Robert Lange

Sergeant Robert Lange of Wilton, Iowa holds a unique distinction among the many US servicemen who passed through Northern Ireland between 1942 and 1944.

Sergeant

Robert Lange

Sergeant Robert Lange of Wilton, Iowa holds a unique distinction among the many US servicemen who passed through Northern Ireland between 1942 and 1944.

Sergeant Robert Lange hailed from Wilton Junction, Iowa. He was born in Stockton, Muscatine County, Iowa on 11th July 1920. He served with 3rd Battalion of the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division.

Robert Henry Lange was the son of Henry Christian Lange and Elizabeth Sohsen Lange. They had another son, Thomas Elwyn Lange, and a daughter, Genevieve Lange.

Lange pitched for the 3rd Battalion team as they beat 2nd Battalion of the same regiment 14-4 in Northern Ireland’s first recorded game of baseball. This gives him the distinction of being the first pitcher in a US armed forces game in Europe. He was 21 at the time of the game on 25th April 1942.

Sergeant Robert Lange

Sergeant Robert Lange of Wilton Junction, Iowa pitching for the Midwest Giants at a game of baseball in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1942. Copyright unknown.

Lange also pitched for the Midwest Giants (34th Infantry Division) in Northern Ireland’s first officially recognised game of baseball at Windsor Park on 4th July 1942. He played again on 25th July in a fundraising game for local Belfast hospitals.

The 6’6, 195lb right-hander was a member of the Cleveland Indians’ farm system. After graduating from Wilton High School, he played semi-professionally in Muscatine before signing a contract in Cleveland in 1938. He was sent to Fargo-Moorehead Twins in the Northern League and had a disappointing 1-7 record.

The following season saw a change in fortunes. He posted 10-8 and this performance saw a move to the Flint Gems in the Michigan State League for 1940 where he had an 8-4 won-loss record.

Lange joined the US Army in May 1941. One year later he arrived in Northern Ireland. By 1943, he was involved in the North Africa campaign and had returned to America in 1945.

Baseball at Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast

2nd and 3rd Battalion of 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division face each other in a game of baseball at Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast on 25th April 1942. Copyright unknown.

Life after the War

On his return, he married Mary B Martin on 10th April 1946 in Baltimore, Maryland. The couple went on to have two sons, Robert and Martin and one daughter, Loralyn.

After four seasons away from the game, Robert Lange struggled with comeback seasons for Wilkes-Barre Barons in 1945 and Fargo-Moorehead Twins in 1946. He was released in 1946. The effects of war may have been too much to overcome for the talented pitcher.

Career statistics for Bob Lange.

After retiring from the game, Bob operated the Lange Garage in Davenport for thirty years. He was also employed by North Star Steel in his hometown of Wilton. He also served two terms as mayor of Wilton and was a member of American Legion Post 584 there.

Robert Henry Lange passed away on Thursday 15th December 1977 at St Luke’s Hospital, Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. He was 58 years old. A funeral service was held at 1330hrs on Monday 19th December 1977 at the United Presbyterian Church in Davenport. Reverend GW Ukena officiated the ceremony. Lange’s grave is at Oakdale Cemetery, Wilton, Muscatine County, Iowa.

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