Profiles of Valor
John Robert Mize, otherwise known by “Johnny” or “Big Jawn”, lived up to the Navy’s motto of “Non sibi sed patriae”, meaning “Not Self but Country”. Growing up as a young kid in Demorest, Georgia, Mize did not have the privilege of organized baseball to take part in but took advantage of every opportunity he could.
At the age of fifteen, he began playing for the Piedmont College baseball team. Mize put up a batting average of over .400, which caught the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals, who signed him at the age of seventeen. Even with his impressive statistics, it took up until the age of twenty-three for Mize to be brought up from the minor leagues.
Just a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mize was on the move again, this time to the New York Giants where he finished the season out. Following the season's end, Mize enlisted in the Navy where he remained for three years, reaching the rank of a Specialist First Class. He was sent to Hawaii and stationed at Naval Air Station Kaneohe. During his service, he played for the Great Lakes Naval Station baseball team with fellow Hall of Famers like Phil Rizzuto and PeeWee Reese.
After returning from his military service following the conclusion of World War II, he decided at the age of twenty-three to return to baseball. Across Mize’s career, he set hitting records that still stand today, became a ten-time All-Star, and took part in five World Series titles with the New York Yankees to finish off his incredible baseball career. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1981 by the veterans committee. While statistically he is known as a power hitting first baseman, he has also left his impression on baseball through a comment on retirement. When asked about retirement, he responded with his preference to “retire while he was still popular with fans rather than hang around until they start to boo."