Up until then all I had ever cared about was playing baseball.”