In his 90 years, his experiences surpassed most of his peers. He is a Pearl Harbor survivor.
But this Memorial Day, surrounded by a supporting staff of family members, Duncan would celebrate his Navy buddies who lived, and those who didn’t, by throwing out the first pitch of a baseball game in Houston’s Minute Maid Park: the Astros vs. the Rockies.
Accompanied by his wife, Penny, he stood near the batter’s box as he walked onto the diamond as the announcer listed his many medals earned during World War II: World War II Victory Medal, American Defense Medal with One Star, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Silver Star, Navy Occupation Service Medal, Combat Action Medal, Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal and the Navy Good Conduct Medal.
There may have been more, but the announcer’s voice was drowned out by the cheers from the stands as Duncan and his wife walked hand-in-hand onto the field.
NO ONE expects a 90-year-old to be able to pitch a ball to a catcher 60 feet (and six inches) away.
With his image bright on the stadium’s video screen, he stopped maybe halfway as outfielder Brandon Barnes, serving as catcher, waited behind home plate.
Duncan is a right-hander. His pitch was about five feet shy of the glove.
But, it didn’t matter. As Barnes brought the ball back to Duncan, the crowd erupted in applause.
Above the applause, a voice yelled “THANK YOU!” Almost immediately, others joined in.
After the pitch, Duncan went to the foul territory for photographs and television interviews.
IT WAS his first pitch in a major league baseball game; maybe his last.
But all of it – the excitement, the applause, the media attention – was diminished by what all servicemen long to hear — and hear too infrequently, if at all:
Thank you — thank you for your service.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.