Date and Place of Birth: May 24, 1924 Detroit, MI Date and Place of Death: June 30, 1944 Normandy, France Baseball Experience: Minor League Position: Pitcher Rank: Private Military Unit: 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division US Army Area Served: European Theater of Operations
Joseph T. Moceri grew up in Detroit dreaming of playing for the Tigers. He was always playing baseball and was a standout athlete at St. Clair High School. In 1939, the big 15-year-old had a 14-1 won-loss record pitching for the Roose-Vanker Post 286 American Legion junior baseball team that competed in the national regional baseball tournament. On August 13, 1939, Moceri struck out 16 Louisville American Legion batters in an 11-9 semi-final win to help his team advance to the Eastern Sectional Finals in Charlotte, North Carolina, where they were eventually stopped.
Moceri was signed by Detroit Tigers scout Aloysius "Wish" Egan in October 1940. "A big boy," said Egan later. "He was the kind of prospect you don't find every day and is almost certain to make the grade in the big show."
In 1941, Moceri was 17, and joined the Tigers for spring training at Lakeland, Florida, before being one of four newly signed Detroit youngsters assigned to the Muskegon Reds of the Class C Michigan State League.2 Moceri was the Opening Day starter for the Reds and although beaten by Grand Rapids, 4-3, he hurled a strong seven innings, allowing eight hits and striking out two. He went on to pitch another 28 games for the fourth-place club, for a 9-5 won-loss record, and his seemingly high 4.53 ERA ranked eighth best in the league. Furthermore, he showed promise at the plate with a .324 batting average (22 for 68). One of Moceri's best performances of the season was against St. Joseph on June 22, when he beat the Autos, 7-4, on seven hits and struck out 11, while collecting three hits at the plate.
In 1942, he was assigned to the Winston-Salem Twins of the Class B Piedmont League, and was the starting pitcher on Opening Day against Greensboro. In near freezing weather, Moceri lost the game, 11-10. It was the first of 13 losses he would suffer during the year with the basement-dwelling team. The season did, however, have occasional highlights. On June 17, he threw a 3-1 five-hit victory against Richmond, and on August 4 he beat Richmond again on five hits, 5-1, bagging himself a double and single at the plate.
Moceri entered military service with the Army at the beginning of 1943, and initially served at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where he was the pitching ace of the 106th Infantry Division Lions. Private Moceri was sent overseas to England in 1944, where he joined the 175th Infantry Regiment of the 29th "Blue and Gray" Infantry Division. At 6:30 A.M. on June 7, 1944 (D-Day plus one) the 175th Infantry Regiment landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. They were faced with the carnage and devastation that had besieged their comrades 24 hours earlier, stepping over bodies as they made their way to the causeways that led them inland. Nearly 1,300 American troops had lost their lives on Omaha Beach.
The regiment moved inland where hedgerows - high earthen walls, topped with bushes and trees - lined every field of the picturesque but deadly Normandy countryside. Behind these barriers the veteran German infantrymen waited and struck the young GIs when they were at their most vulnerable. Bitter fighting persisted as they made their way towards their objective, the town of Saint-Lo, 25 miles inland. On June 30, 1944, as the regiment approached the outskirts of the town, Private Moceri was killed in action. His ball glove was found among his possessions.
Moceri was buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, but at the request of the family, his body was returned to the United States after the war ended and now rests at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.