Save the Game, Pass OTS
Most of my father's reminiscences about the military tend to focus on other subjects—like how being stationed in San Francisco in the 1950s led him to meeting Pauline Kael and her husband at a movie theater. Then there's this, from a conversation we had last year about his early life:
I always thought it was kind of strange how softball influenced my career. Like when I was in the Navy. I'm at ROTC—the Officer Training Program in Newport, Rhode Island. I was about to flunk out because I didn't keep my shoes shined the way they wanted. You know, blah-blah-blah. I didn't get a spit shine. You're supposed to be able to see your face. I thought, “That's ridiculous.”
But anyway, here I am playing softball for the company team against another company team. I was in center field, and I made a diving catch with the bases loaded to save the game for our team. And the lieutenant who was in charge—I'm not even an ensign yet—he came running out and gave me a big hug. And the next thing I knew I was assigned to the admiral's staff.
True story. That's how I got through OTS. By making that great catch to save the game.
For a time, I believe he was thinking of re-upping in the Navy and focusing on foreign languages; but when they reassigned him to something else, ignoring what he was good at for what he wasn't, he didn't re-up. He went to J-school instead.
Bob Lundegaard, star centerfielder, in the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, tooling around Japan with a buddy who wasn't great with a camera.