Did Ike play pro before West Point?

By Diane Bell

UT San Diego, 03:03p.m. Aug 29, 2013

photo
This 1911 Junction City team photo appeared in the 1912 Reach American League Guide. In the top row, the third player from the left was identified as Affie Wilson and was clearly not young Dwight Eisenhower. That is the only known image of Affie Wilson. — 1912 Reach American League Guide

A baseball mystery surrounding Dwight D. Eisenhower has been the subject of speculation for decades.

Did our nation’s 34th president play pro or semipro ball before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, or didn’t he?

If he did play for pay, he would have been ineligible to be on West Point’s football team, which he was. Could he have violated the cadet honor code?

Now local baseball historian Bill Swank is shedding light on the controversy. He shared his research this month at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Kansas.

When Gen. Eisenhower returned from World War II in 1945, one of his first actions was to attend a N.Y. Giants-Boston Braves game. News reports of the day contend he confided in the team managers that he had played pro baseball in the Kansas State League under an assumed name of Wilson before entering West Point.

“He always refused to give details,” said Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Library.

So Swank, who has written seven books on baseball history, researched newspapers from that time period on Kansas State Historical Society microfilm, with little luck. A team photo of the Junction City Soldiers included a player identified as Wilson, but Rives and other historians agree it is not Eisenhower. While not a total refutation, the evidence clearly doesn’t get the pro-ball-playing contention to first base.

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